In the unlikely event of nuclear war

Preparedness can mitigate personal disaster in case of nuclear war
Preparedness can mitigate personal disaster in case of nuclear blast (infographic from cdc.gov)

While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps.  Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness…”  This was the introduction to a highly anticipated Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) Grand Rounds on the health response to a nuclear detonation.  Unfortunately, the January 16th topic “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation” was shelved to discuss the current flu epidemic.  Home owners want to know how to protect their homes and family in the unlikely event of nuclear war.

Living just outside Washington DC, it feels as if the anxiety for such as disaster has increased in recent months.  Many of you might wonder if there is anything you can do to save your homes and your families in the event of a nuclear war.  Like other potential disasters, preparedness can help mitigate personal disaster.

I had the opportunity to correspond with the Outreach Coordinator for Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Joe Corona, CEM.  When asked if the county has a plan in case of a nuclear war, he stated “We’ve taken a look at what we would need during the unlikely scenario of a nuclear attack (i.e. plume modeling, evacuation planning, public messaging, recovery planning, etc.), and applied them to multiple situations, so that in the unlikely event of a nuclear attack, we’re able to look at the priorities and provide the most effective response that we can.”

Corona described the Montgomery County’s Emergency Operation Plan as an “all hazards framework” that is able to prepare, respond and recover from an incident “regardless of the type of event.”  He added, “Our focus is responding to community needs effectively regardless of the event, and to be able to quickly increase or direct resources in order to provide the maximum benefit to the community, with life safety always being the number one priority.”

In this unlikely scenario, what can you do to protect your home and family?

Prepare by creating a plan, and building an emergency kit.  Corona suggests tapping resources from agencies such as Ready.gov, The American Red Cross, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, etc. to help you with your plan.  He recommends that you think about areas in your home that provide the best shielding from outdoor elements, and to “take steps now to prepare to shelter in place for longer periods of times.”  Corona suggests that you prepare at least three days of emergency supplies. However, in the unlikely case of nuclear war, you probably need to plan for “longer periods.”

Ready.gov (ready.gov/nuclear-blast) provides information on what to do before, during and after a nuclear blast.  Preparedness recommendations include building an emergency kit, make a family emergency plan, as well as identifying any designated fallout shelters in your community, and/or make a list of potential shelters near home, work and school.   “During periods of heightened threat,” you should have at least a two week emergency supply.

Corona recommends staying informed through Alert Montgomery (alert.montgomerycountymd.gov), noting that your chance for survival increases if you can act quickly.  “Alert Montgomery is the official emergency communications service for Montgomery County, MD. During a major crisis, emergency or severe weather event, Montgomery County officials can send event updates, warnings and instructions directly to you on any of your devices.

Check your homeowners or renter’s insurance coverage.  He stated, “In our responses, those who have insurance require so much less of the limited government resources and have tremendously more options through ‘loss of use’ provisions to seek alternate accommodations.  Photographing pre-conditions, keeping policy info in your go kit [emergency kit], and notifying the insurance company early after events go a long way to promoting recovery for the individual and recouping any losses.”

The Montgomery County OEMHS is a rich source of information on preparedness for disasters, including the unlikely event of a nuclear war. Their outreach personnel can answer your questions about staying informed, making a plan, building an emergency kit, as well as getting involved in the community (www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS/hazards/tech/radiological.html).

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Keep calm and carry on – building a panic room in your home

From blog.Allstate.com

There’s a mystique that many mid-century homes exudes. Maybe it’s the unpretentious architecture and retro-future feel that many people find charming. However, the homes also bring us back to a different time and place; yes, these homes remind us of the cold war era. During the height of the cold war, people went about their lives aspiring to advance in their careers, buying homes, and for many – having a bomb shelter of their own. Although building a personal bomb shelter in the back yard during the cold war may not have been as common as we are lead to believe; however, those who had a shelter of their own were most likely well known to their neighbors.

Although bomb shelters are passé today, finding ways to protect yourself in your home is once again trendy, and some say may be increasingly necessary. Today’s version of the in-house shelter is called a “panic room” (also known as a “safe room”). And like the movie “Panic Room,” the room may be able to offer shelter during a home invasion; but it can also offer shelter from other emergencies such as severe weather – and possibly some acts of terror.

When you think of a safe room, you might picture an elaborate shelter with provisions and amenities that will allow you to stay put for a couple of days or even a week or two. And in fact, FEMA (fema.gov/residential-safe-rooms) describes a safe room as “…a hardened structure specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria and provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.” FEMA offers plans and funding opportunities to build a safe room in your home.

