Emergency preparedness

In recent years, the frequency and significance of natural disasters and weather related emergencies have increased. These events can cause catastrophic destruction to your property and wreak havoc on your finances. In fact, damage from tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, drought, extreme heat, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, wildfires, hailstorms, ice, freezing temperatures, and other severe weather that occurred in 2017 have been estimated at over $300B in the United States alone*. It is important to stay informed about what might happen and know what types of emergencies are likely to affect your region.

While you can’t always predict what will happen and when, there are some things that you can do to prepare for the unexpected: create a plan for you and your family, take precautions to prepare for emergencies, and protect your property and finances. Take the time now to get yourself and your family ready. Be prepared to adapt this information to your personal circumstances and always follow the advice of local emergency officials.

PLAN

Develop a personal emergency plan by collecting important information about family members and their needs, including names, addresses, and phone numbers of medical facilities, schools, doctors, and service providers. Storing these important names and numbers in your cell phone will help you have contact information readily available. Planning in advance can help ensure you know what to do in an emergency.

  • Learn about community warning systems and pay attention to weather reports. Know your local evacuation routes. Phone lines may be down, consider signing up for weather alerts via text messages and social media for important information.
  • Develop a buddy system. Plan with neighbors, friends, or relatives.
  • Consider each family member’s needs, including medication. If you are responsible for an aging parent, very young child or someone with a disability, consider how their needs will be met in case of an emergency.
  • Store the plan in a central location that everyone can access. Keep important documents in a safe place and create a password protected digital copy. Consider using a cloud storage or other web-based and password protected option so you can access your information from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Be prepared to assess the situation and determine where you can go and when. Have a plan of where to meet if you are separated. You may want to share your plan with a friend or family member that lives in another area so they can serve as a resource should you need help or others are looking for you. Be sure your out-of-town friend or family member also knows the meeting location if you are separated from others.
  • If you have pets: If you must evacuate, take your pets with you. If you have to go to a public shelter, pets may not be allowed so be sure to explore facilities in your area that may be viable options for you and your pets. You may also want to consider family or friends outside of your immediate area that may be willing to take in you, your family, and pets.
  • Have a “Pet Inside” sticker for your home doors and windows that includes information on the number and type of pets in the home to alert firefighters and other rescue workers.

PREPARE

Once you have a personal emergency plan developed that fits your needs and those of your family, consider what you will need in case of emergency. Plan in advance what you will do in an emergency. Use common sense and whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and ensure your family’s safety during an emergency. Having a supply kit will be useful in case of emergency and many of the items can be used to alert emergency responders.

Consider the following items in your emergency supply kit for all of your family members, including pets:

  • Water for your family and pets
  • Food for at least 3 days in airtight, waterproof containers
  • Flashlight, fire extinguisher and whistle
  • Extra batteries, charging devices for phones and other critical equipment
  • Medicines and medical records
  • First aid kit
  • Important documents
  • Familiar items for children and pets to help reduce the stress
  • Disinfectant spray and wipes, trash bags, paper towels, and other items to satisfy sanitation needs

Practice your plan, including evacuating and have regular discussions with family and friends about your plan and strategy to get to safety. Once alerted that a storm or other event is impending, check to make sure your car is in working order but only drive if safe to do so. Consider storing one of your kits in your car, as appropriate, should you need to evacuate quickly.

Another option to consider is to create a simple “go kit” that includes a battery-powered radio, medications, records you may need, food, water, and comfort items if you have to shelter in place or evacuate for a few hours or days.

PROTECT

First and foremost, be careful. Before the event, secure your home, including windows, roof, soffits, and other openings. Don’t hesitate when it’s time to leave and be sure that you follow evacuation and other shelter orders for the safety of you, your family, and first responders.

  • Listen to TV, radio, and follow social media to stay current on any updates
  • Know your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, and the location of emergency shelters
  • If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local evacuation route or routes to take and have a plan for where you can stay

Once you are safe and the event has passed, you will want to document any damage as soon as it is safe to do so. You will likely want to consult/review your insurance policies.

  • Check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready.gov site and consider using the Family Communications Plan
  • Ensure that your cell phone is fully charged
  • Be sure important numbers are in your phone
  • Follow the advice of local emergency officials and monitor local conditions regularly
  • Ensure that you have cash on hand

*CNN 2017 Costliest Disasters