Thursday, June 27, 2013

Steps to safe structures: Celebrating building safety year-round

In a disaster, structures are often the first place we go for safety. But how do we make sure those buildings are safe? One way is through enforcement of strong building codes, as President Barack Obama noted during his Building Safety Month proclamation this spring.

“Time and again, devastating natural disasters have tested the strength of our communities and the resilience of our people,” Obama said. “Our capacity to withstand these threats depends on what we do to prepare today, from reinforcing critical infrastructure to making sure our buildings adhere to local codes and standards.”

It’s not just during national observances that we should think about building safety, however. Year-round, all types of conditions and weather can cause damage to buildings that could make them unsafe. Summer can bring high winds from thunderstorms and tornadoes, and winter can produce damaging ice and snow.

So what can you do to make sure a building is safe? While some steps take place before a building is constructed and others occur after a disaster, there are many ways to make buildings safer and protected.

Build it for safety: Building codes are rules that builders follow to make sure that a structure is safe and prepared for possible emergencies. Builders use information like where a building is located and common weather risks to decide how to build a safe and protected building.

In fact, this year’s Building Safety Month theme was “Code Officials Keep You Safe.” Each week, the International Code Council, founder of the observance, shared information about how codes protect us, looking at topics ranging from fires to dangerous weather.

Prepare it for safety: Even after a building has been built, there are sometimes more ways to keep it safe. For example, a house in an area where hurricanes are common could have shutters added to prevent damage to windows.

Evaluate its safety: If a disaster does damage a structure, officials will need to make sure the building is safe for people to enter again. High winds could damage parts of a home or spread debris around. In addition, earthquakes could damage a building’s foundation and flooding could leave behind mold conditions. All of these things could cause health problems or injuries.

It’s always a good time to consider the safety of your home, workplace or other buildings. For more details on ensuring buildings are safe for disasters, download our Get Ready fact sheet in English  or Spanish.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lightning safety: Take precautions to stay safe

Lightning can be very dangerous, killing dozens of people in the U.S. every year. The National Weather Service says there is a 1-in-3,000 chance that you will be hit by lightning in your lifetime. By following simple safety rules, you can avoid the danger of nature's light show and enjoy its beauty instead.

If you’re outdoors: Avoid water. Avoid the high ground. Avoid open spaces. Keep an eye at the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of lightning or increasing winds. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or if you have an umbrella; if you’re outdoors and thunder roars, it’s time to go indoors. Avoid all metal objects, including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors and power tools. If you’re playing an outdoor activity, wait at least 30 minutes after the last observed lightning strike or thunder. Don’t take shelter underneath canopies or small picnic or rain shelters or in areas near trees.

If you’re indoors : Avoid water. Stay away from doors and windows. Take off headsets. Water is a great conductor of electricity, so do not take a shower, wash your hands, wash dishes or do laundry. Do not use a corded or landline telephone because lightning may strike outside phone lines. Turn off, unplug and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools and TV sets. Lightning may strike exterior electric and phone lines, inducing shocks to inside equipment.

If someone is struck by lightning : People who are struck by lightning don’t carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely. Call 911 or send for help immediately. Apply first aid if you are qualified to do so. People who have been hit by lightning can have damage to their nervous systems, so it’s important to seek medical care if struck.

For more on how to stay safe from lightning, visit

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Staying cool during a heat wave

Heat waves can come on suddenly and without warning. Extreme heat can be a danger, especially for seniors and people with certain medical conditions. In fact, extreme heat caused more U.S. deaths in the past 30-plus years than hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and lightning combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stay cool

Air conditioning is the best way to protect yourself from heat-related illness and death. When it’s really hot out, stay inside in locations with air conditioning. If you lack AC at home, check out shopping malls, libraries or heat-relief shelters in your area. Going to a local museum is also a good way to beat the heat.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water, even if you aren’t thirsty. Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, as these can cause you to lose more body fluid and become dehydrated.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get sick from hot weather. People at higher risk of heat-related illnesses include seniors, infants, young children and those who are overweight. People with chronic heart or lung problems or disabilities are also at greater risk.

