It can seem like an overwhelming question: How do you prepare for a tornado, hurricane, flood or other type of natural disaster? Given the mind-boggling power of many of these events, you may be tempted to think that you’re helpless in the face of such threats. You’re not.
Over the years, governmental agencies and disaster-response organizations have created many catastrophe preparation tips. By following these recommendations, which range from creating an emergency supply kit to designating an out-of-town emergency contact, you can better prepare yourself and your family to cope when Mother Nature is at her most fearsome.
The urgency of now
Whatever specific disaster preparations you make, experts urge you to make them as soon as possible. Don’t wait until a catastrophe is on its way to begin thinking about what to do. “It’s like that old saying: ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” says William Booher, the director of external affairs for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Deciding where to seek shelter at home or work when a natural disaster strikes is one of the first plans that you and those around you should make. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that, during a tornado, you should go to your building’s basement. If the building doesn’t have a basement, proceed to an interior room on the lowest floor. To read shelter recommendations for other kinds of natural disasters, visit the “Types of Disasters” page on FEMA’s website.
Emergency supply kit
Experts recommend that families prepare emergency supply kits to use in the event that they have to survive on their own in the aftermath of a disaster. Ready.gov, the website of FEMA’s Ready disaster preparation campaign, says the kit should contain at least a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food for each family member (one gallon of water per person per day is the recommended amount). The kit also should include the following items, among others: a battery-powered or hand crank radio, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio, a whistle to call for help, a pair of pliers or a wrench to turn off utilities if necessary and a first-aid kit. And don’t just buy a first-aid kit – make sure you know how to use it. The American Red Cross recommends that at least one household member be trained in first-aid techniques and CPR.
For a complete list of recommended emergency kit supplies, visit Ready.gov.
Plans for the aftermath
Families must develop plans for what they will do in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Choose a place where family members should meet afterwards if they are separated when the event takes place. Since making long-distance calls can sometimes be easier than making local ones in the aftermath of a disaster, numerous governmental agencies say a family also should appoint someone who lives out of town - and therefore would likely not be affected by the same catastrophe - as the family’s emergency contact. The contact can then inform other family members about your whereabouts and condition. Make sure everyone in your household has that contact’s phone number.
Families also should decide in advance where they will travel to if evacuation orders are issued. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) recommends keeping the distance to your designation as short as possible and also urges families to plan for their pets when considering evacuation destinations.
“The most important thing a family can do is to have that conversation about what’s going to happen when [a disaster] occurs,” says Darryl Madden, the director of FEMA’s Ready campaign. “Uncertainty is a greater enemy sometimes than the event itself.”
Obviously, disaster planning is not only for households – businesses need to be prepared as well. Among other suggestions, Ready.gov urges businesses to develop continuity of operations plans and to keep critical documents in portable containers that are both waterproof and fireproof. Businesses can determine their current level of disaster readiness and pinpoint areas for improvement by joining the American Red Cross’ Ready Rating program and taking the program’s 123-point, online self-assessment.
By taking time now to develop your family’s disaster preparation plans, you will make a difficult situation a little less so. Don’t wait. “It’s easy to take the steps necessary to be prepared,” Booher says. “By doing that, you’re going to put yourself, your family, those in your community and even first responders in a much better situation because you’re not a victim of the [disaster]. You’re a survivor.”
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