As you can imagine, building a panic room can get expensive, especially if you are planning for long term shelter and for a variety of emergency situations. Many spend tens of thousands of dollars in designing their shelters. And even though you may not consider yourself a “prepper;” however, it is possible to create a basic shelter room with limited funds.

The Allstate Blog (Brendan ONeill; Storm Shelter? Safe Room? Build Your Own Ultimate Secure Shelter; blog.allstate.com, May 22, 2013) states that a safe room is simply “… a secure, reinforced, well-stocked room where individuals can go to avoid the risks and potential dangers that may arise in other parts of a home.” When designing a “shelter room” consider the basics. Choose a room that has no windows, impervious to flooding and is as close to ground level as possible (Allstate suggests a garage or a main level room). Consider reinforcing the room with a solid core or steel door, as well as lining the walls with plywood or other materials (some suggest metal sheathing or Kevlar). The room should be stocked with supplies that include emergency food, water, and first aid. Don’t forget communication devices, which should include a battery operated radio. A more elaborate panic room may include close circuit video monitors, a toilet and/or shower, and even a separate ventilation system. Visit Allstate’s site for a detailed list of basic items for your shelter (blog.allstate.com/safe-room-the-ultimate-secure-shelter-infographic).

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EMP’s, solar flares and your home – are you prepared

homesYour home takes on different functions at various times. Maybe you think of your home as place of relaxation and entertainment, or maybe it’s where you create gourmet meals. And although much of the living you anticipate in your home may be for enjoyment – will your home be a suitable shelter to protect you and your family?

To bring attention to preparedness, the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) played on pop-culture in a 2011 posting of a tongue in cheek account of preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. The result of this and other efforts increased awareness of planning for emergencies and severe weather. As a severe weather event might inconvenience you for as much as a day or two, preparedness experts have since turned to preparing for and the aftermath of Katrina-like events, or worse – the takedown of the electric grid.

Preparedness experts have recently brought attention to the electric grid’s vulnerabilities with reports of hacking and alleged terrorist activity. However, one weakness that has been talked about in recent years, although has been known since the cold war, is the electromagnetic pulse (EMP). R. James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry, in their August 12, 2014 Wall Street Journal article (The Growing Threat From an EMP Attack; wsj.com), describe EMP’s, the aftermath, and preparedness. Woolsey and Pry quoted a 2008 EMP Commission report that estimated “within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.”

Alternatively, the effect of a direct hit of a coronal mass ejection (CME) would be very similar to an EMP; causing “widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket…” Although 1859 was the last time a CME hit the Earth (when most of daily life did not depend on electricity), a CME barley missed the Earth (by several days) during July 2012. Scientists estimate a 12% chance of being hit by a CME in the next ten years (Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012; science.nasa.gov; July 23, 2014).

Although discussions about EMP’s and CME’s seem extreme; it should make you think about your preparedness level. If you don’t yet have (or need to update) a plan, preparedness information is available through government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (ready.gov). FEMA’s “Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness” interactive course is “a training program designed to help the citizens of this nation learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards…” and is a comprehensive source on individual, family and community preparedness (www.ready.gov/are-you-ready-guide).

Locally, the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security offers a resource library of information to prepare for and the aftermath of emergencies (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs/).

In addition to having an emergency plan, experts recommend reviewing your homeowners’ insurance policy to ensure of adequate coverage as well as compiling an inventory of your home’s contents; this is supposed to help you recover quicker from disaster. Additional recommendations include (but are not limited to) mitigating weather related damage: making sure your home’s doors and windows are secure and impermeable to weather, and also ensuring your roof and gutter system is well maintained (draining water at least five feet from your home); as well as removing debris and dead trees/shrubs from the home’s perimeter.

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Hurricanes, earthquakes, and your home

by Dan Krell
© 2011
DanKrell.com

When I wrote about disaster preparedness earlier this year, who knew we would experience an earthquake and a hurricane within a few months? Now that Hurricane Irene and the “surprise” earthquake are still fresh in our memories, disaster preparedness is a top conversation. However, protecting your home, possessions, and family from disasters and severe weather goes beyond just having a preparedness kit along with several days’ worth of food and water.

Consider that basic home owners’ insurance typically doesn’t cover damage from flood or earthquake; and unfortunately, many home owners don’t know the extent (or limitations) of their own home owners’ insurance coverage. Unless you live in a flood zone, where you’re lender would require you to carry the extra coverage, chances are that you don’t have flood insurance. Additionally, who thinks about earthquake insurance in the east coast? Actually, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (www.pciaa.net) about only 12% of Californians have earthquake insurance – so it is likely that you might not either.

