Be PreparedPlan and Prepare for Any Disaster
- Assemble emergency kits. (See Basic Emergency Supplies.)
- Keep copies of important documents (passport, driver license, social security card, marriage license, will, deeds, financial statements, etc.) in an offsite location n such as a safety deposit box.
- To facilitate insurance recovery, include an inventory of your valuables with serial number list of tools and equipment and photographs or video of other valuables.
- Use a USB jump drive to store these files. Make duplicate jump drives and keep one at home, and one in a safety deposit box or other off-site safe location n.
- Learn how and when to shut off your utilities. (See Utilities.)
- Discuss all possible exit routes from each room, building and neighborhood. Ensure that your family has at least two exits from each.
- Reunification location n: choose two places, one outside your home and another outside your neighborhood, like a church, community center, store parking lot, or other open area to meet at if you are separated.
- Conduct emergency drills and practice “DROP, COVER and HOLD” for earthquakes at least once every six months.
- Always keep your car’s gas tank at least 3/4 full.
- Take classes on first aid, CPR and disaster preparedness. (See Training & Volunteer Opportunities).
- Practice your plan once a year. Pick a weekend with nice weather to set up in your yard and use your disaster kit. This allows you to see how well it works and add to it before a real emergency.
Make Your Home Safe
Post your address to be visible from the street from both directions so emergency vehicles can find you. If you have a long driveway, post it at the driveway too. (Borough Code 11.20.060)
- In your home, install at least one smoke alarm inside each bedroom, outside of each sleeping area and one additional alarm on each additional living level, including the basement. If hallways are longer than 40 feet between the sleeping and living areas, use two smoke alarms. Test every month and replace batteries twice a year.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor and in the utility room and/or garage where the furnace and water heater are located. Test monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
- Keep at least one ABC type fire extinguisher on each level of your home. Learn how and when to use them. Check the pressure gauges annually to ensure they are fully charged.
- Keep hallways and exits clear for easy evacuation. Ensure that all window safety bars have emergency releases.
- Each bedroom should have two exits: the doorway and a window. Bedrooms with only one entrance are not recommended.
- Ensure that tall, large or heavy furnishings in your home are equipped with earthquake straps, available at most hardware stores. Move heavy objects to lower shelves and install cabinet door latches. Strap down expensive electronics.
- Strap down your water heater so it won’t tip over in an earthquake. Propane tanks and fuel oil tanks must be properly bolted down and have proper cradles. (See Earthquake for more information.)
- Make sure your water heater has a flexible supply line. Contact a licensed plumber to install one if necessary.
- Store hazardous chemicals (e.g. gasoline, bleach, paint thinners) away from open flames and secure them to prevent spills. Do NOT store gasoline, propane, or other flammables in the garage or other location n where water heater or furnace pilot lights may ignite fumes.
- Limit, Isolate, Eliminate and Separate these items. Keep at little on hand as possible to prevent accidents. The best location n is in a shed 30 feet from the home.
- Install a back-up heat supply. Natural gas furnaces, propane and many fuel oil heaters have electronic igniters. These may not work when the power is out. Invest in a wood stove or other indoor safe heater for winter use during a power outage.
- Know if you are on a well and septic system, city water and sewer, or other (small water utility) system. Know what your will do if the power goes out or your system is damaged by earthquake or flood.
- Designate an out-of-area or out-of-state contact person who is unlikely to be affected by the same disaster. Instruct family members inside the affected area to contact this person with their status following a disaster. This person will act as a liaison between the family members affected by the disaster and others who need to be informed of your family’s status.
- Keep at least one standard fixed telephone in your home; portable phones rely on electrical power and will not work during a long power outage.
- Display emergency numbers beside each telephone.
- Learn how to use your mobile phone’s text messaging feature. Text messaging uses a different part of the cell network and it might be possible to send and receive text messages when voice channels for mobile phones and land lines are jammed.
- Identify two meeting places:
- A location n in the neighborhood in case of a house fire.
- A location n away from the neighborhood in case of evacuation. It may be that not all the family is together when a disaster occurs. Ask yourself: “where, away from home, will you meet up?” Decide at what specific church, grocery store, family or friend’s house across town, etc. you will meet.
Emergency Updates and Information
Before, during and after an event, listen for updates on the local radio stations listed below. Incident information may also be heard on the hotline phone number.
- 99.7FM KMBQ Valley Radio
- 100.9FM KAYO Country Legends
- 88.9 FM KTNA Talkeetna Radio
- MAT-SU Borough Incident Information Hotline 907-761-3700.
Gas leaks, natural gas or propane, can cause fires and explosions inside building.
- If you smell gas, hear gas escaping, see a broken gas line, or if you suspect a leak, shut off the main valve and open all windows and doors.
- If you suspect a leak, never use candles or matches, and do not turn on electrical switches or appliances.
- Identify the main shutoff valve, located on the natural gas line coming into the main gas meter. This is usually on the exterior of your home or building, or in an external closet. Natural gas valve may look like this:
- To turn gas off, give the valve a quarter turn in either direction. When the lever crosses the direction of the pipe the gas is off.
- Keep a crescent wrench or gas shut-off tool nearby to turn the lever.
- Once you turn off the natural gas, never attempt to turn it back on yourself. Wait for your utility company (Enstar) to do it, but be aware that it may take several days for it to be turned back on.
- Propane tank valves should be turned clockwise, right to left, to turn them off. Valves are usually located on the top of the tank under the protective cover near the tank gauge.
Electrocution can result from direct contact with live wires or anything that has been energized by these wires.
- Locate your home’s main electric switch, which is normally outdoors, where the power lines enter the home. The panel box may have a flip switch or pull handle on a large circuit breaker.
