How to Prepare for a Disaster

cobs-emergencyWe all know a natural or man-made disaster could strike at any moment, yet most of us don’t do the things that are necessary to be prepared in the event something does happen. This past year has been chock-full of disasters that in many cases have resulted in areas that are still without basic services like electricity and clean water. In other areas, the services may be restored but due to the nature of the destruction and loss, it has forced people to re-build their entire lives. They have had to re-locate, look for new employment (because their former place of employment was destroyed), purchase all new possessions, at the same time as dealing with the frustration, grief, and fear of their losses.

A couple of real life examples for 2017 that are close to us, are the fires that took place in Santa Rosa, California and the surrounding areas. We live about 3 ½ hours north and many of us have friends and relatives who live and work here. We were constantly in contact with these folks as they were repeatedly evacuated. Many of the places we’ve shopped and frequented over the years are no longer standing or are in complete disarray not sure if they’ll be able to recover. The one thing that we’ve heard many times was how important their radio was in these situations. The folks who were able to monitor the status of where the fire was and how quickly it was changing were in a more confident position on making a decision of what to do next.

Another example, is the Virgin Islands and all others down island along the Caribbean Coast that were affected. We have a new team member who comes to us from St. John, USVI who got hit the hardest of the 3 US territories during Irma.  9 miles long of destruction with loss of power poles, cell towers and Internet connection. She evacuated and relocated back here to her home town after 10 years of the Caribbean life. Along with her home and most of her possessions being destroyed, thousands of islanders quickly became unemployed such as her former workplace at Caneel Bay Resort which was decimated.

So how do you prepare? There’s no one size fits all approach. Each individual and family has different considerations based on their family size, age, etc. along with the type of disasters they or their loved ones are most likely to encounter. As a basis being prepared with not only food and water but with a battery operated radioflashlight and extra batteries will be your safety net and lifeline. You may not know, but a radio with an active NOAA Weather Alert feature can alert you up to 30 minutes prior to a major storm. That’s enough time to gather what you need and hurry to shelter or to at least get out the flashlights and shut the windows.

Here are some tips for safety and to help get you better prepared – preparation will vary based on the types of disaster you’re most likely to encounter. Knowing your area and what kinds of disasters you are most likely to encounter will help you make the best plan for your environment.

  • Create a preparedness kit that will last at least 72 hours for each person in your household. Include in your kit- canned food (don’t forget the can opener), bottled water, battery operated radio, flashlights, batteries, blankets, clothing and shoes, first aid kit, money (make sure it’s cash – ATMS need power too), duct tape, survival knife with fishing kit, trash bags, zip ties, sewing kit, tarp, wet wipes and specialty items such as medications (both prescription and non), infant food and pet food. Many sites we visited recommend at least one week’s worth of water.
  • Other possible items that may be needed based on the type of emergency: Specialty rated filtration masks, water pump filter, rain and camping gear
  • Write out your most important contacts – if you have extended power outages you may not have a charged phone that has your contact information saved
  • Consider purchasing a camping stove and extra propane
  • Camera for photos of any damage
  • Flash drive with all important docs and pictures backed up
  • Playing cards or a frisbee – something to help keep you occupied if you’re waiting for extended periods of time
  • Stay home and off the roads if appropriate.
  • Use phone lines for emergency calls only to keep lines open for emergency services

Bob’s tip for potable water – A good source for drinking water in your home is your hot water heater. It can provide you with much needed clean drinking water when your local water services have been disrupted. You should filter the water to remove any contaminates present. You can drain the water using the valve on the bottom of the tank. Be sure to turn the gas or electric supply to the water heater off before draining it.

Will your Mom or Dad or Grandparents be prepared for disasters?  The stress of aging parents living far enough away that you can’t easily get to them is compounded in an emergency situation.  Making sure that they have a good radio to access information will bring peace of mind to you both.  This is particularly important when older adults are usually the higher percentage of victims, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina according to the Huffington Post article.

If you have faced a disaster with your emergency kit, what item would have helped that you did not have?

Additional resources for preparation:

Amateur radio gives you the best news in a true emergency

A true emergency is something like what happened recently in Oroville and Sacramento Valley area – where an emergency spillway that has never been used in the previous 48 years begins to fail. This failure threatened the lives and livelihood of over 150,000 people and resulted in forced evacuation. Everyone thinks, if they have a cell phone they’ll be fine, but what we’ve seen time and again is that cell phones are an unreliable service under these circumstances. The lines are often jammed with “all circuits busy” messages. In some cases, towers are down due to flooding or power failures or a combination there-of. HAM radio coordinators really come to the rescue in these situations.


Oroville Spillway Damage Feb 2017 – Photo Courtesy N.Brooks, Placerville CA (c) 2017

This particular emergency hit closer to home than usual – one of our employee’s brother and his family had to evacuate. It took them over 4 hours to travel what normally would be a 45-minute drive. Many of our close friends and loved ones have experienced loss due to flooding. One of our other employee’s daughter, who lives close to Oroville, California has HAM Radio to thank for keeping her family and friends safe and informed. “So happy the mandatory evacuations are over, and glad we live high enough that we never had to evacuate. I’ve never been one to watch news much, but I think I’ve watched more news in the last 48 hours than I have in the last five years! I’ve also never quite understood my husband’s love of amateur radio, but after listening to the Yuba-Sutter Amateur Emergency Coordinator, Steve Sweetman, I have a whole new respect for amateur radio, and I felt like I got my best news from the radio! Thanks!”

Steve Swteetman is the Amateur radio emergency coordinator for Yuba and Sutter counties. They volunteer their time and use their own equipment. Below is a summary report from Steve on the communications that were handled during the evacuations.

“On February 12, Yuba/Sutter ARES EC Steve Sweetman, K6TAZ, opened and managed a net to provide information and gather reports of road closures or problems during the Oroville Dam Incident evacuation. The net received reports from radio amateurs who were evacuating. Traffic was reported to be very heavy, with a trip that would normally take 20 minutes extending into “3-hour stop-and-go ordeal.” The net also gathered information on where evacuees could get fuel for their vehicles, where evacuation centers were being set up and road closures. “This became a critical need, as the thousands of people evacuated their houses with 1-hour notice. K6taz was operating from his house on a high hill outside Yuba City, He is was safe from flooding and housed 17 evacuees staying on his property.” The net ran on and off from Sunday 4pm until Wednesday 8pm. Total operating time was 48 hours and 322 contacts were made. He had reports that the information he was relaying was more informative than the radio or television. Steve was also monitoring the press conferences and would give updated reports. He was in constant communication with the Governor’s office of emergency services in Sacramento.”

Steve Sweetman

 EC ( Emergency Coordinator)
Yuba/Sutter  ARES

ARES Website
SKYWARN Weather spotter YU-19
ARRL Official Emergency Station

Bob Crane, founder of C. Crane has always been a huge proponent of HAM radio because it is so valuable in these situations. Several C. Crane employees have their license as well.

In a day and age where what people have said is impossible is now happening, it seems prudent to invest in something reliable. Whether you choose to go as far as getting a license and investing in amateur radio equipment so you can communicate both directions, or you purchase a reliable radio like our CCRadio-2E that allows you to listen to the 2-Meter HAM band, you will never regret being prepared and having access to the best and most up to date information when you need it.

Below are some additional resources on the Oroville spillway:

If you would like to get your license, please visit ARRL (American Radio Relay League). Not sure exactly what Amateur (HAM) Radio is or what you might here? – visit one of our previous blog posts to learn about it.

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