Planet Earth: Our Loving Home
 
The ABCs of Flood Safety and Survival      
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Greetings, caring viewers, to this week’s episode of Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, the first in a two-part series on flood safety. Recently, due to accelerating climate change, massive floods have caused devastation in many countries around the world, and statistics show that damage and fatalities from these hydrological events are on the rise. Data from the World Health Organization reflects that flooding caused over 8,000 deaths worldwide in 2010.

From our experience with this Megi typhoon disaster, and the extremely heavy rainfall during typhoon Morakot two years ago, it seems that only effective evacuation efforts or disaster relief preparation can help us to save ourselves and minimize the loss of life and property when such disasters strike. Based on what is currently happening all over the world, this seems to be the only effective thing to do.

The experts featured on today’s show include Ken Worman, state hazard-mitigation officer for the California Emergency Management Agency in California, USA who has been involved in flood research, planning, preparedness and mitigation for 15 years. Director-general of the Taiwan Water Resources Agency Yang Wei-Fu and Yeh Tai-Xing the chief training officer for the National Fire Agency in Formosa (Taiwan) and a rescue training officer of the International Rescue Instructors Association will also provide advice on flood safety.

There are various kinds of flooding that we have here in California (USA). Riverine flooding is where, due to precipitation, the capacity of rivers and streams are exceeded. Therefore, they overtop those river courses that they normally flow through. Flash floods mean most of the time areas are dry but the amount of rainfall is so fast in such a short duration of time that a dry creek bed that wouldn’t seem to pose much hazard, turns into a raging torrent that causes lots of destruction, and it goes away real quick.

If one lives in a flood-prone area, personal preparation is essential. People should recognize flooding as part of their environment and take sound action to ensure their safety. Yeh Tai-Xing, called the “Father of Rescue” in Formosa (Taiwan), elaborates on this topic.

You have to start making preparations. What are the preparations? First, you must store some daily necessities at home, simple medical supplies, lighting equipment— a small flashlight would be fine, and very importantly, a small whistle that works. In case you are trapped at night, your whistle would let people notice you and thus receive help more easily.

Having a supply of water, food, batteries, a battery-operated radio so that you can get information about your situation that you might not be aware of because you’re isolated due to a flood cutting off communications from the rest of your neighborhood or your community.

There’s a phrase that we have, it’s “Preparedness for 72 hours.” Meaning, you’re on your own for 72 hours with your own supply of food, water, medications, batteries, and radios, because it’s not possible for overwhelmed government agencies to come in and save everybody. In the first 72 hours, there’re just so many people and you don’t know who needs what. So the goal is to get everybody prepared to last and survive on their own for the first 72 hours with these essential goods that they prepared themselves.

Before a disaster has a chance of striking, you want to move things to higher levels of the home, for example. Valuable records you wouldn’t want to store on a bottom shelf, because they might be destroyed by water that’s passing through. It might be only six inches of water passing through your home, but if you had stored important documents like that on a top shelf, you would not have any damage to them.

During normal times, before any disaster, typhoon, or heavy rainfall comes, we should always maintain the clearance of the sewage system in our immediate area, such as the drainage in front of our houses, before the typhoon season arrives. The general public should be able to clear the smaller sewage systems near their houses. The bigger sewage systems, of course, are maintained by our government, which is obliged to keep them in good condition.

Building a sandbag dike is one common way to protect one’s home or a building during a flood. Experts say that for structural stability, the width of the dike’s base should be 1.5 to three times its height.

Usually, you can get those at a local agency, sand and sandbags. But without knowing the proper way to fill it, how much to put in there, what you would be doing would be ineffective and wouldn’t work. So there are some simple techniques that people can follow, and that’s listed there in our “Fight Flooding at Home”(guide).

And it demonstrates something as simple as how to fill the sand, how to build a sandbag. There’s a specific strategy in how you fill it. For example, you don’t fill it all the way up; you leave some room in it in a strategic way to stack it, where it’s more effective, where it doesn’t topple over.

