Disaster Preparedness

& Safety Tips

High Altitude

Sickness

How long does it take for altitude sickness to go away?

If you are climbing and do not move back down to an elevation where you last felt well, your symptoms can worsen and can be deadly. Symptoms from acute mountain sickness will go away after two or three days of rest at a lower altitude.

How long does it take to get used to high altitude?

This will have a negative impact on your endurance running performance until your body adjusts to the elevation. It takes your body about three to six weeks to fully acclimate to high altitude. However, your endurance race times at high altitude will never be as fast as they would be at sea-level

How do you acclimate to high altitude?

Here are some tips to get acclimated so you can focus on having fun!
Get Oxygen. A quick way to adapt to the elevation is to carry a portable oxygen canister, taking a shot or two whenever you feel winded. ...
Take it Easy. ...
Stay Hydrated. ...
Eat Right. ...
Take Your Vitamins. ...
Hold the Beer. ...
Get Medicated. ...
Descend to Sleep.

Can high altitude make you tired?

Cause. The loss of sleep from altitude sickness can make you feel tired faster; however, your fatigue is mostly likely caused by reduced air pressure and lower oxygen concentration.

Can altitude sickness be fatal?

Acute mountain sickness can progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), both of which are potentially fatal, and can only be cured by immediate descent to lower altitude or oxygen administration.

Here is a nice references for Medical Emergency.When in the Wilderness

Lightning Safety Tips for Hiking

 

A guide to staying safe outside during a lightning storm.

No matter where you are on a hike, the possibility of a thunderstorm should not be ignored. It can be a dangerous and even life-threatening situation. We're here to help you learn how lighting works and understand the risks so you can find shelter and stay safe even in the worst storm.

 

Lightning Explained

 

COMMON TYPES OF LIGHTNING STRIKES

A. Ground Current Lightning: The most common strike is ground current lightning, which causes nearly half of all lightning injuries. When lightning strikes the ground, it creates a current that travels through the ground and through your body. If you are standing with your feet together, it will travel up one leg and out the other. If you are lying prone or standing with your feet apart, the current will take longer to move through your body, increasing the damage.

B. Side Flash: A less common lightning strike is the side flash strike in which lightning hits a taller object like a tree and some of the current jumps to the person who was standing next to the tree. Moving 50 to 100-feet away from the tree decreases the likelihood of this strike. Conduction lightning occurs when a person is in contact with any metal object such as wiring or fencing that can conduct electricity. Though more common inside than outside, a conduction strike can occur inside tents and near fencing.

C. Direct Strike: The most devastating strike is the direct strike in which a person is hit directly with the bolt of lightning. In this strike, a portion of the current travels over the skin leaving a mark called a flashover while the remaining current travels through the body. A direct strike can cause extensive damage and is sometimes fatal.

D. Streamers: A similar and less predictable strike is a streamer which is an offshoot of a lightning bolt that forms as the main bolt approaches the ground. These streamers can strike far away from the original lightning strike. Though they are less powerful than the main bolt, streamers can still cause injury and death.

 

WHAT ATTRACTS LIGHTNING TO YOU

There are three things that may cause a bolt of lightning to hit a person.

1. Height: Lightning is four times more likely to hit tall objects than short objects. In certain landscapes, that object may be a tall tree; in others, it could be a person. For that reason, mountain ridges and peaks are particularly risky areas to be in during lightning storms.

2. "Pointiness": Lightning is also attracted by pointy objects, which is why lightning rods often have a pointed tip. Tents, trekking poles, umbrellas... these are things that may put you at risk.

3. Isolation: Equally dangerous to being the tallest object in the area is being the only potential target around. Lightning is more likely to hit isolated objects, such as a lone tree or a person standing in an open meadow or on a body of water.

Lightning Safety Procedures

 

Lightning safety is more than just knowing how to find shelter in a storm. It's a multi-step process that starts even before you leave the security of your home.

 

BEFORE YOU GO

Check the Weather Forecast: Check the weather before your hike and watch for thunderstorm warnings. Look for thickening and darkening clouds, developing rain, and increasing wind. Also, check out the National Weather Service’s weather forecast for any active alerts.

