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Emergency Planning
Individuals and Families
Frequently Asked Questions

It is not easy to think about manmade or natural disasters which could affect you or your family. But your best defense against any hazard is pre-planning and making realistic decisions about what you might have to do. This is what emergency managers do on the local, state, and federal level, and you can do the same thing for your household.

What follows are some simple steps to take. It’s important you use or adapt suggestions to suit your family’s circumstances and ignore anything which does not apply to you. Always apply common sense to any emergency plan.

  • What can be done to reduce dangers in the home?
    A home hazard assessment should be done. Emergency Management professionals work on ways to reduce the danger from known hazards. This is called hazard mitigation and you can do the same thing in your home. Look for obvious hazards, such as tree branches too close to power lines or dry brush near the house. In a windstorm, those branches may come down and take your power lines with them. Brush can create a fire hazard during dry years.

    You should also be aware of known hazards in your neighborhood. Is there a chemical plant nearby or a highway or rail line on which hazardous chemicals are transported? Are you located in a floodplain or near a stream that might flood? Look for any natural or manmade structure which could cause danger during extreme weather or in the event of an accident. You should have a plan to escape or otherwise protect yourself.
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  • How do I plan for an emergency in my home?
    Once you’e done a hazard assessment, you can fix the hazards which are under your control and develop a response plan for those which are not.

    Take a look at your residence and see how you could escape if necessary. The most common household emergency is a fire. If the building is on fire you need to get everyone out and account for them. You should have at least two exit routes from each room and a meeting place away from the building. By doing so, everyone can be accounted for quickly, eliminating the impulse to charge back into a burning building to rescue someone who may already be outside.

    For some emergencies it is safer to stay in the house. This is an emergency management technique called sheltering in place. It is used in case of a toxic cloud from a hazardous chemical spill, a nuclear power plant accident, or even a biological terrorist attack.

    It is important to follow the instructions of emergency officials. You should evacuate (see below) if you can do so safely and are advised to do so. Sheltering in place should be done if evacuating is not possible. If advised to shelter in place, follow these instructions:

    • Close and lock all windows and doors.
    • Shut off any fans, vents or air conditioners and close the flu on any fireplaces or wood stoves. The goal is to keep outside air from entering the house!
    • Move to a room with few windows, an interior room, if available, is best. If possible a room with an attached bathroom will allow access to water.
    • Seal windows, vents and doors in your shelter room with Duct Tape and Plastic. Place a damp towel at the bottom of doors to insure a tight seal.
    • Monitor radio and/or television broadcasts for further information.

    When the All Clear is given, open all windows to air out your house and move outside while this is accomplished.
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  • In an emergency situation, when is it safer to stay indoors?
    Here are some other situations where you will most likely be safer inside your house than outside:

    • Thunderstorms, Tornados or Other High Wind Events
      When a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado WARNING is announced, seek shelter in the lowest portion of your house. Basements are best! If your house does not have a basement, pre-select an interior room on the lowest floor. Bathrooms and closets are good choices because of the close framing. Avoid rooms with windows!
      Note: Do not waste time closing windows!

    • Earthquakes
      Remember: Earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do! When you feel the earth shake, you will only have seconds to react. If outside, move into the open away from any structure. If inside, do not run outside! The best thing to do is to Drop, Cover and Hold On! Drop down and seek Cover under a table or other piece of sturdy furniture, Hold On to the table in order to move with it.
      If no furniture is available, move against an interior wall and Drop covering your head with your hands. A doorway should only be used as a last resort many are not structural and doors can slam on fingers causing serious injuries. After the shaking stops, check for gas leaks and evacuate your house if you smell gas.
      Be prepared for aftershocks!
      Discussing these scenarios with family members will enable everyone to respond appropriately in an emergency.
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  • If power goes off, what should I do?
    Most disasters in New Hampshire are weather-related and typically involve the loss of commercial power. Being out of power for a few hours is more of an inconvenience than a disaster, but a prolonged power outage or one which occurs during severe winter weather could force you out of your home and into a shelter.

    The ideal situation for homeowners is to have a secondary source of heat which does not require electricity or a generator to provide power. A secondary heat source might be a fireplace or wood or gas stove. If you decide to invest in a generator, be sure a qualified electrician installs it and never operate the generator in an enclosed area, such as a garage. Generators create an inherent carbon monoxide danger and must be properly ventilated.

    Also, on the subject of carbon monoxide danger, never use a cooking appliance designed for outdoor use inside. Barbeque grills, whether gas or charcoal, should stay out on the deck or patio. They should never be used indoors.
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  • What home emergency supplies should I have on hand?
    Under most circumstances, a power outage will last only a few hours and not put your family in serious danger. Keeping emergency supplies on hand will make the time pass more comfortably and allow you to respond or call for help in the event something more serious occurs.

    Here are emergency supplies that a typical homeowner should stock:

    • Flashlight and spare batteries. These are safer than candles. Camping-style lanterns can light a whole room and make it easier to read or play games to keep children entertained.
    • A battery-powered radio. Emergency instructions will come from officials via Emergency Alert System broadcasts or newscasts. You will need to know what is going on and radio broadcasts will provide this information.
    • A wired telephone plugged directly into the telephone jack in the wall. The telephone system generally works when the power is out because the telephone company has it’s own power system and battery back-ups. A portable, or cordless phone requires an external power source and won’t work if the power is out. Cell phones may be overwhelmed with large numbers of calls, restricting your ability to get through.
    • Store several gallons of bottled water in a cool part of the house for drinking, cooking, or hand washing if necessary.
    • Keep some stored food on hand which can be easily prepared. Most people shop once a week, by definition they will have at least a week’s worth of food available. Families should choose the type of "emergency food" which suits their needs and taste. Be sure to have appropriate tools to prepare emergency food. Your electric can opener won’t do much good if the power is out, so you’ll need at least one manual opener.

    In addition, everyone in the family should know how and when to call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance. Even young children can learn this. Another good idea is to have a contact out of state, such as family members or close friends. A long-distance point of contact is valuable if family members are scattered or are forced to go to a shelter.
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  • What should be done during an evacuation?
    If a neighborhood becomes too dangerous to remain in, authorities may order an evacuation. When that happens, the American Red Cross, in cooperation with local or state officials, will open shelters in schools or other public buildings. You are not required to go to a shelter if you can make your own arrangements. Regardless of where you go when evacuated, take personal supplies and other essential items with you:

    • Personal hygiene products
    • Eyeglasses or contact lenses
    • Prescription medications and prescriptions
    • At least one change of seasonally-appropriate clothing
    • Blankets or sleeping bags
    • Cash and credit cards
    • Books and games for children

    Evacuations are not common in New Hampshire. When they occur, it is more likely to be a neighborhood being evacuated because of localized flooding than the kind of mass evacuation of wide areas required because of a hurricane that occurs so frequently in southern states. Nevertheless, everyone should be familiar with evacuation procedures in case of need.

    One final point on evacuations and shelters, pets will not be admitted. Only service animals such as seeing-eye dogs are allowed. Pets should be left in the safest part of the house with a three-day supply of food and water.

    If you have questions about emergency planning for individuals and families, contact the New Hampshire Bureau of Emergency Management at 800-852-3792 or
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a comprehensive guide to home emergency preparedness which may be viewed or downloaded at
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