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Keeping your house in order

Prepare in a Year: Month Two Continues

In this issue, we continue our month of household action planning. To quickly review, here are the four main steps:

  • Be aware of the types and severity of emergencies that might happen on Vashon.
  • Hold a family meeting and agree on what each of you will do for each emergency.
  • Maintain and practice your plans.
  • Plan for the possibility of evacuation.

We touched on the first two last week (visit here to review). This week, we’re giving you some action planning resources and some tips on maintaining and practicing your plans. In the coming weeks, we’ll cover doing a home insurance checkup, evacuating your home, and getting advice on home fire safety.

Action Plan Resources

Designate Household Meeting Points: Agree on where you will find each other in an emergency. For example, designate a spot outside near the house in case there’s a fire. You could also designate a backup meeting point in the neighborhood such as an intersection, a church, or a school.

Maintain: Every few months, get your household together and walk to your designated meeting points. An emergency is no time to be doing something for the first time.

Learn 9-1-1: Teach children when to call for help and how to dial 9-1-1. Don’t actually call the emergency number when practicing. You can use a drawing of a phone touchpad.

Maintain: Some experts say a child can begin learning 9-1-1 as early as age four. After the first training, keep skill levels up by practicing how to call 9-1-1 every few months. Points to emphasize to children: know your home address and your last name, and stay on the line to listen to the operator. Adults can benefit from practice too.

Smoke Alarms: Vashon Island Fire and Rescue (VIFR) runs a free program to install home smoke alarms, and replace batteries in existing smoke alarms. The VIFR smoke alarm web page (vifr.org/smoke-alarms/) includes a smoke alarm request form and a safety advice checklist.

Maintain: Press the test buttons on each of your smoke alarms once a month to make sure they’re working. Install new batteries twice per year, when we set our clocks forward in the spring, and back in the fall.

NERO: Get your neighbors together and have a Neighborhood Emergency Response Organization coffee chat. Your neighbors may be your closest help for sharing information and resources after a disaster.

Maintain: As time goes by, people move away or change life situations. NEROs need someone to take the initiative to keep things going, and that someone could be you. Email for support at NERO@VashonBePrepared.org or visit here.

Utility Turnoffs: Does everyone in your household know how and when to turn off the water, electricity, and gas? Here’s a good basic info resource.

Maintain: For each of the following tips, the key is practice. Periodically review with household members how to turn off each type of utility and have them go through the steps without actually turning off the supply. Particularly, don’t turn off the natural gas or propane supply except if there’s a leak, because in many homes that could require relighting pilot lights.

Water: It’s different in every home, and when there’s a problem, time is of the essence. So practice in advance. Three simple steps: Locate the main shut-off valve. Turn it clockwise to close it. (You may need a wrench if it’s stuck.) If necessary, run the taps until they are empty. Get lots of details here.

Electricity: When do you need to turn off your electricity? Whenever work is being done on an electrical circuit, or if Puget Sound Energy (PSE) asks you to turn off power. Electricity is controlled at an electrical breaker box, usually in the garage or utility space. Here’s a helpful web page from PSE, including a how-to video.

Natural Gas: If you smell natural gas or hear hissing or blowing, call Puget Sound Energy (PSE) immediately: (888) 225-5773. Also, call 9-1-1 for a gas leak. PSE says there is typically no reason to shut off your natural gas at the meter, even after a natural disaster. However, it’s important to know how to turn it off if directed to do so by PSE or the fire department. Keep a turnoff wrench at the meter, or have a seismic shut-off valve or excess-flow valve installed. Here’s PSE’s page on turning off your gas supply.

Propane: Many homes on Vashon use propane for heating or cooking, piped from a tank to the house. If you smell or hear a leak, you can turn off the house supply at the regulator valve under the cap on the tank. Test periodically to make sure the valve has not become frozen or too stiff to turn. Here’s a sheet of safety tips.

New Washington State COVID Guidance

Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has updated its guidance for what to do when someone is sick with COVID (tinyurl.com/DOHnewGuidance).

The new DOH guidance aligns with the recent new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It also adds some important cautions that align with advice provided last week by Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).

Although the isolation recommendation has been reduced from five days to one day, the DOH health experts underline the fact that you remain contagious even after you begin to feel better. So, DOH (and Vashon MRC) recommend a minimum of five days of added caution — masking, hand washing, air purification, and distancing, while around others indoors.

The DOH guidance also urges a full 10-day special caution period if you will be around anyone at high risk from respiratory diseases.

“DOH has chosen a wise course,” observed MRC Co-Coordinator Dr. Jim Bristow. “The new guidance protects not just the elderly, but also those in low-wage jobs who, studies have shown, suffer the brunt of the misery these viruses bring through lost work, lost wages, and more severe disease due to coexisting illnesses and poor access to health care.”

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