We always read about the things that we should do before, during, and after an emergency – after all, being prepared is the best way to deal with any crisis, big or small. But what about the things we shouldn’t do?
From earthquakes to hurricanes, and home fires to medical emergencies, we’ve put together nine things you should avoid doing wherever possible so that you and your family can be safe, whatever the circumstances.
This might seem obvious to some, and it’s a big reason why we should prepare before any emergency occurs, but in a stressful situation, panic can creep up on anyone. When we panic, we run the risk of making hasty, incorrect decisions (or not making a decision at all!). Preparation is a great way to help reduce the risk of panic in any emergency, but should you find yourself experiencing it, take a (safe) moment to stop what you are doing, breathe, and think about the actions you need to take. Whether you refer to training or previous preparation, or simply take a moment to stop and assess the situation calmly, you’ll thank yourself later (and so will those around you!).
Assume that you’re not in danger
Whether it’s a house fire, or severe weather event, don’t assume that you won’t be affected or that you can afford to wait and see what happens before making a decision to act. Assume that you’re going to be immediately impacted and take the right actions to keep you and your family safe, whether it’s getting out of your house because of a fire, or evacuating ahead of a hurricane. A few minutes can make all the difference in any type of emergency, and your safety should always be top priority.
Avoid calling Emergency Services
Even if you have specific training to deal with everyday emergencies, never hesitate to contact emergency services in any situation that requires it. Not only are first responders highly trained in multiple scenarios, they have specialized equipment and tools they can use if necessary. Even if you’re already administering First Aid or CPR treatment, or using a fire extinguisher to tackle a kitchen fire, always get someone to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible.
Ignore directions to evacuate or shelter-in-place
Every emergency is assessed by authorities before, during, and after it happens, and it’s important to acknowledge, listen to, and act upon any instructions they give you. If you’re told to evacuate your home, ensure you have your emergency kit and supplies with you, turn off all utilities (water, gas, electricity), and make your way along your evacuation route in an orderly manner. In some cases, you may be advised to shelter-in-place, so it’s important to secure your home, find a safe place to shelter (like a basement or interior room), and don’t go outside until you get the all-clear from authorities.
Use emergency generators or barbecues inside
If you’re required to shelter-in-place, or are dealing with an extended power outage, it’s never safe to use generators or barbecues inside your home. These items aren’t meant for use inside as they require proper ventilation – they emit carbon monoxide fumes that are dangerous to you and your family, and also increase the risk of fire. If you need to eat, this is the best time to make use of those canned or dry goods in your emergency kit; if you need light, stocking up on flashlights and plenty of spare batteries ahead of time can provide every family member with what they need to see in the dark.
Tie up phone lines
In a wide-scale disaster, such as a severe storm or earthquake, land lines are used by emergency services to connect with individuals and families that need assistance. If you have to call 9-1-1, don’t hesitate to do so, but if you’re trying to connect with family or out-of-area contacts to let them know you’re safe, try text messaging from your cellphone so that phone lines don’t get tied up with non-emergency calls. This helps first responders get to those that need help the most, and speeds up response times to the emergency or disaster overall.
If you experience an emergency while in your office building or during a visit to the mall, most elevators will turn off, especially ahead of a predictable event like a hurricane or severe storm. Never try to use elevators in an emergency for a variety of reasons – they can open on floors that are impacted most by the emergency (fire or exposed wiring), they can get stuck between floors, and they can become overloaded if too many people tried to use them. Find your nearest emergency stairwell to safely make your way outside or to a dedicated muster point.
Forget your neighbors
If you have elderly neighbors or those that require special assistance, take the time to check in on them following a storm or power outage, to make sure that they’re safe. If a storm is impending, and you are able to safely move them, you might want to have them stay with you until everything passes, especially if they require special care or need a generator to operate medical or life-saving equipment.
Wait to prepare
It’s never too early to prepare your family and your home for emergencies and disasters. From creating an emergency kit with enough supplies to support everyone for at least 72 hours, to developing a family communication plan, and getting additional training, there is lots you can do to prepare ahead of time. Don’t wait until an emergency happens before you prepare – better to have everything ready to go and not have to use it, than to be caught in a situation where you don’t have anything you and your family needs.
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