Suppose we are living in a low-lying area, perhaps in the cities, or perhaps there used to be floods in this area, or maybe we are living in the basement of a building, then we should prepare some sandbags before the flood season comes. Of course the sandbags can only stop minor floods. Water pumps and other apparatus are required for preventing bigger floods. Our government now is also encouraging the installation of water gates at the low-lying areas as a better water-prevention facility replacing the sandbags.

During a flood, securing the safety of electrical systems in the home is of great importance. If high water is approaching and you don't have to step in water or stand on a wet floor to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker box, or pull out the main fuse, then take out each circuit fuse. If there is no water around, unplug all appliances.

Be sure not to use appliances, lights or outlets that have been wet or are submerged in water. Don’t step into a flooded basement or building unless you are sure the electricity is off. When you are outside, watch out for fallen power lines as they are highly dangerous. Any time you see a downed electrical line, you should assume that it’s live and don’t go anywhere near it. And it means don’t be standing in water that’s close to where an electrical wire is down, because it can conduct electricity and you might be electrocuted, even though you are not standing near or touching the wire itself. So you should always stay away from a downed electrical wire and never go near it. Notify the public officials of where you live, and it’s up to them to make sure that it’s turned off.

When a state of emergency is declared by a local government, how does the evacuation process proceed?

For example, a sheriff’s office may drive down roads of a community with loudspeakers telling people that it looks like flooding is imminent, and they’re recommended to evacuate their homes and get out of there, because there is no time to do anything else. Other times you might have a day or two warning, depending on the severity of the, say, rain that’s causing the problem.

Another tip regarding preparedness is to establish a disaster plan. Family members should gather to discuss the plan and list where to evacuate in times of flooding as well as vital phone numbers to call.

The other piece of that is having an evacuation plan for your family, and where do you get out? What if flooding is to occur and you were told by a local sheriff, for example, to evacuate your home. Where are you going to go? It’s best to figure that out before you have to get out, which might be in the middle of the night that a river is already topping its banks, and floodwaters are flowing towards your neighborhood. That’s not the best time to figure out what you are going to do. Have emergency contact numbers, in case you need to call family, because they might live in another part of the country, and they are trying to get hold of you.

Driving through flooded roadways is extremely dangerous. Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, an expert on hypothermia, and a professor at the University of Manitoba, Canada states, “Each year, up to 10% of all drownings in North America occur in submersed vehicles, and one tenth of those involve motorists who intentionally drive into floodwater covering roads.”

Do not try to drive across a flooded road. One of the mistakes many people make is that they think they can get across a road that is flooded because it doesn’t look very deep, but what they don’t understand is the road base might have been washed away, and what looks like a shallow little trickle of water might actually be very deep. Their car will get stranded and cause further blockage of a flow of water.

In which case, what they should do is evacuate their car immediately and get out, because their car can become like a dam, builds up water and debris against it, and it will push a car off the road and down into flood waters. You should take the longer detour around. You’ll have a much better chance of getting home safely.

Recently, we have read many reports about people driving through flood waters or streams with suddenly rising water during a typhoon, and eventually becoming victims. If you are driving and your car is caught by suddenly rising water in a typhoon, or huge rain storm, sometimes you cannot prevent it because it happens suddenly. At such a moment, we advise you to keep calm, and wait until your car becomes stable after being carried away by the torrent, before you take any action.

Our sincere thanks Ken Worman, Yang Wei-Fu and Yeh Tai-Xing for taking time from your busy schedules to speak with us about practical tips for flood preparedness and response. Your extensive experience and insightful advice can save many lives.

For more information on the organizations represented by today’s experts, please visit the following websites: Ken Worman www.Hazardmitigation.CalEMA.ca.gov Yeh Tai-Xing www.NFA.gov.tw and www.IRIATP.tw Yang Wei-Fu www.WRA.gov.tw

Eco-conscious viewers, thank you for presence on today’s program. Please join us next Wednesday for Planet Earth: Our Loving Home and the final part of this two-part series on flood safety. Coming up next is Enlightening Entertainment after Noteworthy News. May Heaven bless us all with abundant love and peace.
Actually, the rescue officials now can act very fast. What we worry is that we cannot spot you during the search operation. If you can keep yourself afloat like what I have just said, and you can make some noise or shine some light with your flashlight, then we can quickly find you and rescue you.

