From widespread power outages, floods, and blizzards to earthquakes, tornadoes, and even terrorist attacks, any number of events can change our normal routine with little or no warning. While you can be sure that we will be working diligently with other emergency services and public works agencies to mitigate the effects of whatever comes our way, it may take time for help to get to you. You may need to survive without the modern amenities we have come to rely on, like electricity, water, heat, phone service, or even open grocery stores. The best way to deal with these times of widespread emergency is to plan for them now.
While the circumstances surrounding each disaster are different, there are some basic things you can do to provide a strong foundation to get through any disaster. We’ve taken some information from FEMA to give you a quick reference here, but if you’d like to learn more about how to prepare yourself and your family for emergencies, or for information on preparing for specific types of emergencies, we recommend that you take a look at FEMA’s emergency preparedness website.
Get a Kit
Again, during and after a large-scale emergency or natural disaster, it may take hours or even days for help to reach you. Your power may be out, roads may be impassible, and cell towers may not work. You need to be able to care for yourself and your family for at least three days. So put together an emergency survival kit, and make sure everyone in your family knows where this kit is located. Here’s a short list of the things you should consider including in your kit:
- Water: One gallon of water per person, per day, for at least three days. The water will be used for drinking and sanitation.
- Food: Non-perishable food for at least three days. Don’t forget baby formula if you have little ones! You’ll also need a mess kit or plates, cups, utensils, and a can opener.
- Battery-Powered or Hand-Crank Radio: You will need a radio that has AM/FM and NOAA weather capabilities to tune into local news stations and to receive weather warnings. Don’t forget extra batteries!
- Flashlight(s): Be sure to include extra batteries.
- First Aid Kit
- Dust Mask, Plastic Sheeting, and Duct Tape: You may need to filter contaminated air and shelter in place.
- Moist Towelettes and Garbage Bags: For personal sanitation.
- Wrench or Pliers: To turn off your home’s utilities.
- Local Maps
- Cell Phone: With power converter or solar charger to make calls when cellular service is available.
- Personal Hygiene Items: Including glasses, medication, feminine supplies, and diapers, if applicable.
- Cash: ATMs may not be operational, and banks may be closed during and immediately after a disaster.
- Pet Supplies: Pet food, extra water, and a leash or appropriate container.
- Important Documents: Copies of insurance policies, bank account records, and identification in a waterproof container.
- Sleeping Bags or Blankets
- A Change of Clothing: Pack a complete change of clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes. You may need to pack additional clothing, coats, etc. depending on the current season.
- Matches: Pack these in a waterproof container.
- Paper and Pencil
Make a Plan
Once you have your supplies, it’s time to figure out how your family members will contact one another, how you will re-unite, and what to do in certain situations:
- Out-of-Town Contact: Identify a trusted out-of-town contact to call and relay information among separated family members.
- Know the Number: Make sure your family members all know the phone number of the out-of-town contact, and have the ability to contact that individual via cell phone, prepaid phone card, etc.
- Subscribe to Alert Services: Many communities offer text- or e-mail-based alerting systems to advise of bad weather, road closures, emergencies, etc.
- Plan to Stay or Go: Depending on the circumstances, you may need to plan whether you will stay or evacuate. Use your common sense, and gather as much information as you can from official news outlets and local authorities.
- Recognize Emergencies: Find out what kinds of disasters are most likely to occur in your community, and how you will be notified of each. Aside from TV and radio news, you might hear a special siren, get a phone call, or emergency workers may go door-to-door.
- Inquire about Other Emergency Plans: Ask about emergency plans at places where your family spends time, such as work, day care, and school. Talk with your neighbors about how you can all work together during a disaster.
While most of the preparations you make (like creating an emergency supply kit and creating a communications plan) will be the same for any disaster (natural or man-made), there are important differences among potential emergencies that will have an impact on the decisions you make and the actions you take. Learn about the potential emergencies that could happen in your community, and plan how you will respond to them.
Your local and state governments also have emergency plans . . . learn about those as well. The more you know about the potential disasters you will face, the better prepared you will be to make the right decisions and take the right actions when seconds count!
Information reproduced from the FEMA website, Ready.gov.