Photo: American Red Cross
No one wants to think about disasters, but with September designated as National Preparedness Month, this is a good time to focus on organizing your family to face a number of possibilities - fire, flood, storms, earthquakes, terrorist actions and more. Having a plan will help you and your family come through a disaster, either natural or man-made, safely and with fewer disruptions.
First, be sure you know where you'll get information in the event of a disaster. Contact your local emergency management agency (visit the Federal Emergency Management Association website for a directory of state organizations) to learn how you will be notified for each kind of disaster. Ask about alert and warning systems for workplace, schools and other locations and keep this information with your emergency kit. Depending upon the nature of the emergency and your circumstances, one of the first important decisions is whether to stay where you are or evacuate. You should prepare for both possibilities in case of disaster.
Make a Plan
It's easy to overlook important details when your family is planning for a disaster, and you're even more likely to do so in the event of an emergency. A family disaster plan is vital when preparing for a possible disaster. Fortunately, you don't have to guess about what information to include or worry that you've forgotten something important. Download a copy of the Family Emergency Plan from Ready.gov and keep it in a safe place so that you know what to do.
Try to make planning fun and interesting for kids. Review your family emergency plan regularly during a family meeting or dinner. Ask children to discuss their concerns and worries and be sure they understand that there are different types of emergencies, which require different responses. Take them to your designated "meeting spots" so they'll be familiar. The Ready Kids coloring and activity book is a downloadable 16-page kid-friendly guide to making an emergency kit, developing a family emergency plan and helping kids feel ready to deal with unexpected. There's also a section featuring Flat Stanley and Flat Stella, book characters familiar to young readers. The Ready Kids section at www.ready.gov includes a number of resources for parents and teachers.
Senior citizens can also take some basic steps to be prepared for emergencies before they happen. A network of neighbors, relatives and friends is important for support - from helping to manage medication to providing transportation to an emergency shelter. Keep in mind that regular caregivers may not be available, so make sure that everyone in your support network is aware of any special needs and knows how to operate necessary equipment.
According to FEMA, seniors should keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, food for service animals and any other items you might need. Keep a list of the type and model numbers of the medical devices you require. Be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration. Make arrangements for any assistance to get to a shelter.
For more information, read Ready.gov's Preparing Makes Sense For Older Americans or visit the Red Cross website.
Build a Kit
Whether the situation calls for you to evacuate or shelter in place, you'll need a well-stocked emergency kit as part of your family disaster plan. A basic emergency kit should include these Items:
Water - one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio, plus extra batteries
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Whistle to signal for help
Dust mask, plastic sheeting and duct tape to filter contaminated air
Wrench and/or pliers to turn off utilities
Manual can opener for food
Store food in tightly closed containers in a cool, dry place. Change food and water every six months. Update your kit as your family needs change, adding and removing items such as baby food and formula as needed. Keep your disaster kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as an unused trash can, large backpack or duffel bag.
Developing your family plan for disaster is critical to ensuring that all family members are prepared for any emergency.