Wherever you live or travel, you should be aware of the dangers of a winter storm and be prepared to cope with one. You can rest a little easier knowing that you know what to do (and not to do) before the storm, when you receive a storm warning, during the storm, and after the storm.
What to Expect?
For normal floods, knowing what to expect is half the battle. If you are a new resident, get to know something about your surrounding area. Has your house ever flooded? Is there a history of the streets in your neighborhood becoming impassable during a storm event? Do you need renter's or owner's flood (and earthquake) insurance? Find out. There are plenty of people around that can tell you about floods. Be sure to ask about various routes out of the area.
- Keep first aid and critical medical supplies, such as prescription medications, on hand.
- Keep a stock of food which requires little cooking and no refrigeration; electrical power may be interrupted.
- Keep a portable radio and flashlights in working order. Have extra batteries on hand.
- Keep your automobile fueled; if electric power is cut off, filling stations may not be able to operate.
- Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency waterproofing.
When You Receive a Storm Warning
- Store drinking water in closed, clean containers. Water service may be interrupted.
- If flooding is likely, and time permits, move essential items and furniture to upper floors of your home.
- If advised to leave your home, move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water. Leave a note telling friends and relatives where you are going.
- As you are evacuating your home, cut off all electric circuits at the fuse panel by pulling the main switch, or disconnect all electrical appliances. Shut off the gas service at the valve next to the meter, and turn off the water service at the main valve.
- If indoors, stay there. Get under a desk or table or stand in a corner.
- If outdoors, get into an open area away from trees, buildings, walls and power lines.
- If driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses and power lines. Stay inside until the shaking is over.
- If in a high-rise building, stay away from windows and outside walls. Get under a table. Do not use elevators.
During the Storm
- Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding.
- Do not try to cross a flowing stream where water is above your knees.
- Do not try to drive over a flooded road. You can be stranded and trapped.
- If your vehicle stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground. Many people drown while trying to rescue their cars.
- Do not "sightsee" in areas where flooding or snowfall is occurring; do not try to enter areas closed by local law enforcement agencies, the Sheriff, or California Highway Patrol.
- Avoid unnecessary trips; if you must travel during the storm, dress warmly. Advise others of your destination.
- Use the telephone only for family emergency needs or to report dangerous conditions.
- Beware of downed power lines or broken gas lines. Report them immediately to your local gas or electric utility company, police or fire department.
- Keep tuned to one of your local radio or television stations for emergency information.
After the Storm
- DO NOT TURN GAS BACK ON YOURSELF. Rely on utility company crews.
- Do not use fresh food that has come in contact with flood waters.
- Make sure drinking water is not contaminated; wells should be pumped out and water tested before drinking.
- Do not visit disaster areas; your presence will probably hamper rescue and emergency operations, and you might be in danger.
- Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas. If electrical equipment or appliances have been in contact with water, do not use them until local authorities tell you they are safe.
- Use flashlights, not lanterns or matches, to examine buildings; flammables may be inside.
- Report broken utility lines to police, fire or other appropriate authorities.
- Continue to beware of downed power lines or broken gas lines.
You can rest a little easier knowing that you know what to do (and not to do) before the storm, when you receive a storm warning, during the storm, and after the storm.
by Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Schach