Although regular home maintenance could possibly avoid a catastrophe caused by severe weather and water penetration; any disaster (whether it’s a natural occurrence, manmade, deity made, alien made, or whatever your beliefs are) has the potential for major devastation regardless of how much you prepare.

Have you looked up toward your roof lately? If your roof fails, high winds and heavy rain could not only lift and peel away shingles, but could allow water penetration into your home (which could affect other systems). Regular checks of the roof system, including shingles and flashing could prevent surprises when you’re relying on your home’s roof the most.

Additionally, don’t wait for wind or birds to clear the debris that has landed on your roof. Debris, such as tree branches, leaves, Frisbees, etc. have the potential to not only damage shingles and sheathing, but can also clog the gutters and downspouts. Instead of carrying water away from your home, clogged gutters and downspouts could force rains to cascade to the ground and pool around your home’s foundation. Additionally, a gutter that has pulled away from the roof can also allow rain to cascade off the roof and pool around the home’s foundation. To ensure proper function, gutters and downspouts should be checked and cleaned regularly.

If you have a basement, check if you have a sump pump. The sump pump is used to pump water away from your home’s foundation to prevent water penetration into your basement. Although sump pumps have an average life span of ten years, pumps can wear out much sooner. Regular testing makes sense to know if the pump is operational. Since power loss is often associated with severe weather events, you might consider a battery backup for your sump pump to ensure it can operate when you need it the most.

An additional source of water penetration could result from failing windows and siding. If the home’s windows are not sealed properly, strong winds and rain could force their way into the home. Additionally, siding that is not properly attached to your home can not only allow water to penetrate, but could separate from the home leaving wall systems unprotected.

Protect your home, possessions, and your family by conducting regular home maintenance, as well as regularly consulting with your insurance agent to ensure you’re properly covered.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of September 5, 2011. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2011 Dan Krell.

Disaster prepardness

by Dan Krell
© 2011
DanKrell.com

Are you prepared for…zombies?

The seemingly daily reports of floods, tornadoes, and severe weather events are a reminder that we should be prepared for disaster. Although we may not live in “tornado alley” or by the shores of the Mississippi, we do experience our share of natural and man made disasters.

Most people don’t typically go about their daily lives thinking about how to protect their homes and family from a tornado, hurricane, or even- zombies; however, taking the time to be prepared when a disaster strikes could mitigate your losses as well as possibly improving your recovery efforts.

The Federal Government offers many resources to assist in disaster preparation. Agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.gov), the Department of Homeland Security (dhs.gov), and the Centers for Diseases Control (cdc.gov) have preparedness programs that offer public education, training, and resources. Additionally, multi-agency programs such as Citizen Corps (citizencorps.gov) maintain local offices to assist volunteers as well as providing local education and response efforts.

One of the most widely offered free preparedness guides is published by FEMA. “Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness” (which can be downloaded at: disasterassistance.gov) is an instructional guide to preparedness, response and recovery. The guide is not only an informative manual on preparing and protecting your home and family from disasters, it is also a guide to help you recover from a disaster.

The guide recommends that you have a preparedness kit and a disaster plan. Among the pages of FEMA’s “Are You Ready?” is direction on securing your home, preparing a meeting place and/or an escape route, preparing anyone with special needs (i.e., dietary, medical, physical, etc), as well as caring for pets.

You most likely have some type of home owner’s insurance (or renters insurance if you don’t own a home) to help you recover financially from a disaster related loss. Because many home owners don’t know the extent or limitations of their insurance coverage until it’s too late, experts recommend that you review your home owners’ insurance policy with your insurance agent (or insurance company representative) to make sure your coverage is up to date and is able to replace your home and/or possessions in case of a catastrophic loss. Having the proper coverage may help you recover from a disaster quicker than those without coverage.

The American Insurance Association (aiadc.org) offered these tips for home preparedness and recovery in a press release issued during last years’ hurricane season (Sept 2010): Home preparedness can be achieved by: securing doors and windows; ensuring that exterior doors should have at least three hinges and a deadbolt length of at least one inch; replacing older garage doors and windows for systems that are certified for wind and impact; considering storm shutter installation; repairing any cracks or leaks around windows, doors, roof, exterior walls and foundation; ensuring that gutters and downspouts are secure and can drain water at least five feet from your home; inspecting the roof and repair if necessary; removing loose debris from around the home; removing dead or dying trees and shrubs; trimming back tree limbs from your home’s exterior and roof; compiling an inventory of your home’s contents by taking pictures or video.

As for zombies, check out the CDC recommended preparedness kit (“Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse”; blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/05/preparedness-101-zombie-apocalypse)- George Romero eat your heart (er… brains) out!

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Comments are welcome. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of May 30, 2011. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2011 Dan Krell.