Plan the Time of Day: Storms are most common in the afternoons. This, of course, is not a guarantee. However keep in mind to try to schedule your hikes so that you avoid peaks, exposed areas, or high elevations during the afternoon. 

 

DURING A STORM

Step 1: Assess the Distance. If an unexpected storm takes you by surprise, then you should evaluate how far away you are from the storm. Watch for a lightning bolt and then count the number of seconds until the next thunderclap. For every five seconds, the storm is one mile away. If you prefer the metric system, then the conversion is 1 km for every 3 seconds.

Follow the 30/30 rule to know when to seek shelter. If this time between when you see lightning and hear thunder is 30 seconds or less, then the storm is close enough to pose a severe threat. If you can't see the flash, just hearing the thunder 30 seconds apart is a back-up warning sign. Find a suitable shelter and wait 30 minutes or more after hearing the last thunder before resuming your hike.

Step 2: Act on Your Surroundings.

  • Spread out: If you are in a group, you should spread out about 50 to 100 feet apart to prevent the lightning's current from traveling between people and injuring everyone in the group.

  • Get down: In the middle of a storm, your first priority is to get off any ridges or peaks and move to a lower altitude. If the storm is moving too fast and you are stuck in an exposed area, then hiding behind a boulder is your safest option. Keep yourself low to the ground, but do not lie down on the ground, though, as the current from a lightning strike can travel through the earth and electrocute you.

  • Find a shelter: If you can get below treeline and onto a trail, you should seek a proper shelter such as a three- or preferably four-sided wooden shelter or a car at a trailhead. These areas don't attract lightning and will keep you dry. Your next best choice is a dense stand of uniformly sized trees in a forest or a low-lying area such as a ravine or a depression in a rolling meadow.

  • Adopt the Lightning Crouch: As a last resort, experts recommend you assume the lightning position - crouch on the balls of your feet with your heels touching, tuck your head toward your knees and cover your ears with your hands. This position reduces your overall height and minimizes your contact with the ground. 

 

ADDITIONAL TIPS

  • Do not leave your pack on if you get caught in a storm. Remove your backpack and leave it 100 feet away from where you are as it may conduct lightning.

  • A tingling sensation or hair standing up are other signs that the storm is on top of you and a nearby lightning strike is imminent. Don't take a photo, seek shelter immediately instead.

  • Do not seek shelter in your tent. Tents will not protect you against lightning. If anything, they will increase your chances of getting struck because of the metal parts that make up its structure.

  • Do not lay down. The current would have a larger surface to travel through if you got hit, meaning it'd stay longer in your body and cause more damage. The lightning crouch is a much safe option.

  • Avoid standing too close to tree trunks so you don't get struck by a side flash or ground current.

  • Stand clear of the tallest object in your surroundings (eg. tree or utility pole) and stay away from bodies of water.

The Risks of Lightning

 

HOW LIGHTNING WORKS

Lightning is an electrical discharge caused by an imbalance of positive and negative charges between the clouds and the ground. During a storm, particles of ice, rain, and snow collide inside a storm cloud, causing it to build up a negative charge. At the same time, tall objects like towers, trees, and buildings on the ground build up a positive charge. A lightning bolt is a bridge that dissipates both of these opposite charges and restores the balance between the ground and the sky.

A lightning strike is no laughing matter. A single lightning bolt can carry up to two billion volts of electricity. At 50,000 °F, it is also five times hotter than the surface of the sun. Any strike, direct or indirect, can cause severe injury or possibly even death. Thankfully, casualties are rare. Among the thousands of people who are struck by lightning each year, approximately 90 percent survive. Though they heal physically, many of these people suffer lasting neurological and emotional effects.

Thankfully, lightning strikes on a person are not a common occurrence. You have a 1 in 12,000 chance of being struck by lightning during your lifetime. Among those who are hit by lightning, only a small percentage are hikers. Statistics show that most people who get struck by lightning are on - or near - a body of water when they are struck, either fishing, boating, or swimming. Even though the odds are against being hit, we need to be careful, especially men as you are four times more likely to be hit by lightning than your female counterparts.


