- Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters. Communities, families, and individuals should know what to do in the event of a fire and where to seek shelter during a tornado. They should be ready to evacuate their homes and take refuge in public shelters and know how to care for their basic medical needs.
People also can reduce the impact of disasters and sometimes avoid the danger completely by by taking preventative measures such as flood-proofing and securing items that could shake loose in an earthquake.
- Disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Each disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property.
- If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be ready as well. Local responders may not be able to reach you immediately, or they may need to focus their efforts elsewhere.
- You should know how to respond to severe weather or any disaster that could occur in your area - hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme cold, flooding, or terrorism.
- You should also be ready to be self-sufficient for at least three days. This may mean providing for your own shelter, first aid, food, water, and sanitation.
You have a responsibility to protect yourself and your family by knowing what to do before, during, and after an event. Some examples of what you can do follow:
- Know the risks and danger signs.
- Purchase insurance, including flood insurance, which is not part of your homeowner's policy.
- Develop plans for what to do.
- Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
Put your plan into action.
- Follow the advice and guidance of officials in charge of the event.
Repair damaged property.
- Take steps to prevent or reduce future loss.
- You will need to find out about hazards that threaten the community, how the population will be warned, evacuation routes to be used in times of disaster, and the emergency plans of the community and others that will impact your plan.
- Guidance on specific content that you and your family will need to develop and include in your plan; on how to escape from your residence, communicate with one another during times of disaster, shut-off household utilities, insure against financial loss, acquire basic safety skills, address special needs such as disabilities, take care of animals, and seek shelter.
- Checklists of items to consider including in your disaster supplies kit that will meet your family's needs following a disaster whether you are at home or at other locations.
Draw a floor plan of your home. Use a blank sheet of paper for each floor. Mark two escape routes from each room. Make sure children understand the drawings. Post a copy of the drawings at eye level in each child's room.
Establish a place to meet in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Record the locations below:
Where to meet...
Near the home
For example, the next door neighbor's telephone pole
Outside the immediate area
For example, the neighborhood grocery store parking lot
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another. Think about how you will communicate in different situations.
Complete a contact card for each family member. Have family members keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse, backpack, etc. You may want to send one to school with each child to keep on file. Pick a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe.
If you or someone close to you has a disability or a special need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency.
May need to make special arrangements to receive warnings.
May need special assistance to get to a shelter.
Single working parent
May need help to plan for disasters and emergencies.
Non-English speaking persons
May need assistance planning for and responding to emergencies. Community and cultural groups may be able to help keep people informed.
People without vehicles
May need to make arrangements for transportation.
People with special dietary needs
Should take special precautions to have an adequate emergency food supply.
Once you know what disasters are possible in your area, talk about how to prepare and how to respond if one occurs.
- Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team. Keep it simple enough so people can remember the important details. A disaster is an extremely stressful situation that can create confusion. The best emergency plans are those with very few details.
- Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing disasters ahead of time will help reduce fear and anxiety and will help everyone know how to respond.
Pick two places to meet:
- Right outside of your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
- Outside of your neighborhood in case you can't return home or are asked to leave your neighborhood. Everyone must know the address and phone number of the meeting locations.
- Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during floods or other disasters, have a plan for getting back together. Separation is a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school.
- Ask an out-of-town relative or friend to be your "family contact." Your contact should live outside of your area. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long distance call than a local call. Family members should call the contact and tell him or her where they are. Everyone must know the contact's name, address, and phone number.
- Discuss what to do if authorities ask you to evacuate. Make arrangements for a place to stay with a friend or relative who lives out of town and/or learn about shelter locations.
- Be familiar with escape routes. Depending on the type of disaster, it may be necessary to evacuate your home. Plan several escape routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed. Remember to follow the advice of local officials during evacuation situations. They will direct you to the safest route; some roads may be blocked or put you in further danger.
- Plan how to take care of your pets. Pets (other than service animals) are not permitted to be in places where food is served, according to many local health department regulations. Plan where you would take your pets if you had to go to a public shelter where they are not permitted.
The following items might be needed at home or for an evacuation. Keeping them in an easy-to-carry backpack or duffel bag near your door would be best in case you need to evacuate quickly, such as in a tsunami, flash flood, or major chemical emergency. Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members. Kit basics are:
- A portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries.
- Flashlight and extra batteries.
- First aid kit and first aid manual.
- Supply of prescription medications.
- Credit card and cash.
- Personal identification.
- An extra set of car keys.
- Matches in a waterproof container.
- Signal flare.
- Map of the area and phone numbers of places you could go.
- Special needs, for example, diapers or formula, prescription medicines and copies of prescriptions, hearing aid batteries, spare wheelchair battery, spare eyeglasses, or other physical needs.