A hurricane ... a flood ... a fire ... a tornado ... a flu pandemic ... a terrorist attack. What do these disasters have in common? Whether the disaster occurs naturally or is caused by human actions, many families are not prepared to "weather the storm." During National Preparedness Month (September), emergency officials have a question for you - Are you ready?
At www.ready.gov, you'll see the basic preparedness steps: Get a kit, Make a plan, be informed. But perhaps you need a little more motivation to get you moving. So, take a few minutes with me to ask yourself some questions about your own family's level of preparedness.
If a disaster knocked the power out, could you get information from emergency officials? You would need to have a battery-powered radio to hear reports through the Emergency Broadcast System.
If your family had to stay home for a few days or weeks, could you provide for your basic necessities? You would need a gallon of water per person per day. That amounts to 56 gallons for a family of four to have a two-week supply. You should also have enough non-perishable food on hand to keep your family healthy.
If the phone lines and cell towers were out during a disaster, would you and your family have another way to contact each other? Having an out-of-state check-in contact might be a way to get messages to each other. (During a disaster it is often easier to call long distance than within a disaster-stricken area.)
If you were asked to evacuate, would you have a disaster supply kit ready to take with you? Your kit should contain a battery powered radio and flashlight with extra batteries, a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food, a first aid kit, tools and supplies, clothing and bedding, and special items.
If something prevented family members from getting back home, would you and your family know how to find each other? Choose a meeting place outside your neighborhood, so that the members of your family will know where to meet if it is impossible to go home.
If you needed to relocate temporarily, would you have copies of important documents to help establish your family in a new location? Having copies of identification, insurance papers, health history, and other important documents can make it easier to cope with the effects of a disaster. These documents should be in a secure location such as a locked box or password protected electronic files.
There are many more scenarios I could name that could affect your family. But fortunately, the same three steps will help you cope with any disaster that might occur:
- First, get a kit. You need a three-day supply of water and food, a first aid kit, clothing and bedding, tools and supplies, and special items in a portable kit ready to go. When you get your portable kit together, you should also check to be sure that you have at least a two-week supply of water and food in your home.
- Second, make a plan. Meet with your family members to choose an out of town contact and complete a family communications plan. Determine escape routes for your home and a meeting place right outside your home. Also, select a meeting place outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.
- Third, be informed. Learn about types of hazards that can occur in your area and what you should do in each situation. Also, find out about the emergency response plans of your community and places where your family spends time.
For many people, step one seems to be the most difficult. But preparing a disaster supply kit doesn't have to be overwhelming or expensive. Start today by finding a simple cardboard box and putting a flashlight with extra batteries inside. Tomorrow, add a battery powered radio with extra batteries. The next time you go to the store buy an extra package of bottled water along with a non-perishable food item and add it to the box. When you decide to buy a new throw for your couch because the old one is looking tattered, add the old one to the box ...
Little by little, you will become better able to provide for your family in the event of a disaster. Even if you can add only a few things to your box, you will be more prepared tomorrow than you were yesterday. The key is to start today!
To learn more about family disaster preparedness, request our workshop, "Your Family Disaster Plan," for your local group or organization.