A disaster can strike in the blink of an eye. When disasters occur people can lose access to food and water. Severe weather events are the most likely culprits, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, and wildfires.
Different parts of the country are prone to their own unique natural events. In Florida, a hurricane may leave cities without power for a few days, while in New York state, blizzards can affect cities for days on end.
Some disasters happen without notice—like a flash flood or wildfire—but many occur with warning, like hurricanes and snowstorms. Regardless of the event, you should have the framework of a response plan in place long before an event occurs. You never want to be left without resources at the last moment. Even if you do have a short notice to obtain resources, you don’t want to be stuck in line at the grocery store or gas station waiting for supplies only to find out that everything is already sold out.
Important Note: All families are unique and have different needs. Frequently update your inventory and emergency kit and plan according to the needs of your family. You may have more pets than usual, older adults with specific needs, or other variables. Be conscientious of these areas where you’ll need to be extra vigilant and take a non-traditional approaches when necessary.
The Checklist, and Essential Materials
For added help responding to disasters, those in your community will provide the most aid. Reach out to local emergency management, civil defense offices, or local chapters of the American Red Cross, FEMA, and other safety organizations for aid and education.
Part of a sufficient plan is knowing what type of disasters are possible in your area. This means knowing how your city or community alerts residents of disasters and establishing the best evacuation routes from your home, including knowing which routes have the potential of shutting down due to flooding or other weather related issues.
Be aware of emergency plans at your workplace, children’s school or daycare, and other places you frequent, like church or the gym.
Pro-tip: Once your emergency plan is prepared, post it in a location in the home where everyone will see it. This includes: refrigerators, bulletin boards, and saved on cell phones.
- Is your disaster gear placed in a duffel or easy-to-carry bag?
- Have you placed an additional safety duffel bag in your vehicle?
- Does your emergency kit in your car include battery powered radio with extra batteries, a flashlight, blankets, cable boosters, fire extinguishers, first aid kits and manuals, maps, shovels, flares, tire repair and pump kit, and other supplies common for disasters?
- Are your vehicle always equipped with gas in the event of a spur of the moment evacuation?
- Have you created a floor plan of the home so family members know the quickest escape routes and which locations in the home can be used to hide or take shelter during certain disasters?
- Are important outdoor places in the home noted on escape plans, including driveways, garages, patios, and porches? Does your escape plan show the locations of doors, windows, stairways, large furniture, and any other large items in the home?
- Do you have at least two escape routes out of every room?
- Has your family noted two places to meet after evacuation: One near the home and one away from the home?
- Do your family members know how to turn off water, gas, electricity, and other main switches when necessary?
- Do children know how and when to call 911?
- Are some of your emergency contacts out of state relatives or friends, so you can call them if local power goes out?
- Do you and your family members know basic CPR and first aid procedures?
- Have you accounted for pets in your plan? Have you considered you may need litter boxes, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, comfort toys, and a pet’s bed?
- Have you included a carrier that can transfer a pet safely, a leash, and a harness?
- Is the pet carrier large enough to allow the pet to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down?
- Do you have information that identifies your pets in case you lose them, so you can prove ownership? Does this information include photowork and up to date paperwork that ensures you’ll regain custody of your pet if lost during disaster?
- Do you have collapsible ladders on each floor window of the house? Do you have sprinklers installed?
Items to include in an emergency kit:
- Have you included foods that don’t spoil like pasta, rice, powdered or condensed milk, beef jerky, grains, honey.
- Are you equipped with one gallon of water per person per day? Is your water stored in sealed and unbreakable containers? Do you know the date of original storage and replace water every six months?
- Do you have non perishable and canned foods, accompanied with a can opener?
- Are you equipped with rain gear and sturdy shoes? Does your kit have blankets and sleeping bags?
- Does your first aid kit have all of your prescription medication with at least a three day supply of medicine? Have you included glasses, contacts, and all other personal and feminine products? Do you have information regarding family physicians and other personal contact information?
- Do you have credit cards and cash?
- Do you have important medical information, like the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers?
- Do you have special items needed for infants, elderly, or disabled family members and others?
- Do you have dust masks that filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape that will allow you to shelter in place if you need it?
- Do you have moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation?
- Are all essential tools prepped and ready to go? This includes a three-day supply of food and water per person, emergency kit, medical supplies?
Pro-Tip 1: Expiration dates on food and water should be checked at least two times a year. These items need to be functioning and in good condition in the event that you need to use them.
Pro-Tip 2: Kids can be asked what items they would like to throw into the disaster kits. This could be games, books, and even special foods they want available.
Whenever a disaster occurs, normal and everyday items in the home can cause injury and damage. This includes anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire.
To limit these possibilities:
- Electrical wiring and leaky gas connections should be repaired
- Shelves should be fastened and secured
- Overhead light fixtures should be braced for
- Large and heavy objects should be placed on lower shelves
- Mirrors and pictures should be hanged away from beds
- Water heater should be strapped with a wall stud
- Cracks in ceilings and foundations should be repaired
- Flammable products should be stored away from heat sources (like weed killers, pesticides, et cetera),
- Oily polishing rags or waste should be placed in metal cans
- Chimneys, flue pipes, vent connectors and gas vents should all be cleaned and repaired
Prepping for disaster takes long before an event occurs. The further out your family takes the necessary steps to respond to disaster, the more peace of mind and stress will be relieved once you’re in the middle of a severe weather event or unplanned emergency.