The last 10 years have seen many disasters right in our own backyards. Hurricanes, tornados, ice storms and floods have crippled parts of our country, often with little or no warning. Earlier, the events of September 11, 2001 made up a horrific man-made catastrophe that came with no warning. Knowing when a disaster will strike is impossible to predict, but being prepared for any type of disaster will reduce fear and anxiety during the emergency. Whether a natural disaster or a man-made calamity, having a plan will help get you through it.
Have a Plan
Know what kinds of disasters are possible in your area, both natural and man-made. Then be sure you know how officials notify the public of such events. Possible communication may be via emergency TV and radio broadcasts, sirens or reverse 911 calling systems. Keep alert for these messages during times of danger. Ask about the emergency plan in places you and your family spend time outside your home like work, daycare and children's schools. Understand how you will be notified in case of emergency. Have a plan with all members of your family for how you will meet or get in contact with each other if you are separated when a disaster takes place.
Communication is Key
Create a communications card with names and numbers of family members, as well as school, day care and work numbers. Include information for people you can contact outside the immediate family and be sure to have at least one out-of-state contact. It might be easier to reach someone located away from the emergency than someone local. Each family member should carry this information with them in a purse, wallet or backpack. Consider keeping a copy with the people on the contact list so they can reach each other if necessary.
Create an Emergency Kit
After a disaster it may take time for relief workers to reach everyone, so you should be prepared to survive on your own for a few days. Electricity, water and phone lines may not be working. Or you may be evacuated on very short notice and need to take supplies with you. Prepare a kit to last at least three days. Below is a list of just some of the items to include. Visit www.ready.gov or www.fema.gov for a more inclusive list to build your emergency kit.
- Water — 1 gallon per person per day
- Food — nonperishable food; don't forget the manual can opener
- Flashlights, portable television and/or radio, extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Tool kit including heavy gloves
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Cash and coins
- Photocopies of driver's license (or other identification), credit cards and other important documents
- Extra clothing, taking into consideration your climate and time of the year
- Special items — medications, baby items, glasses, hearing aids, etc.
- Entertainment — playing cards, books, etc. to prevent boredom if you're stuck at home or in a shelter for an extended time
Keep Documents off Site
Find a safe location away from your home like a safe deposit box to keep important documents. Have a complete inventory of all your possessions, including receipts and pictures of your home's contents. Also in this location, include copies of the contents of your wallet, birth certificates, insurance documents, deed to your home, title to your car and any other important documents that would be difficult to replace. This will be a great help if your home is damaged or destroyed. With just a little planning you can greatly reduce the fear, stress and uncertainty a disaster can bring. Knowing how to communicate and keep your family safe will go a long way in the recovery process.