Greetings, informed viewers, to this week’s Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, and the concluding episode in our two-part series on flood safety.

We should get prepared under normal conditions. If you live in low-lying areas, you must prepare your own flood emergency backpack, loaded with emergency equipment such as a flashlight and a change of clothes. This is the minimum you should do to save yourself.

Recently, due to accelerating climate change, massive floods have caused devastation in many countries around the world, and statistics show that damage and fatalities from these hydrological events are on the rise. Data from the World Health Organization reveals that flooding caused over 8,000 deaths worldwide in 2010.

The experts featured on today’s show include Ken Worman, state hazard-mitigation officer for the California Emergency Management Agency in California, USA who has been involved in flood research, planning, preparedness and mitigation for 15 years. Director-general of the Taiwan Water Resources Agency Yang Wei-Fu and Yeh Tai-Xing, the chief training officer for the National Fire Agency in Formosa (Taiwan) and a rescue-training officer of the International Rescue Instructors Association will also provide advice on flood safety.

We begin with Mr. Yeh speaking about the importance of heeding the instructions of local officials during a flood event, as ignoring them could be highly risky.

In the process of disaster rescue, we most dread seeing victims holding on to their home and properties despite the danger. We warn them of the danger, but we cannot convince them to go with our vessels or vehicles and leave their homes behind. It is very agonizing for us. In several cases, these people refused to leave. And when we finally went back looking for them, they had disappeared. Some houses were even entirely submerged by the flood water when we went back. Those were really regrettable cases.

What if it is already too late when you receive the government’s warning? How do you determine whether your place is in danger or not? If you are warned that your place is within the landslide-prone area, you may try to protect your surrounding environment.

Suppose it is impossible to protect it, and the disaster is already coming; my advice is, listen for any abnormal sound, because when the mud or rocks are sliding, or the flood is running towards your place, there definitely will be a sound that you won’t hear in normal times. As soon as you hear any abnormal sound, do not hesitate any longer; quickly leave the place where you are staying.

If the rain is very heavy, quickly go find a stable and big building, or any firm structure on high ground that could protect you from the impact; go there quickly. The first choice is going to the highest point. If there is a tall building nearby, run there for your life. If there is no tall building around and the rain is very heavy, then quickly run to high ground.

The flood water level does not rise to five or 10 meters immediately. It will rise gradually from one meter, two meters, to three meters. When you observe the flow of water carrying tree twigs and dried leaves from the hills, most probably a flood is coming. It may also signify the coming of heavy rains or a typhoon. The first wave of water is about to strike you.

For those who can’t swim in the overflowing water of a flood, the use of floats and ropes can be alternative means to avoid drowning.

We also hope that you can learn some self-survival techniques when you have a chance. During a typhoon, if your relatives or friends fall into the water, what would you do? At such a time, it is very simple. Just grab anything that floats and throw it to him. Look around for buckets or PET bottles Don’t underestimate the disposable PET bottles. Actually they are very good floats.

Grab one or two bottles and press down into the water, rest your head over here, and then your head will stay above water and you won’t drown. Bottles are very easy to find and very convenient. Next, you can look for big ice boxes, timber or Styrofoam. Throw them to anyone who has fallen into the water or is drowning. These can keep them afloat. To save yourself, you must keep yourself afloat, and do not let anyone around you sink. Then you can wait for help and people can locate you easily.

Second, if you have ropes or thick extension cords at home, you can reel them into bundles and keep them at hand so you can use them whenever you need to. You can tie them to fixed supports to keep yourself from drifting away. Then people can locate you at a fixed and safe spot. This is a very safe method of self-survival.

What happens if we are trapped in a car during a flood? What steps should we take to get to safety?

