It’s hurricane season in North America again, and unfortunately other disasters are happening across the globe too. I wrote this article on preparing for a disaster a couple of years ago and by the number of views it still gets, I suspect it’s currently a very popular subject. Therefore, I’m republishing it for those who might have missed it.
The purpose of this article is to encourage you to prepare for a disaster, (natural disaster or man made disaster), by explaining the four steps to creating a disaster plan. Where will you and your family be when a disaster strikes? Emergencies and disasters strike quickly and without warning and can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services – water, gas, electricity or telephones – were unavailable?
People can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and with families working together as a team. Preparing for a disaster or emergency is a responsibility that begins with each individual. We can’t control the emergencies that will occur in our lives, but we can be ready to face them by knowing what to do and taking action to prepare.
Every family should have a disaster plan. The four steps to creating a disaster plan are:
- Understand What Could Happen
- Create the Emergency/Disaster Plan
- The Preparedness Checklist: What you Need to Know
- Maintain Your Plan
Step 1: Understanding What Could Happen
Emergencies such as terrorism, fire, hazardous spills, power outages or those caused by natural disasters such as tornadoes and winter storms can happen anywhere to anyone. Look around where you live. Are you near an interstate that could have a hazardous materials spill? Are you in a flood zone? Ask yourself what emergencies or disasters could occur in your area.
If a disaster or emergency strikes, the following things can happen:
- There can be significant numbers of casualties/damage to buildings and the infrastructure.
- Health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, even overwhelmed.
- Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications can continue for a prolonged period. Workplaces and schools may be closed and travel may be restricted.
- Your and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.
- Cleanup may take many months.
- If a chemical or biological emergency occurs, you can be exposed to the toxins. You may be told by authorities to evacuate to a designated location or be asked to shelter in your home, sealing all windows and doors and turning off air intakes.
Step 2: Create an Emergency/Disaster Plan
Meet with your family to discuss the types of disasters and emergencies that are most likely to happen and what to do in each case.
Determine Where to Meet
- A place right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
- A location outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Make wallet cards, so everyone will know the address and phone number of the place where you are to meet.
Have an “Out-of Town” Contact
Ask an out-of-town friend or relative to be your contact. After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know the contact’s phone number and cell phone number if they have one.
Step 3: The Preparedness Checklist: What You Need to Know
- Emergency Numbers
- Utilities – Know how and when to turn off water, gas and electricity at the main switches or valves and share this information with each family member.
- Fire Extinguisher – Be sure everyone knows how to use your extinguishers and where they are kept.
- Determine the best escape routes out of your home.
- Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class as a family.
- Inventory home possessions.
Stock emergency supplies to last each person 3-5 days and assemble a disaster kit.
- One gallon of water per person per day
- Canned or packaged food (I use military surplus MREs)
- Battery-powered radio
- First aid kit
- Manual can opener
- Extra batteries
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Prescription medications
- Special items for infant, elderly or disabled members of the household
- Important family documents in a waterproof container. Keep the originals of all important financial and family documents in a safe place. You will need accessible records for tax and insurance purposes.
- Store all these things in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffel bags or covered trash containers.
Step 4: Maintain Your Plan
- Review your plan every six months and quiz your family about what to do.
- Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills on a regular basis.
- Check food supplies for expiration dates and discard, or replace stored water and food every six months.
- Read the indicator on your fire extinguishers and have them recharged by a professional according to manufacturers instructions.
You can cope with disaster by preparing in advance. Using these four steps will help you create your disaster plan. I urge you to begin today to prepare for emergencies and disasters to keep your family safe.
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