Protect Your Family with an Emergency Preparedness Plan
Do you know how to stay safe in a natural disaster? What about your kids or elderly parents? If the answer isn’t a confident “Yes!” you need to start making a plan today. Here’s how you can stay safe and protect your family in a natural disaster:
Create an Emergency Response Plan
An emergency response plan should answer three basic questions:
1. How will I stay in touch?
You can receive emergency alerts through a cell phone, radio, or television broadcast. You also need a way to contact family. Give every family member a physical copy of contact numbers and practice sending emergency texts. Text messages may go through even when phone calls won’t.
2. How will I take shelter?
The safest place to take shelter varies by hazard, so know which natural disasters occur in your region and how to react whether you’re at home, work, school, or a public location. You’ll need food, water, and other supplies in your sheltering location.
3. How will I evacuate?
Know evacuation routes and meeting places and have an emergency kit ready, including fuel for your vehicle. Identify several potential evacuation destinations, varying the direction of travel in case routes are impassable in a disaster.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
A pre-assembled emergency kit lets you respond quickly in a disaster. These are some essentials to include:
- Non-perishable food
- Flashlights and batteries
- First-aid kit
- Sanitary supplies
- Sleeping bags
- Clothing, including shoes and outerwear
- Personal documents (Photo IDs, Social Security cards, birth certificates, banking information, and other important documents)
- Cell phone and charger
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- Local maps
Some groups require additional supplies in an emergency. When packing your emergency kit, consider these groups:
Children may not understand the seriousness of a natural disaster, but they need to react nonetheless. Practice evacuation and sheltering plans with children so they respond instinctively when a disaster hits. Kids should know where to find the safe room at home and know emergency contact numbers in case a storm occurs while the family is separated.
Disasters can be traumatic for children, so include comfort items and small activities in your emergency kit. Don’t forget diapers, formula, and other essentials for babies.
Disasters are more dangerous for the elderly. Just consider this statistic: New Orleans residents over the age of 60 accounted for 75 percent of the bodies found immediately after Hurricane Katrina, despite accounting for only 15 percent of the population. Because they tend to be less mobile and more isolated than younger people, seniors have a harder time evacuating when a natural disaster happens.
Older adults should coordinate their emergency plan with local relatives or neighbors, especially if they don’t drive. It’s important that seniors have a support network who can keep them informed during a natural disaster, and assist during evacuation or sheltering in place.
Seniors, as well as others with chronic health conditions, must pay special care when assembling their emergency kit. A natural disaster may prevent access to regular healthcare providers. For that reason, it’s important to include medical information like medications and dosages, medical records, insurance documents, and important healthcare and support system contacts.
No one wants to leave pets behind in a disaster, but if you’re not prepared, you may have no choice. Pet owners should use both collars with tags and microchips to ID pets, identify pet-friendly places to shelter, and name a backup caretaker who can step in if a disaster strikes while you’re away from home.
Include food, medications, leashes, collars with ID tags, veterinary records, and a portable pet carrier in your emergency kit so you can care for pets during a disaster.
There are many programs and resources to help in a natural disaster. But resources take time to become available, and when a disaster happens, you need to be able to respond immediately. Have a plan so your family can react quickly when a natural disaster happens. It could save your life.
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