Preparing For The Worst: Disaster Preparedness 101
If the ground began shaking right now, would you know what to do? What about when the shaking stopped?
Aside from the occasional earthquake or fire drill, disaster preparedness is far from many students’ minds. However, with multiple faults in the Seattle region, earthquakes are a real and potentially disastrous risk. But being prepared is surprisingly easy and can go a long way.
According to Stacie Louviere, UW Emergency Management’s seismic resilience program manager, there are three main ways to prepare for a disaster: make a plan, build a kit, and know how to react when a disaster hits.
Have A Plan
Talk with friends and family in the area about where you’ll meet after a disaster and how you’ll get in contact. If we experience a major earthquake, local phone lines might be tied up after a major disaster. So try and decide on a person outside of the area whom everyone will call.
“Everyone needs to know, ‘OK, we’re all going to call Aunt Sally in Texas,’” Louviere said.
If you live with roommates, take a couple minutes to discuss what emergency supplies you’ll need.
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Make a Kit
Making an emergency kit doesn’t have to be money- or time-intensive. While there are many items that may be worth adding to your stash, anything you can put together can make a huge difference.
If you’ve lived in the dorms, someone probably handed you a bright red backpack when you moved in, containing about three days of emergency supplies. However, the backpack is fairly basic and doesn’t include much water.
“I would encourage everyone to go and augment that,” said Josh Gana, an associate director with the UW’s Housing & Food Services. “It can be as simple as a case of water.”
Ideally, an emergency kit should include food, water (a gallon per day per person), any medications you need, and first aid supplies, among other basic items. UW Emergency Management suggests at least enough to last three days. The city of Seattle recommends enough supplies for seven to 10 days.
Other things to consider adding include protective gloves for cleaning up glass or digging through debris. If you have old glasses, add those to your emergency supplies as well.
Photos of family or pets can be also be helpful for finding them after a disaster hits.
“If you can build a kit, great,” Louviere said. “If you can’t afford it, that’s okay too. The biggest thing is to know what to do.”
Know What To Do
If there’s an earthquake, you should drop to the floor, try to find cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold onto something. If you’re in a auditorium-style lecture hall, drop to the ground, curl up, and cover your head. If you’re driving, stop the car if it’s in a safe place, put on the break, and wait for the shaking to stop before getting out.
Students can expect to get information and updates from UW Alert if an emergency occurs, so it’s a good idea to double-check that you’re signed up for text alerts.
The easiest way to be prepared is to be informed. If you live in King County, look up natural hazards by your address. If you live on campus, talk to your RA about what the disaster protocols are.
Don’t be afraid to ask faculty and professors in your department about the plan, as they may be the first people you look to if an earthquake happens during class.
According to Louviere, half the struggle is thinking ahead.