While no one wants to think about potential disaster, preparing for one in advance can prevent you and your family from getting caught off guard and scrambling to create a plan at a moment's notice.
Follow these disaster preparedness tips to make sure you’re ready if and when a natural disaster or weather-related emergency occurs.
Tip 1: Get Informed
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the first step in preparing for an emergency or disaster is to learn more about specific hazards unique to your region, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and severe winter storms. Doing some research on the most common types of disasters that occur in your area can help you identify risks, so you and your family can prepare accordingly. Ask your city or county officials about your community's warning system to understand how they alert residents about pending disasters and how they communicate both during and after the incident.
For complete disaster preparedness, consider emergencies that can happen anywhere — no matter where you live — like floods and house fires. Collecting all of this information will help you create an emergency preparedness plan so you and your family know what to do in the event of any crisis.
Tip 2: Make an Emergency Preparedness Plan
Efficient disaster preparedness means investing the time to make a plan with your family, reviewing it regularly and updating it as needed. When disaster strikes, panic can ensue, but if you follow a detailed emergency preparedness plan, it can help you stay calm and safe.
To help you get started, we’ve gathered some tips on how to make an emergency preparedness plan:
Meet With Your Family Members
Review the disaster and hazard information you gathered with your family, explaining the potential risks and dangers so you can work as a team to prepare. Be sure to inform caregivers of your plan as well.
Select an “Out-of-Town” Contact
Pick someone to stay in touch with, like a friend or relative. Following a disaster, you and your family members should call this individual to tell them where you are. Make sure to give your children and spouse your contact’s phone number in case you get separated from them.
Decide Where to Meet in Case You Get Separated
Choose a place right outside your home to meet if any of your family members get separated. In the event of an emergency that prevents you from returning home, select a meeting place outside of your neighborhood, like your community park.
Complete a Family Communication Plan
Create a plan that includes contact information for family members, your place of work, and childrens’ schools. Don’t forget to list your out-of-town contact information, meeting locations in case of separation, and phone numbers for emergency services.
Prepare for Different Disasters
Different types of emergencies call for different action plans. For instance, the steps you would take to protect yourself from a tornado are different from those you would take for an earthquake, so make sure to create a plan for each type of emergency.
Identify Safe Places to Take Cover
Find secure rooms or spots in your home to gather with your family and pets for each type of disaster. For example, if a tornado is approaching, the Red Cross recommends going to the basement, storm cellar, or an interior room with no windows on your home's lowest floor.
Design an Escape Route
Draw a floor plan of your home to show where doors, windows, and stairways are located. Then, identify at least two ways to safely exit from each room in the event of an emergency. Be sure everyone in your family knows the best route to take, depending on what room they’re in, by holding practice drills. Don’t forget to include details about how your pets and any family members with disabilities will be helped to escape safely.
Develop an Evacuation Plan
If you need to evacuate due to a major natural disaster, like a flood or severe storm, it’s a good idea to make a plan in advance. Decide which routes you'll take to a safer location, such as a hotel, an evacuation shelter, or the home of friends or relatives a safe distance away. If you can’t drive or don’t own a vehicle, contact your local government to find out your community's plans for evacuating those without transportation..
Join your Neighbors App community to stay in touch with residents in your neighborhood. That way, you always know when and where things are happening in your area, and you can share updates to keep your community informed.
The Neighbors App is free for anyone to use, and it doesn’t just keep you connected with other neighbors. You can also access critical information from local agencies and the Neighbors Team to get you and your community through the disaster safely. While you’re checking in on the people around you, you can look at the latest alerts about a storm or natural disaster. And the Neighbors App even adapts its guidelines to help meet your community’s needs during unexpected disasters, allowing you to seek help or assist the people around you. Whether you need extra batteries for your flashlights or have extra firewood to share with others during a winter storm, you can connect directly with those who matter most to meet the individual needs of your community.
Tip 3: Create a Disaster Preparedness Checklist
Along with an emergency action plan, FEMA and Red Cross recommend developing an action item checklist of things to learn and do before a disaster strikes:
Make sure you know how and when to turn off your water, gas, and electricity using their main switches or valves, and share the steps with appropriate family members and caregivers. Tools, such as a wrench or pliers, may be required to shut off your gas and water valves, so keep them nearby for easy access. Keep in mind that you should only turn off your utilities if you think the lines are damaged, suspect a leak, or community officials have instructed you to do so.
Be sure that everyone in your household is aware of proper kitchen safety tips and how to use your fire extinguisher.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Install smoke and CO alarms on each level of your home, especially near the bedrooms, and test them regularly. To remain prepared, be sure to check the power source of your Ring alarm or detector to ensure your home is always protected.
First Aid and CPR
Consider enrolling in proper First Aid and CPR training, and perhaps signing the whole family up for a course to get certified through the Red Cross.
Vital Family Records
Keep important family records, such as birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, wills, and deeds, in a safe deposit box or a fire and flood-proof container to prevent them from being destroyed.
Inventory Home Possessions
Make a record of your possessions to help you claim reimbursement in case of loss or damage, and store the documents in the safe place you’ve selected for your family records.
Tip 4: Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
In the event that you need to escape your home or evacuate your neighborhood at a moment’s notice, you and your family will need to take essentials with you. To avoid scrambling at the last minute to collect everything you need, put together a disaster supplies kit, and keep it updated.
The Red Cross says you should have the following basic supplies, at minimum, in your kit:
Now you have the tips you need to ensure you’re prepared if a disaster or emergency strikes in your area.