The following are basic things to be prepared for and do in specific emergency situations:
- Wildfires can occur anytime or anywhere, but the potential is always higher during periods with little to no rainfall; high winds can contribute to escalating wildfire risks
- Make a wildfire plan – know where to go and which evacuation routes to use to get there
- Make or restock your emergency preparedness kit; include flashlight, batteries, cash, first-aid supplies, food, and water
- Stay tuned to alerts via phone, radio, or television for updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders
Prepare before a wildfire
- Keep a clear area approximately 30 feet away from buildings. Clear away anything that will burn like wood, leaves, brush, and other landscaping
- Create fire breaks such as driveways, walkways, and tree/bush free lawns
- Regularly clean roofs and gutters of combustible debris
- Connect a garden hose long enough to reach any area around the building and fill large containers with water
- Review your insurance policy and prepare or update building contents
During a wildfire
- Be prepared to evacuate on short notice
- If you see a wildfire and haven’t received any alerts or evacuation orders, call 9-1-1 and report it; don’t assume someone else has already called it in
- If ordered to evacuate, do it immediately and make sure to notify someone where you are going and when you arrive
- If you or someone has been burned, call 9-1-1 or seek help immediately; keep the burned area cool and covered to reduce the chance of infection or further injury
After a wildfire
- Return to facilities only when authorities say it is safe
- Maintain a fire-watch for several hours checking for smoke, sparks, or hidden embers that may reignite
- Use caution when going through burned areas; hazards may still exist including hot spots and potential gas leaks or electric lines
- During cleanup wear a NIOSH certified respirator (dust mask) and wet debris down to minimize breathing ash particles
- Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot
- Do not use water that may have been contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, or make ice
- Photograph damage for insurance purposes
Oklahoma has one of the highest number of tornadoes in the U.S. and they can occur anytime during the year.
Preparing for a tornado
- Identify safe rooms, storm shelters, or other potential protection locations where you can go quickly for safety when there is a warning or approaching tornado
- Have an emergency kit handy with flashlight and batteries, water, snacks, blankets, weather radio, and first-aid kit
- Be alert to changing weather conditions; Look for approaching storms; look for danger signs:
- Dark, often greenish sky
- Large hail
- Large, dark, low hanging clouds (particularly if they appear to rotate)
- Loud roaring noise
- Flying debris in the air
Know the terms:
Tornado Watch – conditions warrant the possibility that tornados could occur
Tornado Warning – a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately
After a tornado
- If you are trapped, do not move about or attempt to move objects; tap on a pipe or the wall to help rescuers locate you
- Listen for updates and instructions from local officials
- Check in with family or friends via texting or social media
- Watch out for sharp dangerous debris and downed power lines or gas leaks
- Stay out of damaged buildings until authorities deem them safe
- Wear protective clothing, dust masks, and gloves during clean up; don’t attempt to move heavy debris by yourself
- Do what you can to prevent further damage to property (putting up tarps, etc.) since insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm
- If the building is without power use flashlights or battery powered lanterns rather than candles or fuel lanterns
- Take photos of damaged property; keep a list of property in buildings in a safe location like the cloud
Flooding can occur in Oklahoma during every season, but spring holds our biggest threat. It is particularly important to be prepared for flooding in low-lying areas near rivers, creeks, and lakes.
Basic Flooding Safety Tips:
- If you approach flooding streets when driving; Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Avoid walking or driving in floodwaters
- Don’t drive over bridges that have fast moving water. Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the footings and make the bridges unstable
- Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and sweep you away; 1 foot of moving water can wash your vehicle away
- If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground
- If floodwaters rise around your vehicle but the water is not moving, abandon your vehicle and get to higher ground. Do not leave the vehicle if the water is moving
- Avoid parking along creeks and rivers during heavy rains. They can flood quickly with little warning
Terms to know:
Flood Watch = Be Aware, conditions are right for flooding or flash flooding in your area
Flood Warning = Take Action, flooding is either happening or will shortly
- Turn on the TV or radio to receive the latest updates on weather and emergency instructions
- Know where to go in case you need to seek higher ground in a hurry
- Make or restock an emergency kit. Include: flashlight, batteries, first-aid supplies, dry clothing and blankets, water, and snacks
After a flood:
- Return only when authorities say it is safe
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded; watch out for debris. Floodwaters often erode roads, walkways, and foundations of buildings
- Do not attempt to drive through areas that are still flooded
- Avoid standing water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed utility lines
- Photograph damaged property for insurance purposes
Earthquakes are unexpected, sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by breaking and shifting subterranean rock. After the quake aftershocks may occur causing further damage.
