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How to Prepare for an Emergency in NYC

By Nicole Levy | September 19, 2016 2:37pm
 As preparation for an emergency, you should assemble a
As preparation for an emergency, you should assemble a "go bad" with essential supplies.
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Shutterstock/Pixsooz

MANHATTAN — New Yorkers refused to panic after an explosion rocked Chelsea Saturday night, injuring 29 people on West 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue. But the bombing may have some people sitting up and getting ready for the next possible emergency.

In New York City, potential hazards include environmental, manmade and biological suspects: severe weather, like hurricanes and blizzards, power outages, gas leaks, building collapses and explosions, fires, hazardous material spills, disease outbreaks and terrorism.

Here are steps New Yorkers should take to prepare, as outlined by the New York City Office of Emergency Management and the American Red Cross:

► Make a household emergency plan

First of all, you need to decide where your household will reunite after a disaster. Pick two places: one near your home, and another outside your neighborhood. 

Identify all the exit routes from your home and neighborhood, and practice using them. You'll also want to familiarize yourself with the emergency plans of other buildings you frequently visit, like your office.

Choose an out-of-state relative or friend who can field phone calls, texts and emails from members of your household if you get separated during a disaster. This contact will help you communicate with each other.

Makes sure one member of your household is trained in first aid, CPR and use of an automated external defibrillator. The Red Cross or the FDNY offers CPR classes.

Use this workbook to help you develop your disaster plan. Make sure every member of your household has a copy of that plan and keeps emergency contact information in their wallets and backpacks. Don't just create a plan — practice it, too.

Households with pets, kids, seniors, and people with disabilities will need to make extra preparations. 

Put together a "go bag" for every household member

This bag is the one you'll grab in the event of an evacuation. The bag itself should be sturdy and lightweight. Keep it at home in a place that's easily accessible.

You should pack your bag with these items:

• bottled water
• non-perishable food like granola bars
• a flashlight
• a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and extra batteries
• a list of the medications and dosages household members take
• a first-aid kit
• copies of personal documents and family and emergency contact info
• a cellphone with chargers
• extra cash, and copies of credit and ATM cards
• an emergency Mylar blanket and lightweight rain gear
• a small regional map
• extra sets of cars and house keys

You should also stock your home with these supplies in case of an emergency that traps you in your home for up to three days:

• one gallon of drinking water per person per day
• non-perishable, easily-prepared foods
• a whistle
• Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach and an eyedropper (to disinfect water)
• a phone that doesn't require electricity

You can buy everything listed above online, or at your local grocery, drug, or Army-Navy store. You'll want to review and update your inventory at least twice a year.

► Evacuate when an emergency official tells you to, or in the case of immediate danger

City officials will instruct the public to evacuate through the media or direct warnings if a serious threat to public safety exists.

When you evacuate, you should secure your home by closing and locking doors and windows, and unplugging appliances.

Wear sturdy shows and dress in comfortable, protective clothing.

Don't use an elevator, because if power goes out or is shut off, you could be trapped.

Check the local news, NYC.gov or 311 for the recommended evacuation route. 

Take your go bag, and head to the nearest safe place or disaster shelter. Ideally, you'll be able to stay with family or friends outside the affected area. For those who don't have that option, the city will set up shelters throughout the five boroughs at sites like schools and places of worship. 

► If officials instruct you to stay where you are, get to a safe indoor location as soon as possible

Bring your emergency supplies to a room with few doors or windows. Once inside, lock the doors and close all passages to the outside. Turn off all heating and cooling systems. Use plastic sheeting or duct tape to seal windows, doors and air vents. Check for updates on your local radio or TV stations.

If your kids are at school, don't pick them up until the emergency threat has passed. Everyone is safer where they are.

► Call 911 if you're in immediate danger, or if you have a serious injury or life-threatening medical condition

Otherwise, call 311 for all non-emergency purposes and information about government emergency services.

► Sign up for emergency notifications from the city

If you belong to the AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon wireless networks, your mobile phone already gets those screeching emergency alerts that make your skin crawl. 

You can also register multiple email addresses, text message accounts and phone numbers for Notify NYC, a public messaging program that provides information about emergencies or events that may disrupt city life.

Notify NYC also has a Twitter account you can follow here.