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If Disaster Strikes ...
Disaster can take many forms, from a terrorist attack to a natural disaster such as flood, tornado, hurricane or fire. When disaster strikes, the chances of survival for you and your family probably depend on how well you have prepared. The government’s Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the American Red Cross have published a booklet that can help you be ready for the worst.
FEMA and the Red Cross say there are four steps to developing an emergency plan: Get informed, make a plan, put together a kit, and maintain your plan and kit.
Your local FEMA or Red Cross office can give you information about the kinds of natural disasters that are most likely to occur in your area. They also can tell you about the plans your community has made for responding to disasters, including the warning systems used in your area.
Make a Plan
Making a plan should be a family effort, involving everyone old enough to understand. First, decide on an out-of-town contact, the person everyone will call after a disaster. This contact should not be local because anyone in your area could be affected by the disaster, too. Also, it often is easier to make a long-distance phone call than a local call in a disaster area. Everyone in your family should memorize the phone number of this person. And don’t forget to inform your emergency contact, so he or she will be expecting calls.
Next, choose meeting places for your family, in case you are in different locations or get separated during the disaster. You should choose a place right outside your home to use if you have to evacuate in a fire or other sudden emergency that affects only your home. You also should choose a place away from your neighborhood, in case the whole area is affected. Again, make sure everyone knows these places and understands the need to get there as soon as possible.
Make a family communication plan, including contact information for everyone in your family, and your out-of-town contact. Also include the phone numbers and addresses of places where family members regularly are, such as work or school
Identify escape routes from your home. Have more than one route, and make sure everyone knows how to get out. If you have children, elderly or disabled family members, or pets, know how you are going to help them escape from the house in an emergency. Know how to turn off the water, electricity and gas to your house, and make sure your house has smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Put Together an Emergency Kit
You need an emergency kit for your home and for your car. Your home kit should include:
A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food. Don’t forget a can opener or other means for opening the food, as well as any kitchen utensils you need.
A portable, battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries for both.
A first aid kit and a basic first aid manual. Also, if people in your family have medical needs, such as prescriptions, include extra supplies.
Hygiene items, such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
Matches in a waterproof container.
Copies of your identification and credit cards.
Cash, including coins.
Extra clothes and blankets.
If you have babies, small children or pets, include diapers, formula and pet food, as needed.
Leave your home disaster kit near the main exit from your house, and make sure everyone knows where it is.
Then, put together a kit for your car. That kit should include:
A flashlight, extra batteries and maps.
A first aid kit and manual.
A basic road emergency kit, including a tire repair kit, jumper cables, an air pump and flares.
A white distress flag.
Bottled water and granola bars or other non-perishable food.
Seasonal items, such as blankets and warm clothes in the winter, and sunscreen in the summer.
Maintain Your Plan and Your Kits
Your work is not done once you have drawn up a plan and put together your house and car kits. You need to keep everything up to date.
Periodically review your plan to make sure that phone numbers, addresses and other information are current. And check your kits to make sure everything is still in working order. Pay special attention to whether the batteries still work, and whether food and prescriptions are past their expiration dates.
You can’t guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to you and your family. But you can make sure that you are ready, in case disaster strikes.