Disaster Readiness – Be Prepared, Be Protected


After the events of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Southern California wildfires of 2007, federal, state and local governments have spent a great deal of time and money on disaster preparation. However, in order to truly ensure that your family and loved ones are ready, you should take some steps yourself.

The first step to be disaster-ready is to simply talk with your family and develop a plan. This plan should include a meeting place for all family members to congregate in the event of an emergency or evacuation. You may want to consider selecting two places, one close to your home and another out-of-state should it be too dangerous to stay near home. You should also designate an out-of-state contact person who family members can check-in with. During an emergency, it may be easier to call someone long distance than to try to reach local numbers. You should make sure that each family member has a copy of the plan, as well as contact names and phone numbers.

You should also prepare emergency kits in order to ensure that if something were to happen, your family has essential necessities. When putting together your kit, focus first on the basics: fresh water, food, clean air, and warmth. The following checklist can help:

  • water – you should plan to have one gallon of water, per person, per day, for at least three days;
  • food – consider stocking three days worth of non-perishable food;
  • flashlights;
  • extra batteries;
  • first aid kit;
  • a whistle – to signal for help;
  • dust masks;
  • moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties – can be used for personal
  • basic tools including a hammer, a wrench, and pliers;
  • a can opener; and
  • local maps.

You may also want to consider including:

  • prescription medication;
  • pet food and water for pet;
  • important documents;
  • money;
  • sleeping bags and blankets;
  • a change of clothes; and
  • books games, activities for children.

Remember – during an emergency, ATMs and computers may not work. You will want to makes sure you have copies of important family documents and extra money. When putting together an emergency kit, consider including copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account statements. You should also pack some cash, travelers’ checks, and change. All paper should be kept in a waterproof, portable container.

If you are one of the millions of American pet owners, chances are you have worried about what would happen to your furry friend during an emergency. While planning for your family’s emergency care, take a minute to consider your pet. Remember, typically what is best for you is what is best for your pet. In other words, if you think you will need to evacuate, consider ahead of time how your pet will evacuate. You should maintain copies of all your pet’s identification documents, recent vet records, and a recent photo of you and your pet together. When creating your emergency plan, remember that public shelters don’t always accept animals. You may want to consider developing a buddy system with a neighbor or friend. This would ensure that in case you are unable to return home, someone else would know to check in on your pet and make sure it is safe and attended to.

Once you have planned and prepared, make sure you stay informed and updated as to possible threats and dangers. This can be as simple as checking the local news and weather daily. The federal government has created resources to help you prepare and to stay informed, including www.ready.gov and 1-800-BE-READY. These resources also provide local information regarding both preparation and possible threats. By being aware and prepared, you can serve as the first, and most important, resource for your family during a disaster.