First of all, look inside your car for anything that floats. You may ask, “Why would I prepare any floats in my car?” Actually there are many such things. For example, the headrest on your driver’s seat, it is filled with foam. Just pull it up and hold it tight. It floats. Next, you may be able to find some clothes or jackets in your car. Just tie them together and they will become a piece of rope.

How do you use it? When the car is stable, open the door and wade outside. Tie your clothes rope to the car, hold on to it, and then slowly move to a place where the water is moving slower. If you have floats, wait until the car is stable, then you may leave your car and walk away carrying the float. In case the water washes you away, you won’t drown, because you have a float. Use it to support your chin, then you can keep your head above water. As long as you can breathe, you won’t panic.

To where would the torrent carry you? A torrent will stop somewhere; it won’t flow forever. When the flow slows down, use your feet to feel for any shallow place, then you can tiptoe to go ashore. Just wait for rescue on higher ground. Do not blindly go anywhere.

A garbage bag also is a good float. Mr. Yeh explains further.

I carry a big garbage bag in my car wherever I go. In a disaster, the garbage bag can serve as a very good float. Just fling the bag in the air to loosen it and then tie a knot. Then it will become a very good float providing great floating power. In an experiment I told three trainees to hold onto one black garbage bag. All three of them could keep afloat.

Emotional rescue is also crucial to victims. The psychological effects of experiencing a flood may be alleviated with kind, calm, constructive language.

According to my experiences in many disaster scenes, I sometimes had no means or vehicles to evacuate a large number of victims in a short time. Then we would give them mental support. I sincerely hope that, should you one day become a disaster victim, that first of all you remain calm. Only then can you pray in your heart.

Actually, God has made arrangements for you invisibly. I hope that, apart from remaining calm, please try your best not to let yourself become isolated. You should stay with other victims, praying together. Then you will receive more strength from God. Besides, when people are on the verge of collapsing, you can encourage one another when staying together.

In many disasters, what we worry about the most is that some victims might be suffering from hypothermia. Then even if we find them alive, their life could still be in danger. With a lot of people together, you can support each other with respect to energy, body heat, and the power of your prayers.

Please also give a helping hand to the old, weak, women, and children around you. But you shouldn’t go casually to save people just because you hear someone calling for help, or try to go to save people or dig them up from the debris without any protective gear. This is not the right way to do it, because this increases the chance of you becoming a victim for the second time.

Floodwater itself can be dangerous. It can foul drinking water supplies, causing diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems, including E.coli infections. Consuming food that may have been in contact with floodwater should be avoided. The flood water can also contaminate one’s home.

That becomes a local health hazard. And usually a local community health official will declare whether something is a health hazard or not. For example, in real severe cases they’ll issue a boil-water order, so people shouldn’t drink the clean-looking water that comes out of their tap, because their water supply system was compromised, and it is not safe to drink water coming out of their faucet, even though they work perfectly well.

And it depends on the type of floodwaters that pass through a home. You can have agricultural waste products. You could have something from a chemical factory that washed certain chemicals downstream.

Take the steps necessary to be prepared for disaster. Don’t become one of the victims that wishes they would have prepared in advance before something actually hit.

We should all get ourselves prepared within our capacity. This is what we all must do.

Finally, I hope all viewers around the world would join me and support the ideal of Be Veg, Go Green, 2 Save the Planet! Thus humankind will have greater hope and peace. Thank you very much!

Our sincere thanks Ken Worman, Yang Wei-Fu and Yeh Tai-Xing for providing expert advice on flood preparedness and response. The life-saving tips you have given are invaluable and appreciated.

For more information on the organizations represented by today’s experts, please visit the following websites:
Ken Worman www.Hazardmitigation.CalEMA.ca.gov
Yeh Tai-Xing www.NFA.gov.tw
and www.IRIATP.tw
Yang Wei-Fu www.WRA.gov.tw

Skillful viewers, thank you for watching today’s program. Coming up next is Enlightening Entertainment, after Noteworthy News. May all lives be filled with compassion and abundant love from Heaven.

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