No one likes to think about it, but disasters can happen anywhere, and that includes at college. If you’re studying away from home, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place, just in case the worst happens. How you view your own personal disaster preparedness options could be the difference between life and death. Here’s what you should do if a disaster happens at your school.
Prepare before the worst happens
Being prepared is the key to avoiding the worst in any disaster. If you take the time now to get a plan together, you’ll be a step ahead if anything occurs:
- Find out what’s likely in your area: Depending on where you’re studying, you could be at risks of floods, or maybe earthquakes. Take the time to look up what natural disasters are likely to occur in your area. That way, you can start planning for these properly.
- Put essential contacts in your phone: If you don’t have your emergency contacts in your phone, now’s the time to program them in. “When you do so, make sure you start the contact name with ‘ICE’ or ‘In Case of Emergency’. That way, emergency workers can easily contact the right people if needs be”, – says Emelle Ruth, a College Coordinator at Paper Fellows.
- Know your escape routes: In the buildings you frequent most, like your dorms or your classrooms, know where your nearest exits are. In the event of a disaster like a fire, you’re going to need to know how to get out quickly. It’s worth practicing these routes a few times, so you know where you’re going if the eventuality occurs.
- Take a course in first aid: This is always a useful skill to have, but especially in a disaster situation. A course in first aid or CPR won’t cost you much, but you’ll have the means to help yourself and others if the time comes.
Make a disaster kit
Another good way of making sure you’re prepared is to make a disaster kit. Keep it stored in a safe place in your dorm, and you’ll be ready if you find yourself without power, or stranded in the building or an extended period of time. This should include:
- First aid kit: This doesn’t have to be too involved, but you will need the essentials. Buy items such as bandages, non aspirin painkillers, anti septic cream, burn spray, and gloves. Make sure you have enough to patch somebody up if you need to.
- Food and water: Keep some non perishable food around, as well as a few large bottles of water. The water will be a great help if the water is cut off, and the food should last for a few days if needed. Check the dates on the food regularly, as even emergency rations do have an expiry date.
- Flashlight: Essential if the lights are shut off. Make sure you put fresh batteries in it, and put away some spares, too.
- Blankets: If the heat goes off and it’s the middle of winter, you’re going to want an easy way of staying warm. A pile of thick, warm blankets will do the trick.
Prepare for the most common emergencies
Now you have the basics down, you’ll need to ensure that you’re prepared, no matter what happens. Here are some of the more common emergencies that happen, and how to deal with them.
Fires can happen anywhere, but they’re an eventuality that most schools are actually well prepared for. Mary Walton, psychologist and author of SimpleGrad comments the issue: “When you start at your school, you’ll have the fire alarm system explained to you. Ensure that you’re listening carefully, as there’s a lot of important information you’ll need to know”.
Typically, you’ll see fire exits clearly marked in every building you go into. If you hear the alarm go off, you need to exit using these routes, without stopping to collect your belongings. At your school there will be clearly marked meeting points. Make your way there, and wait for further instructions.
If you encounter a fire, the best thing to do is to set off the fire alarm yourself, and then exit the building. If you have the means to fight it and you feel safe to do so, you can attempt to put it out yourself. If you’re unsure though, it’s best to remove yourself from danger.
There’s no pre-warning system in place for when an earthquake hits, so the first you’ll know of it is when it happens. However, you can still keep yourself safe.
If you’re in class, your teacher will instruct you to drop to the ground and take shelter under the desks until the earthquake subsides. Then, they’ll evacuate you as soon as it’s over. This is to get you to safety before aftershocks occur.
These sound frightening, but you’ll usually get good warning before a hurricane reaches you. This means you can be prepared.
Make sure you’re paying attention to warnings when they occur. Take heed, and get to safety as soon as you can. Your school will have a plan to get students out of danger, and into a safe place, so look into yours. You’ll want to stay away from buildings with large windows, as the risk of breaking glass is high.
Tornadoes can have up to 3 minutes warning time, but they can often have little to no warning at all. Once they form, they move quickly, so you must be prepared. The key is to move quickly once you know it’s coming.
You’ll want to evacuate to an area that’s lowest on your campus, and stay away from any span roofs or windows. Staying crouched down on the floor is the safest place to be, until the tornado passes. Your school will hold drills for this kind of emergency, so make sure you’re paying attention during them.
Disasters sound frightening but you can get through them if you’re prepared. Use these tips to get a plan together, and know what to do if the worst happens. Being prepared is the best way to get through any disaster.