Friday, August 15, 2014

Getting Prepared for Beginners #15 Skill Development (Home)

Special thanks to Brenda Barnes, Kathi Rodgers, and
Quinton Wojciechowski for providing photos for this post.

You may be thinking "Why is skill development important for a short term emergency?"  I actually hope you are not thinking that. If you are, just remember you will be asking help from people who are in the middle of the same emergency. I have been a member of a volunteer fire department. When the call comes out you really want to answer. But if something is going on at your house that needs your attention, you are not going to go. This is not being a poor first responder, this is being a responsible father or husband or mother or wife. You cannot expect someone to come to your aid if doing so will endanger themselves, their families, or their property.

Skill development is something you want to do in advance. You do not want to have to learn to run a chainsaw when the tree is already on your house. I know this seems like an extreme example, but it's not and you get the point.

So what skills should you learn? Oh I am so glad you asked.

First Aid and CPR

There is a valid argument to be made for every parent to know CPR. I am not going to cover this in depth. My wife is much more qualified than I and will be writing a full post in the near future. I am just going to share a story.

My grandfather was the fire chief at the local volunteer fire department. As a result every member of my family had a role in the department. My aunt and uncle were rapid responders. A rapid responder is kinda like a medic or advanced first aid person.

I don't remember how old I was but I do remember it was Father's Day. A call went out about a heart attack. We were all at my grandparents' and the address was only a couple miles away. We took off. When we arrived at the home a man was laying in the front yard. My aunt and uncle started CPR.  His adult children were standing around as my family tried to save their dad's life. He didn't make it. At the time I thought it awesome that these people needed my family to try to save theirs. Now I realize that if they had started CPR sooner they might have been able to save his life. Yes CPR IS VERY important.

If you would like to find out where you can become CPR certified you can search for classes HERE.


These skills are not as glamorous as first aid skills but are just as important and to be honest more likely to be needed.

Skills that at least one if not two people in your family should have include:
  • Being able to shut off the utilities
  • Being able to tarp a roof to prevent leaking and further damage to your home.
  • Being able to board up windows.
We will cover each of these topics.

Electricity. You should at least know how to shut off the power. Depending on your service box you could have two different ways to shut off your power. The most common way to shut off the power is at the breaker box.

Inside the box you will see a large breaker. It will be by itself. Just switch it to off. That is it. Now doing this shuts off the power to the entire house. You can also shut off the power to certain sections of your house. Hopefully your breaker box is labeled. If it is you can just choose which circuits to shut off. If it is not labeled, no problem you can label it yourself.

If you have an older home you may have a fuse box instead of a breaker box. That is not really a problem. The concept is still the same. There will be a large double fuse by itself, either above or below it will be rows of small round fuses. The large fuse will have a handle on it. You will need to pull this fuse out in order to shut off the power to your entire home. To shut off power to individual circuits you will need to unscrew one of the smaller (normally glass) fuses. Just like in a breaker box each circuit should be labeled.

Reasons you might need to turn off the power include: Doing any work that involves an electric circuit. Damage to your home that might cause a short (one room damaged). Flooding of your home or a really bad leak (roof damage).

Water. Shutting off the water is pretty simple. You will have a water meter between your home and the main line. This will not apply if you are on well water or live in an apartment. If you are on well water I hope you are familiar with your system. If you are in an apartment there should be a maintenance person who is charged with this duty.

Your meter will be in a concrete or rubber box. Inside that box you will see the meter. The shutoff will be on the street side of that meter. It normally only takes a quarter turn clockwise to shut off the water. This cuts the water to the entire house. It is a good idea to have shutoff valves in every bathroom and each sink.

Here is the meter tool I mentioned in the video.

Natural Gas or Propane. If your home uses natural gas or propane every member of your family that is old enough to do so, should know how to shut off the gas. If your home is damaged this knowledge could keep a bad situation from turning into a true catastrophe. If something has happened which has caused a gas leak, the slightest spark could be devastating.

Shutting off the gas to your home is just as simple as shutting off the other utilities. Just a turn of a knob. If you do not think about it ahead of time you probably won't think about it when you need to. Being able to shut off gas lines is very important.

Most gas companies and even modern gas appliances have safety features that make gas leaks less likely, but this knowledge could be the difference between a bad situation and a total loss.

Boarding up Windows

By now you know me. I am not talking about protecting your home from zombies. I believe it is much more likely for a tree to knock a window out of your house. Once you remove the tree you will need to do something about that window. If you are rural and it is not during the blazing hot summer or hard cold winter you may be able to get away with just using plastic to prevent critters and weather from getting in your home. If you live in an area where looting is a possibility you will need to do something more substantial. Enter boarding up your windows.

There are several ways to board your windows.

The most common way is take boards or plywood and nail it up. Easy right? Also fairly easy to tear down if you have a pry bar.

There is another more secure way to board up a window, but it takes advanced planning and at least two people. Here are the steps and supplies needed. 
  1. Cut treated plywood to at least 4 inches larger than window opening.
  2. Cut a 2X4 at least 6 inches longer than the window is wide on the inside of the house.
  3. Open window wide open and figure out where to drill a hole as close to the center of the plywood as possible. Hole will need to be about 3/8 of an inch.
  4. Also drill a 3/8 hole in the center of the 2X4
  5. You will need a 12 inch piece of all thread 2 nuts and 2 fender washers for each window.
  6. One person holds the plywood in place and feeds the all thread through the hole with a fender washer and nut already started.
  7. The person on the inside makes sure the all thread goes through the hole on the 2X4 places the washer on the all thread and then tightens the nut. 

Great Planes All Thread Rod (12-Piece), 2-56x12
I pulled this picture from Amazon, but you should be able to find this locally.
This will hold the plywood in place and will protect against most of the elements, but it is still not "zombie proof". It could be made so, but that would require tack welding, a cotter key and a drill press. If someone really wanted to get in all they would need would be a wrench, but if you had a tree come through a window, this would be the best way to keep the elements out of your home.

Tarping a Roof

Like so many things there is a couple of right ways and a ton of wrong ways to tarp a roof. The reason you would need to tarp a roof could be as simple as a few shingles have blown off and you are trying to prevent leaking that might occur or a whole section of shingles are missing and leaking will occur. Of course there is always the scenario where not only are shingles missing, but some of the decking of your roof is also gone. In the last two situations tarping your roof is a necessity. 

I know you could always call a carpenter or repair person, but remember when you need them in situations like this several others are calling them as well. You could be way down on the list. The longer you wait to put into place preventative measures the greater the likely damage to your home.

If done incorrectly tarping your roof can actually increase the damage caused. When you put a tarp on your roof you are trying to keep moisture from getting to your decking. If the tarp allows moisture to get to the decking it also interferes with your decking's ability to dry out. 

If at all possible the tarp should go across the ridge line of your roof. This helps prevent water from just running under the tarp. If you cannot have the tarp cross the ridge line of your roof you should use either a 1x2 or furring strip the hold the tarp as tight as possible then caulk the upper edge and the edge that is the direction where most of your weather comes from. Around here our strongest storms tend to come from the southwest. Ensure the tarp is as tight as possible and use either 1x2 or furring strips around the whole perimeter. The pictures below are of a tarp job done well.

Special thanks to Brenda Barnes for these photos.
Storm damage can happen to anyone at any time. Knowing these basic skills will help you protect your family and property.

I wish you all Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

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