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department of Public Safety

Terrorism / Disaster Planning

What you can do to prepare

Finding out what can happen is the first step. Once you have determined the events possible and their potential in your community, it is important that you discuss them with your family or household. Develop a disaster plan together.

Create an emergency communications plan

Choose an out-of-town contact your family or household will call or email to check on each other should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has that contact's, and each other's, email addresses and telephone numbers (home, work, pager and cell). Leave these contact numbers at your children's schools, if you have children, and at your workplace. Your family should know that if telephones are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try email. Many people flood the telephone lines when emergencies happen but email can sometimes get through when calls don't.

Establish a meeting place

Having a predetermined meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion should your home be affected or the area evacuated. You may even want to make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency. Be sure to include any pets in these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.

Assemble a disaster supplies kit

If you need to evacuate your home or are asked to "shelter in place," having some essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable. Prepare a disaster supplies kit in an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or small plastic trash can. Include "special needs" items for any member of your household (infant formula or items for people with disabilities or older people), first aid supplies (including prescription medications), a change of clothing for each household member, a sleeping bag or bedroll for each, a battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries, food, bottled water and tools. It is also a good idea to include some cash and copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports and licenses) in your kit.

  • Copies of essential documents-like powers of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your will-should also be kept in a safe location outside your home. A safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member who lives out of town is a good choice.
  • For more complete instructions, ask your local American Red Cross chapter for the brochure titled Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit (stock number A4463).
  • For more information on putting together a disaster plan, request a copy of the brochure titled Your Family Disaster Plan (A4466) from your local American Red Cross chapter. You may also want to request a copy of Before Disaster Strikes . . . How to Make Sure You're Financially Prepared (A5075) for specific information on what you can do now to protect your assets.

If Disaster Strikes

  • Remain calm and be patient.
  • Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
  • Listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.
  • If the disaster occurs near you, check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
  • If the disaster occurs near your home while you are there, check for damage using a flashlight. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.
  • Confine or secure your pets.
  • Call your family contact. Do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled.

A word on what could happen

  • There can be significant numbers of casualties and/or damage to buildings and the infrastructure. So employers need up-to-date information about any medical needs you may have and on how to contact your designated beneficiaries.
  • Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels follows a terrorist attack due to the event's criminal nature.
  • Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, maybe even overwhelmed.
  • Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
  • Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
  • You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.
  • Clean-up may take many months.

Evacuation

If local authorities ask you to leave your home, they have a good reason to make this request, and you should heed the advice immediately. Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of local emergency officials and keep these simple tips in mind:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.
  • Take your disaster supplies kit.
  • Take your pets with you. Do not leave them behind. Because pets are not permitted in public shelters, follow your plan to go to a relative's or friend's home, or find a "pet-friendly" hotel.
  • Lock your home.
  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Listen to local authorities.
  • Your local authorities will provide you with the most accurate information specific to an event in your area. Staying tuned to local radio and television, and following their instructions is your safest choice.
  • If you're sure you have time:
    • Call your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
    • Shut off water and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so. Leave natural gas service ON unless local officials advise you otherwise. You may need gas for heating and cooking, and only a professional can restore gas service in your home once it's been turned off. In a disaster situation it could take weeks for a professional to respond.

Shelter-in-place fact sheet

  • If you are advised by local officials to "shelter in place," what they mean is for you to remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there.
  • Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
  • Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
  • Close the fireplace damper.
  • Get your disaster supplies kit, and make sure the radio is working.
  • Go to an interior room without windows that's above ground level.
    • In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
  • Using duct tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.
  • Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate.
  • Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.

Be aware of biological/radiological exposure

  • Listen to local radio and television reports for the most accurate information from responsible governmental and medical authorities on what's happening and what actions you will need to take.

Reduce any care risks

The risk of getting a disease while giving first aid is extremely rare. However, to reduce the risk even further:

  • Avoid direct contact with blood and other body fluids.
  • Use protective equipment, such as disposable gloves and breathing barriers.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water immediately after giving care.
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