Manataka American Indian Council






Part 4

Surviving Urban Disasters

Do You Know What to Do If the Worst Happens?

Surviving an urban disaster is life afterwards.  The quality of survival is a matter of preparedness, skill and chance.  


Severe weather conditions often appear without warning.  It could be a major snow storm lasting many days or weeks.  Most disasters are caused by natural forces of weather or earth changes such as floods, mudslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, avalanches, blizzards, ice storms, droughts, famine, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, or lightening fires. But too many disasters occur each year that claim thousands of lives that are man-made, such as fires, chemical or nuclear explosions, terrorist attacks, pestilence, disease epidemics and pandemics, war, airplane/train/vehicle accidents, oil spills and the list goes on.


An urban disaster is one that affects areas concentrated population -- cities, towns and villages.  But, disasters can strike anywhere at any time, so no one is exempt from the high probability of being involved in a disaster sometime during their lifetime. 


Some disasters are nothing more than a temporary inconvenience, such as losing electricity, water or gas for a time.  Others may damage your home so badly that it cannot be occupied.  You may find yourself away from home and in an unfamiliar area when a disaster strikes, and survival skills and supplies are needed to survive.


Most of us would find ourselves in pretty bad shape if faced with a disaster.  When faced with the strong possibility of serious injury or death, for ourselves and family members, we depend on civil emergency response agencies, neighbors, or any passersby to come to our rescue.  But, what happens when any entire community is faced with the same disaster at the same time?  Emergency response teams are overwhelmed and your neighbors are in not better shape than you.  


Sometimes evacuation strategies from your home or place of employment are useless because no one is able to leave the disaster area.  Communication systems are down.  What do you do then?


If you have not prepared yourself, life after a disaster will be very difficult and your survival and the survival of your family could rest entirely on your ability to make the right decisions at the right time.   Hope for the best, but plan for the worst is the best advise in situations of disaster.  Regardless, the fact is it is highly likely you will be involved in during some time in your life.  Some people will experience more than one disaster and may be several.


Suggestions such as keeping a 30-day supply of non-perishable food and clean water stored at your home and workplace, your medications and a medical first-aid kit, flashlights, fresh batteries, etc. are good.  But, probably the most important element of survival is keeping a clear head. 


A disaster creates immediate and aggravated stress.  Not knowing where your family members are during a disaster adds tremendously to stress levels.  Having planned emergency meeting locations for the family is good, but what happens to you during the time it takes for them to arrive at the location can be critical to your survival and theirs.


Studies have shown that in disasters the public will spontaneously take rational measures to protect themselves and to help others. Most initial disaster relief is provided not by formal emergency and relief organizations, but by residents of the impact area and surrounding communities. 


Do you have a plan for natural disasters, pandemics, or terrorist attack?


How About An All Hazard / Weather Radio?

These handy radios provide 24-hour early warning and information on potential emergencies.  Like an alarm clock, the radio will broadcast a signal or alarm to let you know an important disaster message is being sent.  Periodic up-dates on the status of the emergency are broadcast.  Early warning is important in the overall preparedness plan.   There are many types and models of weather radios available from department stores and electronic stores.  The key is not to buy the cheapest, but to buy the most reliable.  The cost range is between $50 and $200.


How it works

The National Weather Service will send a 1050 Hz tone alarm before most warning and many watch messages are broadcast. The tone will activate all the receivers which are equipped to receive it, even if the audio is turned off. This is especially useful for warnings which occur during the night when most people are asleep.  A good quality weather radio will allow you to program which types of messages to receive.  For example, some receivers allow you to turn off alarms for certain events which might not be important to you. For example, if you live in a coastal county, but not right at the beach, you might not care about Coastal Flood Warnings. This feature may also be called "Event Blocking" or "Defeat Siren". 

Broadcasts are localized, usually on a county to county basis.   There are over 1,000 high power NOAA /National Weather Service transmitters located in all 50 states and territories.


NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards transmitters broadcast on one of seven VHF frequencies from 162.400 MHz to 162.550 MHz. The broadcasts cannot be heard on a simple AM/FM radio receiver (even though many models can also receive AM/FM stations. There are many receiver options, however, ranging from handheld portable units which just pick up Weather Radio broadcasts, to desktop and console models which receive Weather Radio as well as other broadcasts.


Battery Back up

All weather radios have battery backups in case the electricity is cut off, but you must periodically replace the batteries.  We like radios with an emergency hand crank power because no batteries are needed.  The best come with a emergency hand crank and rechargeable batteries.  It is important you purchase a portable radio with a extendable antenna. 


External antenna jack

While most receivers come with a whip antenna which can usually be extended out from the unit, depending on your location you may need an external antenna to get a good reception. Some receivers come with an external antenna jack (normally in the back of the unit) which will allow you to connect to a larger antenna (which can be indoors or outdoors). You can often purchase these as accessories at the same place where you bought your receiver, or from most stores with an electronics department. NWR broadcasts are in the Public Service VHF frequencies, just above FM radio and between the current TV channels 6 and 7 - so an antenna designed for analog VHF televisions or FM radios should work.


Remember:  you can make your own antenna if yours is broken or unavailable.