Disaster Preparedness Tips in the Wake of the Merrimack Valley Gas Explosion
By: Shannon Boyle
Emergency preparedness isn’t just for people in areas where there are earthquakes or tornadoes. It’s not just for coast residents who experience hurricanes. All communities can be affected by disasters at any time. Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers advice and tips in the wake of the emergency in the Merrimack Valley.
If you are in the affected area right now, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts has advised customers to not enter your home unless you are accompanied by a gas company representative. If a customer smells an odor of natural gas:
- Don’t turn off gas to your house or to any appliances.
- Don’t try to find the leak yourself or operate pipeline valves.
- Don’t light a match or candle, or operate anything that could cause a spark, including home phones or cell phones, lights, appliances, flashlights, power tools, etc.
- Don’t open the windows and doors in an attempt to ventilate.
If you have shut off your gas meter on your own, please don’t attempt to turn the service back on. As part of response efforts, gas crews need to visit each of the 8,600+ affected customers to shut off each gas meter and conduct a safety inspection.
If a customer smells an odor of natural gas, they should leave the area immediately, move to a safe location and call 911 and Columbia Gas’ emergency number at 800-525-8222. Andover has issued an evacuation advisory for all residents and businesses, with many neighborhoods being evacuated in Lawrence.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the incident in the Merrimack Valley,” said Paula Fleming, Chief Marketing & Sales Officer for the local BBB. “We want residents to know that there are resources available to them to avoid fly-by-night scammers looking to take advantage of the disaster.”
Wil Carpenter, the Vice President of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce explained how the chamber is helping the community, stating, “Here at the Merrimack Valley Chamber we have the utmost confidence in our Public Safety workers & officers, under the leadership of Lawrence Mayor Rivera, Andover Town Manager Flanagan, North Andover Town Manager Maylor and Mass. Governor Baker.
We are encouraging all others to stay safe and keep cool heads and minds at this time. To assist the victims of this unprecedented disaster, the Merrimack Valley Chamber has set up a relief fund.
Anyone wanting more information can contact the Merrimack Valley Chamber directly.”
Updates on gas service, electric service and shelters are being provided by various town emergency departments on social media. North Andover Twitter | Lawrence Twitter | Andover Twitter. You can also call 211 for updates.
BBB suggests being prepared for future emergencies or disasters by having a kit with the following essentials:
Emergency Documents Packet:
- Social Security card
- Any other official, hard–to–replace documents
- Contact information: Both your contact information and your emergency contacts’ information.
- Insurance: Homeowners, auto, medical, life, disability, and other insurance agents/brokers contact info and policy numbers.
- Financial accounts: Bank, investment, and credit card/loan accounts information, including institution names, phone numbers, and account numbers.
- Health records: Immunization records, allergies, dietary restrictions, medications, medical/surgical treatments.
- Pet information: Description of each pet, vet contact information, and any important medical notes.
- Property: Car information, home purchase papers/deeds, and other home inventory items.
- Water and food for three days. (One gallon per person per day.)
- A manual can opener
- First aid kit
- Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to provide protection from the outdoor elements
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal hygiene purposes
- Wrench or pliers
- Local maps
- Small battery-operated radio with extra batteries or an emergency crank combination radio, flashlight, and clock device
If you haven’t done so already, take the time to familiarize yourself with your local emergency alerts and warnings and how you can receive them:
As the immediate gas explosion disaster passes, people in the Merrimack Valley will start to evaluate the damage done and begin to rebuild. BBB recommends using FEMA’s website at ready.gov to learn about the potential emergencies that could occur where you live and the appropriate ways to respond to them.