Preparing before an earthquake:
- Secure items that could fall or move and cause injuries or damage (bookshelves, mirrors, light fixtures, etc.)
- Practice how to “Drop, Cover, Seek Shelter and Hold On” drop to the ground, cover your head and neck, crawl to a place where you can be protected (under a table) and hold on
- Properly store documents. Keep water and first-aid supplies on hand as well as food, clothing, blankets, flashlight and batteries
- Plan where to go, should an earthquake occur, and have an alternative way to communicate with your family
During an earthquake:
- Drop, Cover, Seek Shelter and Hold On
- Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Don’t run outside. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection. Be very careful, move slowly and test your footing as you move into an open area
- If you are outside when the shaking starts, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Drop, Cover, Seek Shelter and Hold On until the shaking stops
After the earthquake:
- When the shaking stops, look around. If the building is damaged and there is a clear path to safety, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas
- If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust
- If you have a cell phone use it to call or text for help
- Tap on a pipe or wall to draw the attention of rescuers
- Once in the clear, if you are not injured, provide assistance to those in need however you can
- Use extreme caution during post-disaster cleanup. Wear protective clothing, work gloves, and sturdy boots
- Be prepared for aftershocks. Drop, Cover, Seek Shelter and Hold-on
Don’t think terrorism, bomb threats, and active shooter incidents only happen in big cities. They can occur anywhere and anytime. Have a plan in place and train your employees on what to do if confronted with an active shooter.
- Train employees to be aware of their surroundings and to observe what is going on with people (their demeanor, remarks, body language) that makes them uncomfortable and ill-at-ease. Report suspicious behavior to authorities
- Identify the two nearest exits anywhere you go, and have an escape path in mind or find good places to hide
- Understand how you would provide for individuals with disabilities or other access and functional needs
During an Active Shooter incident: 3 Options - Run, Hide, Fight
- Run - escape if possible; getting away from the shooter(s) is the top priority
- Leave your belongings and get away
- Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow
- Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where an active shooter may be
- Call 9-1-1 once you get safe, and describe the shooter(s), location, and weapons
- Hide - get out of the shooter’s view and stay quiet. Lock and block doors, close blinds, turn off lights, turn off your cell phone’s ring and vibrate options
- Don’t hide in groups. Instead, spread out along walls or hide separately; don’t make it easy for the shooter
- Try to communicate with police silently through text messaging or social media, or put a sign in a window
- Stay in place until law enforcement gives you an all clear or comes for you
- Make sure your hiding place provides you with protection if shots are fired through the door or walls
- Fight - as an absolute last resort. Commit to your actions, be as aggressive as possible against the shooter(s)
- Recruit others to ambush the shooter using makeshift weapons (chairs, flagpoles, fire extinguishers, scissors, whatever you can find as a weapon)
- Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the shooter
After the Active Shooter incident:
- Keep hands visible and empty; know that law enforcement’s first task is to end the threat; they may have to pass the injured along the way until they have secured the area
- Follow law enforcement instructions and evacuate in the direction they come from
- Officers will be armed with rifles, shotguns, and handguns; they may use pepper spray or tear gas to control a situation
- Officers will shout commands and may push individuals to the ground for their safety
- Consider seeking professional counseling for you and your family to cope with long-term effects of the trauma
- Take care of yourself first, then you may be able to help the wounded before first responders arrive
- While waiting for first responders, provide first-aid, apply direct pressure to wounds and use tourniquets if you are trained to do so
- Place wounded people on their sides if they are unconscious and keep them warm
Many municipal law enforcement departments are providing training for staff and citizens concerning “Active Shooter” incidents. For more information contact your local police department to find out how a training may be arranged.