 

LIGHTNING STRIKE FIRST AID

A lightning strike causes an electrical shock that disrupts the nervous system and sometimes the heart. It also produces a searing heat that burns the skin and an explosive force that knocks people off their feet. Most people survive a lightning strike, but they are usually severely injured and require immediate medical attention. It is imperative that you get them off the mountain and to a hospital as soon as possible.

Check with everyone in your group after a strike to ensure they are not injured. Note that it is safe to touch an injured person as the electricity does not stay in their body.

Here are some the first aid procedures we recommend following:

  • Check their vitals (breathing, pulse) if they are unconscious

  • Start CPR if there is no breath or pulse and call 911 or use an SOS beacon for emergency assistance

  • If the injured person is breathing and has a pulse, then look for burns, especially if they are wearing metal items such as rings or belt buckles

  • Check for signs of trauma (broken bones, cuts, bruising) from being thrown by the force of the strike

  • Treat them for shock by keeping them warm and calm

  • Seek immediate medical attention

Tips for Preventing Home Heating Fires

Inspect your furnace

Contact an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean all the ducts. Remember to change your furnace filter each month during the winter and to remove all flammable material from the area around your furnace.

Clean your chimney

If you use your chimney a half-dozen times or more each year, it is a good idea to have it cleaned of soot and creosote every year. If you don’t want to hire a chimney sweep, consider a Creosote Sweeping Log, which can be bought at any home improvement store.

Check your chimney for structural damage

Make sure your chimney doesn’t have any cracks. If your chimney does have air leaks, it can change the flame in the fireplace and possibly ignite and cause a fire outside the fireplace.

Use a diffusion screen with your fireplace

A diffusion screen will prevent a flaming log from rolling out of the fireplace or sparks from popping out to cause a fire. If you have carpeting or wood flooring in front of your fireplace, it’s especially important to use a diffusion screen.

Be careful with space heaters

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, space heaters are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths. The best way to prevent a home fire caused by a space heater is to purchase one with an emergency cut-off so that it will automatically shut off if tipped over or accidentally knocked down. Otherwise, if it falls on the carpeting and doesn’t turn off, it could easily ignite a fire.

Never leave space heaters unattended. And make sure you place your heater on a flat, level, non-flammable surface such as ceramic tile rather than on a carpet. Don’t place space heaters near curtains, bedding or anything flammable, and make sure you are plugging the space heater into a GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter) system, so that if a malfunction does occur, the electricity will automatically turn off.

Check your water heater

As your water heater gets older, the thermostat and the heating element inside will start to deteriorate and the flame will become inconsistent. This could cause a flash fire, particularly if the water heater is in the garage where it is susceptible to wind or changes in air supply that could be caused by someone opening or closing a door.

Give your boiler a wide berth

Be careful not to put flammable items, such as boxes and newspapers, around your boiler system.

Don’t forget about the laundry room

Most homeowners don’t realize the laundry room can be a source of home fires due to the duct that connects to the back of the dryer and collects flammable lint. Homeowners should have their duct cleaned at least once a year. Your dryer doesn’t capture 100 percent of your lint and some of it ends up in the ducts, and that material is very flammable. If you have enough dryer lint built up in the duct you can have a huge fire.

Power Outage Safety
Learn how to prepare your home for a power outage and what to do when one occurs.


Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, don’t be concerned about losing your perishable foods. For prolonged power outages, though, there are steps you can take to minimize loss and keep all members of your  household as comfortable as possible.

Before a Power Outage
How to Prepare for a Power Outage


Protecting your family
To keep your food from spoiling during a power outage, keep on hand:
One or more coolers—inexpensive styrofoam coolers work well.

Ice—Surrounding your food with ice in a cooler or in the refrigerator will keep food colder for a longer period of time during a prolonged blackout.

A digital quick-response thermometer— With these thermometers you can quickly check the internal temperatures of food to ensure they are cold enough to use safely.

Make sure you have access to NOAA radio broadcasts:
Find an online NOAA radio station

Search for a NOAA radio app in the Apple Store >> or Google Play>>

Purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA radio in the Red Cross Store

Have at least a half tank of gas in your car.
Get extra containers and fill them with gas. If power is out for an extended time, gas supply may be limited and lines at service stations long.

