Planning for an emergency - week 17

The recent Firestone Bridge weight limit changes prompted me to start thinking about transportation routes and the challenges involved with moving around this area, immediately after an emergency.Typically, we rely on synchronized traffic lights and large wide streets to provide us with safe corridors for our movement from place to place. Some local drivers don't use the larger boulevards. Instead they use the smaller, less traveled residential streets that parallel the boulevards. Regardless of the width of the roadway, most of us still need a fairly smooth road surface that is clear of debris, power lines, and parked cars. What if we couldn't take our roads for granted? What if there were power lines and the pavement was displaced in most of the streets? What if some or all of the bridges over the San Gabriel River (east side of Downey) or the Rio Hondo River (west side of Downey) were damaged by an earthquake? What if we simply had a wide-area power outage after an earthquake that crippled our traffic signal system and caused major traffic snarls? One answer to the questions above is to stay at home and not use the road system after an emergency. If a family has done some planning and has adequate supplies, staying at home may be the best option available. Think about it. You could be at one of the most comfortable places you know of (home) or in one of the most uncomfortable places you know of (in a car in bumper to bumper traffic). Staying home would allow you to keep an eye on your family, property and pets. It will take some planning and work to be prepared to stay at your home (or outside ) for a few days. Let's address the issues we can identify: Safety - The first priority is finding a safe place to stay. Is the area free of downed power lines? Free from the threat of anything else falling? No odors of natural gas or hazardous materials? Is the camping place a safe distance from anything that could burn readily? Is there an operable exit nearby? Security - Keeping our families safe is always a priority. We can stay in our backyards, in tents, and be fairly secure. If our houses / apartments are stable and not structurally compromised, we could even stay inside. We could also stay in a travel trailer or motorhome, if we have one. Regardless of where we stay, we can take steps to increase our security. We can close gates and doors if possible. We can even use our emergency tools to nail things down if necessary. We could even team up with our neighbors, work together and watch out for each other. Camping Supplies - Do we have a tent or cover we can use to keep us warm and dry? Sleeping bags or enough blankets to keep us comfortable? This time of year is a great time to look for these types of products because the summer camping season is coming to an end. How about a cook stove or a barbecue (and fuel with a starter)? If we plan to stay at our homes for any period of time, we will need some cooking equipment. We may also need some pots and pans. A few battery operated lights or lanterns with some extra batteries would be helpful too. Remember, earthquakes can occur any time of the year. Sanitation - If we plan to stay at home for any period of time, we will need to make bathroom arrangements. Hopefully the sewers will continue to work. If not, we need to be prepared to rough i' and use 'make-do' toilets and showers. There are plenty of portable showers and toilet units available for purchase through local retailers or the internet. These types of units can also be made with inexpensive materials. A key concern is to keep your home camp clean and sanitary. Think about how much water you will need. A large drum or two of water is a good solution to the water problems experienced by those who elect to stay at home after an emergency. Are there any pools in the neighborhood? Perhaps the neighbors can share some of their supplies and equipment. Food - We have posted lots of information on the importance (and types and amounts) of an adequate supply of food for the period of time immediately after an emergency. Obviously, if you plan to camp at home, you will need to have provisions for your family. You shouldn't count on the local grocery stores for anything. Remember, the earthquake experts are recommending 3-7 days of food and water supplies for family and pets. If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to

********** Published: September 30, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 24