The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and National Safety Council all provide valuable resources for safety professionals who are seeking to create effective and comprehensive emergency plans for their municipalities.
Emergency situations include natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes, as well as man-made crises like toxic gas releases, chemical spills, bomb threats, and workplace violence situations. Plans to address these scenarios should include provisions for:
After patrolling the streets and training police officers for The City of Oklahoma City for over 15 years, I found myself assigned to The Office of Emergency Management. My first task was to assist in the development of an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). I dusted off the Civil Defense Plan from the 1960’s and 70’s. The old plan was of little to no help to me at all. The Emergency Manager and I contacted FEMA and turned to the Federal plan for guidance. This was my first encounter with Emergency Support Functions (ESFs). In developing the city’s new EOP, it was crucial to not only identify which functions applied to us, but to also identify the appropriate departments and agencies that would provide the essentials of those functions. I would also need to seek out who would be coordinating that function.
The ESFs provide the structure for coordinating interagency support and they group functions most frequently utilized during disasters and other catastrophic incidents. The ESFs are designed to coordinate closely with one another to accomplish their missions. An essential step in my personal process was to meet each ESF coordinator. I visited with department and agency heads, face-to-face, and together we evaluated their resources, developed a draft ESF, and met again to review our work. I did not rely solely on the obvious. I asked each coordinator what else they could do. What tasks could they perform? What were their capabilities? During these interactions, I was able to put a face to a name and develop a good working relationship with each coordinator. I refused to have my first meeting with these people during a disaster response or event call-out.
Within the OMAG membership, our cities and towns may be the size that we know everyone that works for our municipality. What we may not know is what resources we each have to offer. Which functions can we support and which functions will we need to turn to the community or outside agencies to fill? A municipality may need to turn to Ham Radio Operators to assist with emergency communications or a local restaurant owner to help with providing meals for disaster victims and workers. These relationships need to be developed NOW!
Get out and about. Have coffee or sweet tea with Department Heads. Exchange ideas. Put a plan in place. Practice that plan. Your response will be more effective and less hectic.
To learn more about the development of your Emergency Operations Plan and ESFs, search many quality resources at fema.gov.
Direct Pressure Stops Bleeding – Serious bleeding from a major blood vessel or artery is a life-threatening emergency. The best way to stop severe bleeding is to apply firm, direct pressure directly over the bleeding wound.
Anyone Can Use A Defibrillator – Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) deliver an electrical shock to help victims of sudden cardiac arrest. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating due to a problem with electrical activity. Public buildings should have an AED station on hand, mounted in plain sight and marked with a sign. An AED is designed to be used by anyone. They are fully automated and have voice prompts to guide the user through the steps. Providing employees with an annual training on the use of an AED could save lives.
Nosebleeds – Tilt the head forward, not back! The best way to stop a nosebleed is to pinch the soft part of the nose for a minimum of 10 minutes while having the person lean forward.
Water for Burns – Cooling a burn quickly is vital to prevent further damage to tissue. The best way to cool a burn is running water. Putting anything else on a burn (such as butter or toothpaste, etc.) will not be as effective at removing heat and stopping the burning process.
Chest Compression Rule – The most important component of CPR is high quality chest compressions. If you are unable or unwilling to do rescue breathing, then don’t. Instead do continuous chest compressions until medical help arrives.
An Emergency Action Plan should be a written part of your municipality’s Safety and Health Policy and Procedure Manual, and available to all employees.
An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) must be in writing, be kept in the workplace, and made available to employees for review. However, an employer with 10 or fewer employees may communicate the plan verbally to employees.
The purpose of the Emergency Action Plan is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. Well-developed emergency plans and proper employee training (such that the employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe employee injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies.