The chances of you being caught in a major emergency or disaster are low. Nevertheless they can happen and this page shows you how you can be better prepared to protect yourself and others.
What is a major emergency?
Essentially a major emergency is something on a scale that needs special arrangements to deal with it, such as:
- Serious transport accidents (plane, train, motorway pile-up)
- Extreme weather - storms, flooding
- Major crime/terrorism/public disorder
- Explosion/fire/industrial accident
- Toxic Chemical spillage/radioactive release
- Shortages of essential supplies - water, food, power etc.
- Infectious disease outbreak.
The emergency services, local authorities, health trusts, voluntary agencies and the utilities companies all have co-ordinated emergency plans in place. The aim is to save life, contain the hazard, protect the public and return to normality as soon as possible, but that task is made much easier if the public also know what to do in an emergency.
Being prepared for a major emergency also means that you deal more effectively with minor ones. In most situations you will either need to seek immediate shelter from the threat or hazard or to move right away from it, so it makes sense to have a plan to do both. Useful steps you can take beforehand include:
- Make a list of important contact details such as family, friends, neighbours, your children's school, GP, veterinary surgery, your gas, water, electricity supplier, your insurers and so on Carry this (in your wallet, handbag) and keep copies handy at home, at work or in your car.
- Arrange for a friend or relative out of your area to be the family contact point in case your family become separated during an emergency.
- Make an emergency pack for home, work and the car (see below)
- Familiarise yourself with emergency procedures both at work and for children at school.
- Know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water supplies.
- Even if you normally listen to other stations know how to tune into your local radio station for public safety information in an emergency (see frequencies below).
- If any elderly or vulnerable neighbours might need your help.
- Check that your insurance cover is up to date.
- If in a flood risk area keep a stock of empty sandbag and sand.
It is recommended that all households are suitably prepared for the different types of hazard that we could face and in doing so should have an 'Emergency Pack' at hand at home, in the car and at work.
The contents of this pack may be a matter of preference, however, suggested contents should include:
- Lighting (torch/candles) and spare source of power such as batteries/matches.
- Portable radio including spare batteries
- First Aid kit
- Drink - bottled water and cans of juice
- A copy of your contact list
Make an evacuation checklist of items to pack quickly if you are suddenly advised to leave your home.
This list might include:
- Your emergency pack (above)
- Warm/dry clothing and blankets
- Medication and personal items such as glasses, baby items
- Gather mobile telephone and charger, keys and cash or credit cards.
- Pet carrier/collar and lead etc (take pet with you if possible, as the emergency could be prolonged).
In the Car:
These could vary depending on the time of the year, but could include items such as:
- First Aid kit
- Bottled water
- Torch with spare batteries
- In car mobile telephone charger
- Sweets or long life snacks
- Blanket, warm clothing and woolly hat
- Spare socks and gloves
- Waterproof clothing and boots
Know the emergency procedure for your workplace thoroughly. In some situations you might have to remain at your workplace for safety. Your building may have good facilities but even so it could pay to think about what you would need if you had to stay overnight.
General advice about what to do in an emergency
If you find yourself in the middle of an emergency, your common sense and instincts will usually tell you what to do. However, it is important to:
- Made sure 999 has been called if people are injured or if there is a threat to life.
- Not put yourself or others in danger.
- Follow the advice of the emergency services.
- Try to remain calm and think before acting, and try to reassure others.
- Check for injuries - remember to help yourself before attempting to help others.
If you are not involved in the incident, but are close by or believe you may be in danger, in most cases the advice is:
- Go inside a safe building.
- Stay inside until you are advised to do otherwise.
- Tune in to local radio or TV for more information.
Of course, there are always going to be particular occasions when you should not "go in" to a building, for example if there is a fire. Otherwise: go in, stay in and tune in to local radio or television.
Emergency Action Checklist
Severe gale/storm (forecast gusts over 70 mph)
- Secure outdoor items
- Bring pets indoors
- Close doors and windows
- Draw curtains in case of flying glass
- Check on vulnerable neighbours
- Monitor TV/radio weather warnings (but unplug external TV aerial during thunderstorms)
- Stay indoors until storm passes.
- Check for damage, make it safe if possible.
- Beware fallen cables, weakened trees, loose masonry etc
Flooding eg a 'flood warning' or 'severe flood warning' is issued
- Move possessions to a higher level
- Protect doorways and air vents with sandbags or flood boards
- Monitor TV weather reports, and the Environment Agency's Floodline 0345 988 1188 or website at: www.environment-agency.gov.uk
- If your home is flooded turn off gas, electricity and water supplies
- Move upstairs if possible
- If trapped in deep flooding stay by a window and call for help
- When water recedes don't switch gas etc back on until systems are inspected
- Do throw away food that has been in contact with flood water
Toxic chemical or radiation release
- Go indoors and stay there
- Bring pets inside too
- Close outside doors, windows, air vents etc.
- Turn off fans - hot air heating systems, ventilation etc.
- Cover all unsealed fresh food
- Listen to your local radio station for further advice
- Don't go outside until told it is safe to do so
- Don't try to collect children from school unless instructed to - they will be looked after
- Don't use rainwater, or eat locally grown vegetables until told they are safe.
Go in, stay in, tune in
Emergency information will be broadcast on:
- BBC Radio Solent (96.1 MHz FM, 999MW)
- Ocean FM (96.7, 97.5 MHz FM)
- Wave FM (105.2 MHz FM)
- Capital FM (103.2 MHz FM)