Protecting your pets & animals
Prepare a pet emergency kit for your companion animals.

Protecting your home
Consider purchasing a generator to power critical equipment during a blackout. Make sure it’s rated for the power you think you’ll need and that you know how to operate it safely.


During a Power Outage
Staying Safe Indoors


Use flash lights in the dark, not candles.
Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
If you are using a generator be sure you understand the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to use generators safely.
Food Safety

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
First use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables should have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or below to be safe to eat. Then use food from the freezer.

Use your non-perishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer.

If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.
Electrical Equipment

Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.



After a Power Outage
Staying Safe After a Power Outage


If electrical power lines are down, don’t touch them. Keep your family and pets away. Report downed lines to your utility company.
Throw Out Unsafe Food

Throw away any food (particularly meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that has been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food-borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.
If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer.
If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.


Here are a few of the must have items for a power outage.  

1 A good surge protector

Don’t be fooled into thinking your power strip is a surge protector. While it might provide peace of mind, it won’t protect your electronic devices. Read carefully before you buy or you might end up with lots of expensive paperweights.

Check out this surge protector to see if it might work for you


2 Battery operated light source

Candles can cause fires and aren’t as handy as a flashlight is to use. You can’t light a path very far in front of you with a candle. Keep a battery-operated lantern on hand to light rooms.


3 A crank radio

That’s right, crank radios often have a USB port. While it won’t run the lights or refrigerator, it will charge your cell phone. 

4 Emergency power sources

a) Generators have made their way to the top of the list for most people, but they require lots of maintenance to ensure they start, can’t be run inside the house and require gasoline. They’re also very loud.

This is the newer model to the generator we have. We’ve had ours about 3 years and it was used daily for hours at a time for a year and a half of that. It is still going strong. We bought it to use while living in our RV, but kept it after we moved into a house because we liked it so much. We kept it for emergency uses and sometimes we take it camping with us. I’ve also used it to charge a dead car battery.

b) A power pack that you leave plugged in and ready in the event it’s needed is another alternative. They often have outlets for plugs and are totally quiet. They aren’t a long-term answer for power outages, but quite nice when the electric goes out for a day.

c) Complete solar power is another alternative. The price of roof solar panel installation can get pretty pricy and there are other problems if you are connected to the grid as a backup system. Your power will go out unless you have a solar battery backup system. That costs far more than the ones that work in conjunction with electricity. The battery backup and your solar panels must be able to meet your power demands 100% of the time in order to maintain

d) Stand-alone solar, wind and water generated sources of power are available.

5 Tools

Wrenches may be necessary to turn off gas or water supplies in the event of an outage. Keep them in a handy location.

6 Heavy insulated blanket for freezer or refrigerator.

A heavy blanket you can put over the freezer/refrigerator helps keep the cold air in and is particularly important in the summer. Keep plenty of bags of ice in the freezer too. The fuller your freezer, the longer it stays cold.

7 Basic emergency supplies

You should have water, food, first aid kit and other items you’d assemble for any type of emergency readily available. Don’t forget to include some method of heating food and water, whether it’s a camp stove or homemade cotton ball stove, you’ll be glad it’s available.food, first aid kit and other items you’d assemble for any type of emergency readily available.

Home Fire Preparedness

The 7 Ways to Prepare for a Home Fire

Install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.        

Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one. 

Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.

Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.

Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.

Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.

Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

Mapping Out Your Escape Plan: Single Family Home: https://www.redcross.org/content/dam/redcross/atg/PDFs/Infographics/Single_Family_Home.pdf

Mapping Out Your Escape Plan: Multi-Family Dwelling

https://www.redcross.org/content/dam/redcross/atg/PDFs/Infographics/Multi_Family_Dwelling.pdf

Develop Fire-Safe Habits

 

Protect your home

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside every sleeping area. Also, install a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each separate sleeping area.

  • Keep matches and lighters up high, away from children, preferably in a locked cabinet.

  • Use flashlights when the power is out, not candles.

  • Make sure your house number is easily readable from the street, even at night.

  • Download the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Fact Sheet >>

 

Reduce fire risks in your home

  • Make sure your home heating sources are clean and in working order. Many home fires are started by poorly maintained furnaces or stoves, cracked or rusted furnace parts, or chimneys with creosote buildup.

