Disaster Preparedness in Idaho
People living in Idaho enjoy the bountiful recreation, beautiful views, and the general safety of not having to deal with major disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes.
However, that doesn’t mean the area is 100% free of peril. Given the state’s proximity to Yellowstone National Park and its supervolcano, as well as the threat of wildfires, it behooves residents to be ready should a disaster strike.
In recent months, there have been a lot of earthquakes shaking our area, perhaps signs of volcanic activity coming to life. While the risk of an eruption is minimal in the near term, it doesn’t mean earthquake activity will subside. And with years of drought plaguing our area, the threat of wildfire is significant.
While major natural disasters affecting vast swaths of homeowners are rare in Idaho, there’s always going to be a slight chance that a significant event occurs. All residents need to prepare in the off chance a disaster strikes.
Read on for tips on how to get your home and household ready should disaster affect us.
A common mantra is “it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but when” a disaster is going to affect our area. According to a CoreLogic study, with the Boise area being one of the most prone to significant fire damage, fire seems to be the one disaster most likely to challenge our region and resources soon.
Preparing for Wildfire
One of the first things you should do is to have an evacuation plan. In the event of a fire, everyone in your household should know how to get out of the house and where to assemble once exiting the building. If you have a two-story house, having an escape ladder is an excellent accessory to have.
If you must leave your neighborhood, you should understand where to go to exit your community safely. Local authorities may direct you to a shelter or other safe location.
It’s good to keep essential documents in a fire-proof/water-resistant case that is easy to access so that you can grab them quickly in the event of an evacuation. Copies of important documents should also be kept in a secure, digital location.
Experts recommend keeping 30 to 50 feet of fire-resistant space around your home. Clear any flammable debris, including leaves from the area, which provides a defensible space.
Make sure you know where the closest fire hydrant is to your home. It’s also a good idea to have a hose and water connection that allows you to reach all parts of your home.
If you need to evacuate and have time to do so, it’s a good idea to turn off the electricity to your home at the junction box. Turn off all individual circuits first, then turn off the primary circuit.
Natural gas should be shut off at the meter, but only as a last resort in an emergency.
Those are some suggestions for preparing for wildfire. Now let’s take a look at preparing for an earthquake.
Preparing for an Earthquake
Unlike California, where earthquakes are common, it’s a relatively rare occurrence for an earthquake to rattle Idaho residents. However, in recent months, Idaho has felt the earth rumbling a little more frequently, so a bit of preparation wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Like preparing for wildfires, having an evacuation plan that you have practiced with your family is essential—having copies of important documents stored in the cloud with originals in a fire and waterproof container or safe.
Secure large, bulky, and heavy items such as bookcases, refrigerators, armoires, or other things that could tip during a quake to walls. Make sure any wall-mounted TVs are securely fastened. Store heavy and breakable objects on lower shelves or in cabinets.
Beyond securing loose and oversized items and having emergency supplies ready, there’s not much that you can do to prepare for an earthquake.
In an earthquake, it’s essential to be calm and react based on your surroundings. If you’re inside your home, stay there. If you happen to be in bed, you should turn face down and cover your head and neck with your pillow. If you’re outside, stay away from any buildings until the shaking subsides.
Depending on the severity of the quake, you can assess whether the damage is minor or significant.
If damage is extensive and you need to evacuate your home, you may need to grab some essentials to survive. In the next section, we’ll review how to prepare to evacuate your home in the event of an emergency.
Preparing to Evacuate
It is crucial to have a “go bag” or emergency kit readily accessible or in the trunk of a vehicle should a quick exit be necessary. The kit should include at the minimum:
- Water – One gallon per person, per day for several days
- Food (Non-Perishable) – Enough for each person for at least three days
- Battery-powered or hand-crank weather radio
- First Aid Kit
- Extra Batteries of all sizes
- N95 Mask
- Plastic Sheeting
- Duct Tape
- Garbage Bags
- Moist Towelettes
- Small toolkit with wrench/pliers
- Manual Can Opener
- Cell Phone with Chargers and Backup Battery
Other items such as prescription, non-prescription medications, personal hygiene items, etc., should be included as well. There are many different things that you can include to help living away from home be more manageable. The U.S. Government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website, Ready.gov, has a great list of items to include in an emergency kit.
The Last Word
Preparing for disasters is not something most people look forward to doing, especially since the likelihood of being involved in a disaster is small. However, taking the time to build up supplies and planning for potential disasters helps provide peace of mind should something happen.
There are lots of resources available that provide direction and offer advice for preparing for a disaster. It’s too late to prepare for a disaster when it happens, so take some time and get ready.
Main Photo Credit: iStock.com/DaveAlan