How to Prepare for Disasters and Emergencies
Updated: Jul 10
Since the COVID-19 public health emergency ended on May 11th, 2023, the world has returned to its normal routines. But what if another pandemic or natural disaster occurs? Will you be prepared to act accordingly? This blog series will help you to understand the most common types of disasters and how you can be prepared for them whenever they strike. According to the American Red Cross, there are three main steps you need to take to be ready for when disaster strikes.
Step One: Identify what hazards are local to your community. This will help you to create emergency supply kits and outline evacuation or shelter in place plans for you and your family.
Step Two: Build an emergency supply kit and store it in an easy to access area. Having an emergency kit or ‘go bag’ ensures you will have enough provisions to keep you and your family healthy and safe until things return to normal.
Step Three: Create a well thought out evacuation plan for you and your family and practice it as often as possible to keep it fresh in your memory. This makes it easy to account for everyone in your family and any pets you may have.
Step One: Identify What Hazards Are Local to Your Community
By identifying the hazards in your community you’ll be better equipped to follow the remaining steps of building a supply kit and creating an evacuation plan for you and your family. The American Red Cross has created a handy map that identifies common natural disasters based on regions of the country. There are some disasters that are common in every region and others are only specific to certain regions. As we continue to dive into preparing for emergencies, we’ll identify specific things needed for unique disasters that only occur in certain areas. In the meantime, see where your residence falls on this map to help you understand which disasters you need to be prepared for.
Step Two: Build an Emergency Supply Kit and Store it in an Easy to Access Area
After you’ve identified which disasters are common to your area start building your emergency supply kit to accommodate those specific disasters. Below you’ll find a list of common items that should always be in your emergency kit.
Water. You’ll want to have at least one gallon of water per person, per day. If you are forced to evacuate your home, make sure to have enough water for three days. If you are to shelter in place, keep enough water to last for two weeks.
Non-perishable foods. Always keep a stash of non-perishable foods that don’t require a need for cooking. Similar to your water supply you’ll want to have enough non-perishable foods to last three days if you need to evacuate your home and enough for two weeks if you are to shelter in place.
Flashlight. Always keep a flashlight with extra batteries and extra bulbs. In case of a power outage, you’ll want to rely on a flashlight instead of a candle because it will last longer.
First aid kit. It’s always a great idea to keep a first aid kit whether there’s an emergency or not. Be sure to keep this in your home and in your car so if someone ever gets injured you can quickly remedy the issue.
Medications. If you take necessary medications, you’ll want to keep an extra supply of meds in your supply kit, at least enough to last you seven days.
Hygiene products. Toilet paper, wet wipes, deodorant, hand sanitizer, and bug spray are some great essential hygienic items to include in your kit. Having these items will keep you clean even if you are ever in a situation where there is no running water.
Batteries. Always keep an extra set of batteries to power anything that uses electricity. If there is ever a time where you are somewhere electricity is scarce, having battery operated devices and enough batteries to last a month will help you to navigate situations where electricity may be needed.
Blankets. Make sure to have an emergency blanket stored in your kit in case you are ever in a situation where you don’t have access to heat, especially if you live in areas where the climate drops below 40 degrees.
Manual can opener. Keeping a spare can opener that doesn’t require electricity will help you to eat your non-perishable food items should you not have access to heat or electricity.
Cards or board games. In the event your evacuation or shelter in place plan lasts longer than a few days, it’s good to keep a set of cards or board games to pass the time and keep your mind sharp.
Pet supplies. If you have pets, you’ll want to make sure you have an emergency supply kit for them. Usually keeping a week’s worth of food and water along with vaccination records and toys for entertainment is good to put in their kit.
It’s also a good idea to have the above items stored in your car with the additions of local maps, repair kits, jumper cables, and flares. Make sure you frequently check your emergency supply kit to rotate out items that have expired, additionally you’ll want to reevaluate your emergency supply kit once a year to ensure it still meets your needs.
Emergency supplies to always have on your person:
Personal identification documents
Mobile phone with extra battery and charger
Step Three: Create a Well Thought out Evacuation Plan
If you live in an area where natural disasters are common, it’s important to create a well thought out plan for you and your family, especially if you are an older adult. First ask yourself these questions: Do you rely on a caregiver for your basic needs? Do you struggle with mobility limitations? Do you have a reliable means of transportation? Do you have any physical disabilities? Being able to answer these questions can accurately help you create a plan that fits your needs and maintains your safety.
Then it’s time to implement your plan. The first thing you should do is contact your friends, family, and neighbors to establish a plan. Discuss things like how they will be able to assist you in an emergency and how to communicate when you are in need. It’s also a good idea to create a routine check-in system so you can respond to an emergency sooner rather than later. Additionally, keep an updated list of your emergency contacts in an easy to access area, that way if you are unable to communicate, someone else can contact your loved ones for you.
Next is to figure out how you will evacuate your home should you need to. Make a list of possible exit routes and be sure to keep your emergency supply kit near those exits so you can easily grab them on your way out. Once you’ve existed your home, establish a meeting place that’s easy to get to so your emergency contacts know where to find you.
If you are an older adult and require assistance with transportation, struggle with chronic health conditions, mobility limitations, hearing or vision problems and your support system is unable to tend to you immediately during an emergency, you can contact SMART911, CodeRed, your local county registry, or whichever other services emergency responders in your area use to provide immediate assistance.
For more tips on how to prepare for disasters and emergencies, be sure to check back next month for our next emergency preparedness blog where we’ll focus on a specific disaster and what to do if you’re caught in the middle. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when new content comes out!