  • Use kerosene heaters only if permitted by law. Refuel kerosene heaters only outdoors and after they have cooled.

  • Check electrical wiring in your home.

  • Fix or replace frayed extension cords, exposed wires, or loose plugs.

  • Make sure wiring is not under rugs, attached by nails, or in high traffic areas.

  • Make sure electrical outlets have cover plates and no exposed wiring.

  • Avoid overloading outlets or extension cords.

  • Purchase only appliances and electrical devices (including space heaters) that bear the label of an independent testing laboratory.

  • Store combustible materials in open areas away from heat sources.

  • Place rags used to apply flammable household chemicals in metal containers with tight-fitting lids.

Fire Safety for Kids

Protecting and educating your children

A home fire is a devastating event, and one that you never count on happening. Your children are most at risk when this disaster occurs. In fact, children under five are twice as likely as other people to die in a home fire. Tragically, many home fires are started by children playing with dangerous household items – especially lighters and matches. Taking sensible precautions in the home and teaching your child how to escape from a fire can help your family avoid this type of heartbreak.            

Prevent Your Child from Starting Fires

The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that 300 people are killed and $280 million in property is destroyed each year as the result of children playing with fire.

  • Keep matches, lighters and other ignitable substances in a secured location out of your child’s reach. Only use lighters with child-resistant features.

  • Invest in flameless candles. These candles contain a light bulb rather than an open flame, and take the danger out of your child knocking over a candle.

Help Your Child Survive a Fire

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Once a month check whether each alarm in the home is working properly by pushing the test button. Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Immediately install a new battery if an alarm chirps, warning the battery is low.

  • Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.

  • Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home, and where to meet up outside..

  • Practice your fire escape plan at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Practice waking up to smoke alarms, low crawling and meeting outside. Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.

  • Emphasize “get out, stay out.” Only professional firefighters should enter a building that is on fire—even if other family members, pets or prized possessions are inside.

  • Use quick-release devices on barred windows and doors. Security bars without release devices can trap you in a deadly fire. If you have security bars on your windows, be sure one window in each sleeping room has a release device.

  • Consider getting escape ladders for sleeping areas on the second or third floor. Learn how to use them, and store them near the windows. 

  • Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

Pet Fire Safety

Protecting Your Pets from Potential Danger


Home fires are the most common disaster that the American Red Cross responds to – and also the most preventable. 

  • The best way to protect your pets from the effects of a fire is to include them in your family plan. This includes having their own disaster supplies kit as well as arranging in advance for a safe place for them to stay if you need to leave your home.

  • When you practice your escape plan, practice taking your pets with you. Train them to come to you when you call.

  • In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. But remember: never delay escape or endanger yourself or family to rescue a family pet.

Prevent Your Pets from Starting Fires

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that nearly 1,000 home fires each year are accidentally started by the homeowners' pets.

The American Kennel Club and ADT Security Services have joined forces to provide the following tips:

  • Extinguish Open Flames - Pets are generally curious and will investigate cooking appliances, candles, or even a fire in your fireplace. Ensure your pet is not left unattended around an open flame and make sure to thoroughly extinguish any open flame before leaving your home.

  • Remove Stove Knobs - Be sure to remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before leaving the house - a stove or cook top is the number one piece of equipment involved in your pet starting a fire.

  • Invest in Flameless Candles - These candles contain a light bulb rather than an open flame, and take the danger out of your pet knocking over a candle. Cats are notorious for starting fires when their tails turn over lit candles.

  • Secure Young Pets - keep them confined away from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home such as in crates or behind baby gates in secure areas.

Help Firefighters Help Your Pets

  • Keep pets near entrances when away from home. Keep collars on pets and leashes at the ready in case firefighters need to rescue your pet. When leaving pets home alone, keep them in areas or rooms near entrances where firefighters can easily find them.

  • Affix a pet alert window cling and write down the number of pets inside your house and attach the static cling to a front window. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets. Make sure to keep the number of pets listed on them updated.

If a Fire Starts:
  • Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher

  • Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.

  • Yell "Fire!" several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.

  • If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.

  • If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.

  • If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.

  • Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.