Disasters Happen. Are You Ready?
Are you ready for a natural disaster? It is not a question of if it will happen but of when. Disasters happen everywhere and often without advance notice.
Habitat’s mission encompasses preparing to re-emerge strong and whole from catastrophe. A natural disaster can destroy a home and our ability to live well in the future. Educating ourselves about the topic helps build the resilience and self-reliance central to living our best lives.
In recognition of National Preparedness Month, we are sharing ways to protect your household all month. As the maxim advises, “ The best time to get ready was yesterday; the second-best time is now”
We can’t control nature’s timing, but we can be prepared to recover faster by investing a few hours in education and planning. These five steps can help.
(1) Learn about the natural disasters most likely to happen where you live.
Visit the Natural Hazard Explorer to input any city or zip code and learn about likely regional disasters. Prepare accordingly.
(2) Review your insurance coverages.
Ensure you have the proper coverage in sufficient amounts to replace losses or provide needed medical care. Property and health policies can be complicated to interpret. Your agent or HR rep is the expert and can help you confirm proper coverage or make needed adjustments.
(3) Make a Plan. Write it Down.
Disasters may not occur when a family is together. Hold a family meeting and map a communication plan. Include:
- Can We Talk? Agreements and instructions on how you will communicate. In a disaster, the internet, landlines, or cell towers may not be fully functional or could be overloaded. But texts can often get around local networks when calls cannot. Teach everyone how to send and check text messages.
- Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1 on landlines and cell phones
- Include everyone’s address. An address helps emergency responders find and render aid to loved ones that may not be able to get out.
- Assign an Information Captain – The Information Captain is assigned to receive family check-in texts or calls and manage updates for extended family and friends. Assign a backup person, too. An out-of-town relative or close family friend works well for this situation.
- Choose a Meet-up Spot-Pre-determine a location away from the disaster zone for the family to meet. Choose a backup location outside your community if the meeting place is involved in the disaster.
- Get the App(s) –Subscribe to local emergency alert services. Most communities have systems that send texts, calls, and emails with warnings, safety instructions, and the latest updates during the disaster. Check your city or county to register. The American Red Cross Safe and Well App – ARC Safe and Well website features an “I’m Safe” button that will post to your social media pages. Get it free from the AppStore or on Google Play.
- Write it down. Prepare a laminated contact information card for everyone. Include family contacts, emergency services, the meeting place, backup, and the web address for the American Red Cross Safe and Well website. Carry it at all times, and place a copy in the disaster kit.
- Practice, Practice, Practice. Review and update the information and practice-preferably every six months, at least annually.
- This template can help you get started Emergency Plan Template
- Note: Visit Ready.Gov Disasters for preparation and evacuation preparedness tips related to the specific disaster you may encounter.
- (4) Build a Disaster Kit.
The disaster kit is designed according to the household’s unique characteristics and the likely, disasters. Items needed to evacuate pre-disaster differ from what you need to shelter in place or leave a damaged home. However; everyone should include:
- Medications and first aid supplies
- Copies of essential documents- insurance and banking information identification, emergency medical information.
- Hygiene supplies
- Nonperishable food and water – 3-day supply.
- Don’t forget the pets – collar and leash, three-day food supply, hygiene needs, bedding, medications, and toys.
- One complete change of clothing and closed-toe sturdy shoes
- Comfort items- jacket, blanket, rain poncho, small toys, books, and games
- Cell phone charger and power bank
- Light source ( battery operated )
A link to a complete list of suggested inclusions follows this article.
Considerations when choosing kit containers.
- The primary container must be sturdy, air, water, and pest-proof.
- Size and portability matter. Consider dimensions, weight, and ease of transport.
- Group the contents into categories, package them separately and place them into the primary container.
- Important documents should be stored in fire and waterproof packaging.
- Do not store battery-operated items with the batteries installed. A battery can corrode and damage functionality.
(5) Maintain the Kit.
- Examine the disaster kit every three to six months to replace or update:
- Expired food, drink, and medication
- Important documents
- Check functionality of battery-operated devices. Replace expired batteries.
- Consider the changing household: Did you move? A new baby will require diapers, formula, and clothing. Has a pet joined or left your home? A leash and collar for each and bedding may be needed. A family member’s health changes could mean the first aid kit needs to be adapted. Note: Adding reminders to your calendars is an easy way to remember this vital safety task
- Pet disaster preparedness and supplies and products from the American Red Cross
- Disaster preparedness for pets from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- Step-by-step actions to prepare for an emergency from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- “Make a plan” from Ready Campaign
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards
- Emergency supply kits