Are You Ready? (Natural Disaster Survival Tips)

Let's talk about emergency preparedness shall we? Since I am from southern Canada where the biggest safety risks from nature come in the form of lightning bolts and tornadoes I admit, I don't know much about earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and the like. With that being said, I think it best to go straight to a reliable source of information.  

(*If you already know all of this and just want to find out how you can help SP residents in case of a disaster, skip to the bottom of the page to read about the SP branch of the Red Cross and their CDRT initiative.)

 According to FEMA (I wouldn't normally recommend anyone heed a word of advice from FEMA if you want to live but this is pretty straightforward information.) The following precautions should be taken before, during and after a hurricane:

 Hurricane Preparedness

Before The Storm:
  • Determine safe evacuation routes inland. 
  • Learn locations of official shelters.
  • Check emergency equipment, such as flashlights, generators and battery-powered equipment such as cell phones and your NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards receiver.
  • Buy food that will keep and store drinking water.
  • Buy plywood or other material to protect your home if you don’t already have it.
  • Trim trees and shrubbery so branches don’t fly into your home.
  • Clear clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Decide where to move your boat.
  • Review your insurance policy.
  • Find pet-friendly hotels on your evacuation route. 

If You Are In A Watch Area:
  • Frequently listen to radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards for official bulletins of the storm’s progress.
  • Fuel and service family vehicles.
  •  Inspect and secure mobile home tie downs.
  • Ensure you have extra cash on hand.
  • Prepare to cover all windows and doors with shutters or other shielding materials.
  • Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first aid supplies, drinking water and medications.
  • Bring in light-weight objects such as garbage cans, garden tools, toys and lawn furniture. 
 If You Are In A Warning Area:
  • Closely monitor radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards for official bulletins.
  • Close storm shutters.
  • Follow instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered!
  • Stay with friends or relatives at a low-rise inland hotel or at a designated public shelter outside the flood zone.
  • DO NOT stay in a mobile or manufactured home.
  • Notify neighbors and a family member outside of the warned area of your evacuation plans.
  • Take pets with you if possible, but remember, most public shelters do not allow pets other than those used by used by people with disabilities. Identify pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route. 

If You Choose To Stay In Your Home:
  • Turn refrigerator to maximum cold and keep it closed.
  • Turn off utilities if told to do so by authorities.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Unplug small appliances.
  • Fill bathtub and large containers with water in case clean tap water is unavailable. Use water in bathtubs for cleaning and flushing only. Do NOT drink it.
If Winds Become Strong: 
  • Stay away from windows and doors, even if they are covered. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway.
  • Close all interior doors. Secure and brace external doors.
  • If you are in a two-story house, go to an interior first floor room.
  • If you are in a multi-story building and away from water, go to the 1st or 2nd floor and stay in the halls or other interior rooms away from windows.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or other sturdy object.

What To Bring To A Shelter:
  • First-Aid kit
  • Meds, prescriptions
  • Baby food and diapers
  • Books, music players with headphones
  • Toiletries
  • Battery powered radio and cell phone 
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • A blanket or sleeping bag for each person
  • Identification, passports
  • Copies of key papers such as insurance policies, resident cards
  • Cash, credit cards
REMINDER: If you are told to leave your home, do so immediately! 

After The Storm:
  • Keep listening to radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
  • Wait until an area is declared safe before entering.
  • Watch for closed roads. If you come upon a barricade or a flooded road, Turn Around Don’t Drown!
  •  Stay on firm, dry ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from power lines.
  • If using a generator, avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Avoid weakened bridges and washed out roads.
  • Once home, check gas, water and electrical and appliances for damage.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect damage. Never use candles and other open flames indoors.
  • Wear proper shoes to prevent cutting feet on sharp debris.
  • Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until officials say it is safe.
  • Avoid electrocution by not walking in areas with downed power lines. 
 Your Emergency Kit Should Include:
  • At least a 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day)
  • At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • At least, one change of clothing and shoes per person
  • One blanket or sleeping
  • Extra set of car keys
  • Credit card and cash
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members Prescription and non-prescription medicines
  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-powered NWR and a portable radio
  • Emergency tools
  • Flashlight, extra batteries

Tsunami Preparedness 

The following information has been provided by the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program.

Signs Of A Tsunami: 
  • A strong earthquake lasting 20 seconds or more near the coast.
  • A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters. 
  • A loud roaring noise from the ocean. 

How Can I Prepare Ahead of Time?
  • Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast or other high-risk waters. Evacuations may be based on these numbers.
  • Plan evacuation routes from your home, school, workplace and other places you could be where tsunamis could happen. If possible, pick areas 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level or go as far as 2 miles (3 kilometers) inland, away from the coastline. If you cannot get this high or far, go as high or far as you can. Every foot inland or upward may make a difference. You should be able to reach your safe location on foot within 15 minutes. An alternative in some areas is “vertical evacuation” by going to a high floor of a tall building.
  • Find out what the school evacuation plan is. Schools will keep children safe by moving them out of harm’s way. Find out where the assembly area is and if that is where your school wants you to come to pick up children. Do not rush to the school during an evacuation.
  • Practice walking evacuation routes. Familiarity may save your life. Be able to follow your escape route at night and during inclement weather. Practicing your plan will make it easier to understand and to do during an actual emergency.
  • If you are a coastal visitor, find out about local tsu- nami safety procedures. For long-lead time warn- ings, you may be asked to leave by driving away. For short lead-time warnings, you may be able to take refuge in reinforced concrete hotel structures on the third floor or above. 

