Natural or manmade disasters can happen at any time. While you likely can’t prevent a disaster, you can make sure you’re prepared for what may occur.
Why prepare for a disaster?
When a disaster strikes, there’s no time to gather what you need. If you’re not prepared, you could be without food, water, or means of communication and unable to care for potential injuries. Effective preparation can be the difference between life or death. Depending on where you live, you may be at risk for specific natural disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, or tornadoes that you may know about ahead of time; other disasters, like fires, can come with no notice at all. This is why it’s crucial to always have a plan in place for the safety of your family.
How to Prepare
The first step to being prepared is knowing what you are most at risk for. Find out what types of natural disasters often, or could, occur in your area. Preparing emergency supply kits for each member of your family is key to natural disaster preparedness.
According to FEMA, you should have enough food, water, and other necessities for each family member to last at least 72 hours. You should be able to provide the following in the event of any emergency: shelter, food, water, sanitation, and first aid. For fires or other disasters that strike suddenly, preparing an escape plan or general course of action is necessary for your family’s safety.
When putting together a plan for any disaster, you should consider these four questions:
- How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
- What is my shelter plan?
- What is my evacuation route?
- What is my family/household communication plan?
Your Disaster Preparation Kit
FEMA’s emergency supply kit checklist suggests one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. This water can function as both drinking and sanitation water, if necessary. Your food supply should also be able to last for three days and should be non-perishable. Be sure it is easily accessible or that you have the tools necessary to access it, like a can opener. Additionally, store items in waterproof, airtight containers so the contents stay as fresh as possible. Keeping a battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries nearby is also recommended in the event that your home loses power.
Consider any prescription medications or medical equipment you know a family member would need in the event of a disaster. In addition, if you have pets, be sure they are also prepared with enough food and water for three days.
Maintaining Your Kit
Your kits should be stored in a location that is easily accessible to you, but not somewhere that your pets or other animals may attempt to access the food ahead of time. Prepare kits for both your home and car in case there is an emergency while you are not at home.
To ensure that all contents stay together and safe, put your entire disaster kit in one or two large containers, such as a duffel bag or trash can. This will also make it easier to transport if you have small children and pets.
Your Escape Plan
Your escape plan in case of fire should be created with all members of your household together, as with any emergency plan. Begin by walking through your home and finding all possible exits and escape routes. Try to identify two escape routes per room. If you have children, be sure that they know how to open and escape through a window if necessary. If they are unable to easily open a window or door, create an alternate plan for that route.
Clear furniture or anything that could prevent you from getting out from all escape routes. Items that block doors and windows could result in your or your family being trapped inside.
Your escape plan should include verifying a set location for all family members to go to in the event of a disaster.
Practicing Your Plan
The National Fire Protection Association recommends practicing your fire escape plan twice a year, making it as realistic as possible and practicing for different scenarios. Make sure your smoke alarms are functioning and that everyone in your home wakes up to the alarm. If they don’t, someone should be assigned to wake that person in the event of an emergency.
Preparing your family for a disaster can save lives. Properly preparing should not be something that instills fear, but rather provides reassurance that you are as ready as possible. The aftermath of a disaster can be difficult, but preparing beforehand will make a huge difference for your family’s safety.
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