Lives can be turned upside down by natural disasters, from earthquakes and fires to hurricanes and tornadoes — as well as terrorist attacks and other human-caused disasters. Your best defense is emergency preparedness — having a plan and knowing the steps to take so that you and your family will be ready if disaster strikes.
Has your family put these emergency preparedness basics in place?
- Learn evacuation routes. Contact your local officials and find out how you should get out of your area if you need to.
- Have a family emergency plan. Sit down and talk about the emergencies that are most likely to happen in your area. Determine how your family will react in each situation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has tools to help you put together an emergency preparedness plan.
- Assemble an emergency kit. In a tote or other easy-to-carry bag, store copies of important documents such as birth certificates, photo identification, medical cards, cash and extra checks, spare keys, a list of important phone numbers, an extra supply of prescription medications, a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food (don’t forget pet food), a first aid kit, a flashlight, matches, blankets, and changes of clothing.
- Keep your gas tank filled. Since you will likely need your automobile to evacuate your area, it is a good rule of thumb to always refill your gas tank when it dips below half.
7 Disasters and the Steps You Should Take
Here are emergency preparedness specifics for each of the following types of disasters:
- Earthquake. “Drop, take cover, and hold on.” This means you should drop to the ground, get under a sturdy shelter, maybe a desk or table, and hold on until the ground stops shaking. When the earthquake is over, follow the instructions of local authorities and put your family’s emergency plan into place.
- Explosion. Take shelter under a desk or table during the explosion, and exit the building as soon as possible once it’s over. Avoid using elevators and be careful of hot doors, since there may be fire on the other side.
- Fire evacuation. Have a fire evacuation plan for your family with multiple routes of escape from all rooms of the house. If you live in a multi-level home, consider installing escape ladders in the upper levels. If a fire occurs, get out immediately. Do not put yourself in danger by placing a phone call or gathering your valuables.
- Flood. Listen to the TV or radio for information on where the flooding is happening. In the case of a flood warning in your area, you may be advised to evacuate; in this case, do so immediately. If you are under a flash flood warning, seek higher ground immediately.
- Hurricane. If you live in a coastal area, have a hurricane plan in place with supplies to cover your home’s windows and secure outdoor objects. If a hurricane is approaching, listen to a local TV or radio station to stay informed, and be prepared to evacuate. Before you leave your home, remember to turn off your utilities and propane tanks as recommended.
- Terrorist attack. Watch TV, listen to the radio, and check online news sources to determine how authorities suggest you react. If you are in immediate danger, quickly leave the area and contact local authorities to find out what you should do next.
- Tornado. You should be prepared for a tornado no matter where you live. In a tornado situation, take shelter in a basement, storm cellar, or the most interior room of your home. Stay away from windows, doors, and exterior walls. If you are outside and cannot get to shelter, lie flat in a ditch or other low location.
By planning and practicing with your family about what you will do and where you will go in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency, you will increase your chances of safety.