What To Do When A Tsunami May Happen 

If you are in a coastal area and feel a strong earthquake:

• Drop, cover and hold on. You should first protect yourself from the earthquake.
• When the shaking stops, move quickly to higher ground away from the coast. A tsunami may be coming within minutes.
• Be prepared for aftershocks which happen frequently after earthquakes. Each    time the earth shakes, drop, cover, and hold on.
• Move to your designated assembly area, or as far inland and uphill as possible. 

 What To Do During A Tsunami Watch

·      Use a NOAA Weather Radio or listen to local radio or television stations for updated information.
·      Locate loved-ones and review evacuation plans. Be ready to move quickly if a tsunami warning is issued. 

What To Do During A Tsunami Advisory  

·      Because of the threat of a potential tsunami which may produce strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or near the water, local officials may close beaches; evacuate harbors and marinas; and ask ships to repo- sition to deep water. Obey their directions.

What To Do During A Tsunami Warning 

·      If you hear a tsunami warning siren, detect signs of a tsunami, or hear about a tsunami warning on the radio or TV, leave immediately.
·      Ask neighbors who may need help leaving to come with you and offer assistance.
·      Bring pets with you to keep them safe.
·      Take your disaster supplies kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable.
·      Move to higher ground as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami near the shore is dangerous and it is against the law to remain in an evacuated area.
·      Keep listening to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV for the latest updates.  

What Do I Do After A Tsunami?  

·      Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first.
·      Stay away from damaged areas so emergency responders can have full access.
·      Stay out of any building that has water around it.
·      Be careful re-entering buildings or homes. Tsunami- driven floodwater may have damaged buildings.

How is San Pedro Working To Aid Residents & Tourists in the Event Of A Disaster?

The San Pedro Branch of the Red Cross is forming a Community Disaster Response Team (CDRT):

Following a disaster there is always a period when the emergency services and first responders will be unable to react. This may be due to the size of the area affected, communication problems or impassable roads. The Community Disaster Response Team (CDRT) is designed to complement and strengthen the existing role of NEMO within the community by helping to increase its capacity. The Red Cross trains and equips Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRT) in each community to enable them to carry out emergency first response when a disaster occurs.

CDRT role and function:

The main role of the CDRT is to assist with increased community resilience by:
  • Working closely with its local NEMO to prepare for and provide assistance during any disaster that is within the scope of the CDRT’s capacity.
  • Helping the community to prepare for and respond to disasters through public educational initiatives.
  • Developing and maintaining a strategic community disaster plan. 
  • Assisting community members with the development of a Family Emergency Plan 
  • Mobilizing residents to participate in community-based risk reduction activities 
  • Implementing, updating and testing of this plan

CDRT Objectives:
  • Preparedness: to assist their local NEMO with community empowerment and resilience in order to better prepare for an respond to emergency situations.
  • Response: to save lives and property by providing where possible, first response to self, family and community during times of emergencies and disaster. 
  • Relief: to assist in relief and assessment after a disaster as directed by NEMO

CDRT Structure:

The CDRT functions as a single unit with a leader and Deputy Leader appointed by its members. Additional roles including e.g. Secretary, Treasurer and Community Relations Officer can be identified and selected as necessary. The desired minimum membership is 12 with a maximum of 25 persons. The aim of the group is to ensure diverse representation of the community on the CDRT.

CDRT Training:

The teams learn fire prevention, basic search and rescue, First Aid, initial damage assessment, shelter management, psychosocial support, radio communication. This three to four days training includes participation from the Fire Department, health professionals, NEMO and other partners.

Develop, test and review disaster plan:

The CDRT are responsible of developing a Community Disaster Plan, which they do under the guidance of the Red Cross and NEMO, which defines clearly each member’s role and function, the links between CDRT and government search & rescue services, as well as the routine according to which the emergency operations will be carried out. This plan is tested through a simulation exercise and reviewed on a yearly basis.

San Pedro Branch of the Belize Red Cross is currently looking for 12 - 15 people to form a Community Disaster Response Team. Training date has not been set yet but will be coming soon, we need interested parties who are willing to receive training. If you or someone you know would make a good CDRT please email Your help in getting the word out and working together to create a prepared and Safe Ambergris Caye for residents and tourists is much appreciated.

I hope all this information helps keep you and your loved ones safe!
Labels: , , , , , , ,
Was this post: 
1 Response
  1. Thanks for the great information ! So do I, hope this will help us keep safe but I have to say - this is quite frightening ...

Post a Comment