Symptoms of heat-related illnesses

If you feel faint, dizzy or nauseous or have heavy sweating or exhaustion when it’s hot, ask a family member, friend or neighbor to sit with you until you feel better.  If you don’t feel better soon, call a doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital. 

For more tips, download the Get Ready campaign’s heat waves fact sheet in English or Spanish.

Tips for summer safety from Get Ready

Summer is usually a time for fun vacations, family outings, barbecues and splashing in the pool. And because we want to make sure that you stay safe and healthy while having fun this summer, we’re once again hosting our Summer Safe series on the Get Ready Blog.

What kind of topics will we cover in Summer Safe? Staying safe in hot weather and while traveling, and food safety during disasters, to name a few.

Check out the Summer Safe page on the Get Ready website for free fact sheets that you can print and share with your family or in your community.

Do you have any other ideas or questions about summer safety and preparedness? Let us know in the comments, or send us a tweet @GetReady!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Donate blood today, save a life tomorrow: June 14 is World Blood Donor Day

Blood is always in demand. But after a disaster, that demand increases. Recent natural and human-made emergencies in the U.S. — from the Oklahoma City-area tornadoes to the Boston bombings — have shown the importance of a strong blood supply.

In fact, the American Red Cross must collect at least 17,000 pints of blood per day to assist patients at more than 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. Health providers must be prepared to respond to emergencies with blood products 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, so it’s important we do our part. Donating blood is a vital part of preparedness.

June 14 is World Blood Donor Day, an annual observance that reminds people around the globe to give the gift of blood. Globally, about 92 million blood donations are collected annually, but more are needed.

No matter where you live, donating blood is important. Find out how you can donate blood or host a blood drive via the American Red Cross. For a list of World Blood Donor Day events, visit the World Health Organization website.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Be on alert for summer storms

If you live on the East Coast, you may have been caught up in some severe thunderstorms this week. In fact, much of the country has been experiencing storms lately.

Thunderstorms can happen at any time, but are particularly frequent in the summer. Severe storms can bring heavy rain, high winds, hail, lightning and flooding. advises that you be prepared for storms and stay safe by following these tips:
  • Begin preparing ahead of time by putting together an emergency kit and making a family communications plan.
  • Secure outdoor objects that can be blown away or can cause any injury or damage.
  • Shut all windows and secure outside doors.
  • Limit outdoor activities.
  • Unplug electronic equipment before the storm.

During the storm, following these tips can help you keep safe:
  • Listen to local news or the radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, such as darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing winds.
  • Keep away from electrical equipment, wiring and water pipes.
  • Stay away from water sources.
  • Stay indoors, says the American Red Cross. If outside, seek protection and get low — don’t be the tallest object in the area! Also, stay away from trees.

There’s also a good chance that the power will go out during a severe storm. To be prepared for a power outage, download and print our fact sheet now and save it with your emergency supplies.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Preparing for hurricane season: New podcast features tips from National Hurricane Center

The 2013 hurricane season is now officially underway. To help Americans be prepared, the Get Ready Report Podcast team spoke with staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center.

According to NOAA, there’s a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms this season, well above the seasonal average of 12. The agency says as many as 11 of those storms could become hurricanes.

Hurricanes can cause three major hazards: strong winds, storm surges and inland flooding, according to James Franklin, branch chief at the National Hurricane Center.

“People need to know what those hazards can do, and then know which of those hazards you’re particularly vulnerable to, depending on where you live,” Franklin says in the new podcast.

Anyone who lives along the East Coast from Texas to Maine is at potential risk. But Franklin notes that hurricanes are not just coastal threats, citing 2012’s Hurricane Sandy as an example of when wind gusts were produced as far as Wisconsin.

Here are some tips to use this hurricane season:
  • Become familiar with information and alerts from both the National Hurricane Center and your local weather center. 
  • Understand the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. During a watch, prepare your home, review your plan for evacuation and listen closely for instructions from local officials. During a warning, finish preparations and immediately leave the threatened area if directed by officials.
  • Develop a plan that includes an evacuation strategy and an emergency supply kit, including enough water and nonperishable food to last at least three days, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, a battery-operated radio, extra batteries and medical supplies. 
 For more tips on how to prepare for hurricanes, check out our Get Ready hurricane fact sheet.