- Many homes in Alaska have lines which come to the main power box underground, or have the main box set up away from the house, and not attached at the house. Know where your box is and teach your family.
- Shut off electricity when:
- Arcing or burning occurs in electrical devices.
- There is a fire or significant water leak.
- You smell burning insulation.
- The area around switches or plugs is blackened and/ or hot to the touch.
- A complete power loss is accompanied by the smell of burning material.
- There is a propane or natural gas leak and you cannot shut off the main valve.
If you live in the cities of Wasilla or Palmer and receive water through that municipal water system, shut off the water at the house to protect the water in your water heater, toilet tanks, and house pipes after a major earthquake. Well systems may also suffer contamination due to flooding or earthquake. Cracked pipes may allow contaminants into the water supply. In addition, water leaks can create property damage and electrocution hazards.
- The water shutoff is usually located in the basement, garage or where the water line enters the home. The city/municipal water shutoff is located on a riser pipe and is usually a red or yellow wheel. Turn wheel clockwise to shut off.
- If you need to access water in your water heater, look for a drain line on the bottom of the water heater. Remember to let it cool before you try and get the water out or you may get burned.
Homes with municipal water such as the cities of Wasilla and Palmer may also be receiving sewer service. Most other homes have septic tank systems. A disaster that disrupts all or part of water and/or sewer lines could affect the way you deal with human waste. Septic tanks may be affected to a lesser degree.
- If there is no water to your toilet, but the sewer lines are intact, pour 3-5 gallons of water into the toilet bowl to flush. You may use seawater, bath, laundry or pool water.
- If you suspect damage to your home’s water lines, do NOT flush the toilet. Turn off the water at the house so contaminated water does not enter your water system.
- If sewer lines are broken, line the bowl with double-bagged plastic garbage bags to collect human waste. Before discarding the bag, add a small amount of bleach; then seal the bag and place in a tightly covered container, away from people and pets.
- If the toilet is unusable, use a sturdy bucket with a tight fitting lid, and line it with a double-bagged plastic garbage bag. Filled bags will need to be stored outside far away from cooking areas, open water or busy areas. In warm weather bags may be stored or buried for later disposal. In cold weather a distant location n may be used with the expectation the bags will freeze and need to be disposed of after the disaster.
Seniors, Special Needs and Assistance
Set up a Personal Support Network:
Designate someone to check on you in an emergency and to help with evacuation or sheltering-in-place. Prepare and carry with you an emergency health information card: Carrying health information with you will help to communicate to rescuers what they need to know about you if they find you unconscious or incoherent, or if they need to quickly help evacuate you. Include information about your medications, adaptive equipment, blood type, allergies and sensitivities, insurance numbers, immunization dates, communication difficulties and preferred treatment, as well as contact information for your health providers, personal support network and emergency contacts.
Personal Care Assistance:
If you receive assistance from a home healthcare agency or in-home support provider, find out how the provider will respond in an emergency. Designate backup or alternative providers that you can contact in an emergency. For Persons using a Wheelchair: Plan for how you will evacuate in an emergency and discuss it with your Personal Support Network. If you use a motorized wheelchair, have a manual wheelchair as a backup.
For Persons who are Blind or Visually Impaired:
Keep an extra collapsible cane by your bed. Attach a whistle to the cane; use it if you need to attract attention. Exercise caution when moving around after an earthquake; items may fall and block paths that are normally unobstructed. For Persons who are Hearing Impaired: Keep extra batteries for your hearing aids with emergency supplies. Consider storing your hearing aids in a container attached to your nightstand or bedpost, so you can locate them quickly after a disaster.
For persons with Communication Disabilities:
Determine how you will communicate with emergency personnel if you do not have your communication devices. Store paper, writing materials, copies of a word or letter board and pre-printed key phrases specific to anticipated emergencies in all your emergency kits, your wallet, purse, etc.
Older Adults/Disability Information:
Tips for Children & Parents
- Teach your children their phone number, address and how and when to call 9-1-1
- Teach them where they two family meeting places are: one outside the house and one outside the neighborhood.
- Teach your children to STOP where they are, DROP to the ground, COVER their face, and ROLL over and over to smother the flames if their clothes catch fire.
- In children’s Go-bags, include medical consent forms, a family photo for reunification purposes and a favorite toy, deck of cards or book.
- Giving school age children something to be in charge of helps them feel more in control when things are not going as usual.
- Remember to make a Go-bag for your pet! (See Tips for Pet Owners.) Tips for Parents Include your children in preparing for an emergency so that they know what to do and how to get help following a disaster.
- Provide your children with emergency contact numbers and teach them how to call 9-1-1.
- Warn your children never to touch wires that are hanging on poles or lying on the ground.
- Tell your children to leave the building if they smell gas.
- Practice skills by including your children in emergency drills and evacuation/reunification planning.
- Make arrangements in advance to have your children picked up from school or daycare by a family member, trusted neighbor or friend if you are unable to do so.
- Regularly update your child’s school with current information regarding emergency contacts and persons authorized to pick up your child from school.
- Learn the emergency plans and policies at your child’s school or daycare facility.
Training & Volunteer Opportunities
- The Alaska Division of Homeland Security’s website for preparedness: http://www.ak-prepared.com/
- Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster preparedness information
- Join the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and get free training on how to help yourself and your neighbors after a disaster.
- Take preparedness and/or safety classes with the American Red Cross
Get to know your neighbors. Find out if anyone has specialized equipment, like a power generator, or expertise such as medical knowledge, that might help in a crisis. Identify neighbors who might need assistance after a disaster. Make arrangements with your neighbors to check on each other’s home or pets if one of you is away when a disaster strikes.