image courtesy of Victor Habbick/
Natural disasters strike every region of our country; however, there is often time to put into place emergency kits and plans, and the more prepping you do in advance, the better off you and your family will be in the aftermath of a disaster. Below are tips adapted from numerous of FEMA's publications on disaster preparedness.
Create Emergency Kits:
Every home should have a Disaster Supply Kit. The kit should contain enough supplies to meet all basic needs for each family member for at least three days and should be stored sturdy containers such as backpacks, a duffel bag, or rolling case. Include in the kit a waterproof and fireproof container in which you should store all family records in case it becomes necessary for you to evacuate your home. Specific kit contents should include (but are not limited to):
- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day) and food that won’t spoil. Include a manual can opener and utility knife, along with any pet food and supplies you might need.
- One change of clothing and footwear per person, and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
- A first aid kit that includes prescription medications.
- Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, candles, matches, plenty of extra batteries, and a utility knife.
- An extra set of car keys and cash.
- Personal hygiene supplies (toilet paper, soap, toothbrush, etc.)
- Any special items or equipment for infants, or for older or disabled family members (formula, diapers, denture or eye care supplies, etc.)
- An extra pair of eyeglasses
- Important family documents in a waterproof container
In addition to a home kit, you should put together an Emergency Car Kit for every family vehicle. Each kit should be able to sustain the maximum number of family members in as much comfort as possible until shelter and assistance can be found. Specific kit contents should include (but are not limited to):
- Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
- Car-adapted charger cords for cellular phones
- Jumper cables
- Fire extinguisher (5 lb., A-B-C type)
- First aid kit and manual
- Bottled water and non-perishable, high-energy foods like granola bars
- Maps, shovel, and flares
- Kitty litter or sand
- Tire repair kit and pump
- Also, be sure fuel tanks are full if you have lead time before a storm
Have a Plan:
The best defense against disaster is good preparation. Familiarize yourself and your family with the types of disasters that might affect your community and hold a family meeting to discuss the need for preparation. Explain the dangers of storms, flooding, tornadoes, fire, and earthquakes to children in terms they can understand without frightening them. Explain how planning will help the family to stay safe and together in case of an emergency. Discuss how your family will respond, and find safe spots in the home for each type of disaster. At a minimum, you should:
- Identify an emergency gathering location inside the home for weathering a storm, tornado, or earthquake.
- Determine an emergency meeting place outside the home if evacuation is deemed necessary.
- Take a basic first aid and CPR class.
- Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.
- Mark two escape routes for each room.
- Post emergency phone numbers near phones. Teach children how and when to call 911, police, and fire.
- Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information.
- Pick one out-of-state and one local friend or relative for family members to call if separated during a disaster (it is often easier to call out-of-state than within the disaster area). Document their phone numbers and provide each family member with a copy; when possible (adults and older children) have family members commit the numbers to memory.
- Practice escape routes and escaping to emergency meeting places monthly as a family.
FEMA's website offers more specific information pertaining to what to do if an earthquake, hurricane, winter storm, tornado, flood, or fire strikes your area. You can also obtain more information from your local government office of emergency services, fire and police departments, American Red Cross, National Weather Service, and local public library. When it comes to your family's safety, preparedness is the name of the game!