September is National Preparedness Month – Are You Ready?

September 2015

September is National Preparedness Month

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.
[State of the Union Address January 11, 1962]”
John F. Kennedy

Since its inception in 2004, National Preparedness Month has been an opportunity to highlight the importance of preparing your family, your business, your home, and your school for an unforeseen event either natural or manmade. Because it could take time for federal, state and local officials to be able to provide assistance, every household and business should have plans in place to get by for several days or even a couple of weeks. Everyone is encouraged to “Make a kit, make a plan.”

In Nevada, many of us feel invincible because we don’t have hurricanes or blizzards. Many don’t realize we have extreme heat episodes and we are at risk for earthquakes – recent news items reported on a swarm of thousands of earthquakes in a year in Northern Nevada – as well as flash floods and wildfires. Readers might remember the recent flooding in Laughlin that resulted in boil water alerts, the 2014 flooding in Moapa, or the Carpenter 1 Fire in the Mount Charleston area that burned for weeks in July 2013.

Are disasters unpredictable and unavoidable? Yes. Prepared? You can be. Planning and preparing can mitigate the impact of an emergency. The Southern Nevada Health District and its partners take an all-hazards approach to preparedness and recommends that individuals, homeowners, and business operators do the same. An all-hazards approach means that you are prepared for anything.

Flash floods and fires are among the top natural disasters in our community. “Floods are a serious issue in our community and one of the top events we see here,” said Clark County Fire Department Deputy Chief John Steinbeck, who oversees the county’s Office of Emergency Management. “Flooding has been identified as one of the area’s top concerns in the Threat Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment, a ranking of potential emergencies in a community. A response to a fire or flood requires very rapid action. These events can turn into major issues in a very short amount of time and cause serious disruption to people in the community. Coordinating a response to an incident involves many stakeholders and planning.”

“At the Health District every division has a role in an emergency,” said Dr. Joe Iser, District Health Officer. “For example, in a flooding situation, there are concerns about mosquito breeding, the potential for illnesses related to contaminated water or foodborne illnesses. These concerns involve our environmental health division, our epidemiology department, and our clinical services program. Our plans are developed to take an ‘all hazards’ approach to an emergency.”

Flooding

Ech summer, we’re reminded about the possibility of flash flooding events during monsoon season. Monsoon season lasts through September in Clark County, but flooding can happen any time of year. Everyone with a TV has seen or heard the warnings and it is important to pay attention. The message usually indicates whether there is a flash flood watch – a flood is possible – or a flash flood warning – flooding is imminent or occurring. The power of water is immense and frightening swift water rescues are dangerous.

According to the American Heritage Science Dictionary, a flash flood is a sudden, localized flood of great volume and short duration, typically caused by unusually heavy rain in a semiarid area. Flash floods can reach their peak volume in a matter of a few minutes and often carry large loads of mud and rock fragments.

According to the Clark County Regional Flood Control District, flood insurance may be a wise investment for some residents since it’s not included in typical homeowner’s policies. For residents who don’t live in a flood zone, the policies run less than $300 a year. You may want to buy flood insurance if your property is at the bottom of a hill or cul de sac, adjacent to a block wall by a street that floods, or next to a wash. In the event of flooding, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • An evacuation plan is a must. Make certain family members know where to go in the event of flooding.
  • Check the elevation of your property to see if flooding levels could affect your home.
  • Move breakers and fuse boxes above the flood level for your property.
  • If you have appliances on a lower level, move them to an upper level if possible.
  • Prepare a disaster to-go kit for the family.
  • During a flood, never walk, swim, or drive through standing water or around barricades. It can be difficult to determine how deep floodwaters are and floodwaters can rise dramatically in minutes.
  • Never let children or pets play in or near floodwaters, which are fast moving and can contain dangerous debris and chemicals.

Fires

Merriam-Webster defines a wildfire as a sweeping and destructive conflagration especially in a wilderness area or a rural area.

If you live in an area that can be impacted by fires, you can take steps to save your home by clearing leaves or debris from gutters, eaves, porches or decks, remove vegetation and other items that come within 10 feet of your home, cover the exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh not larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering your home. Additional information that homeowners can take to be prepared is available at: National Fire Protection Association Wild Fires.

The National Fire Protection Association says there are more than 45 million homes near or in wildlands that can be impacted by wildfires. That means more than 72,000 communities in the United States are now at risk from wildfires.

Wildfires are just that . . . wild and unpredictable. A small brush fire can escalate into a wildfire in a very short period of time. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were more than 63,000 wildfires in 2014 with 3.5 million acres burned. With current drought conditions in the west it appears the fire conditions are perfect.

“Our office of public health preparedness coordinates responses with the county emergency management department; we also work with state emergency responders, local hospitals, EMS, and many other partners to be ready to respond in any emergency, including flooding,” said Iser. “Response plans all include mitigating the emergency and getting people the assistance that they need.”

With the return of standard time coming on Nov. 1, the first Sunday in November, fire officials are reminding the public to change the batteries in their home smoke detectors.

The health district has several links to preparedness sites to help community members prepare for emergencies:

Find immunization information
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Check out our newly designed website at www.SNHD.info for more information on immunizations, clinic locations, and vaccine-preventable diseases.

 

Updated on:  April 18, 2019