How to Prepare for Natural Disasters October 30, 2017 – Posted in: Blog

 

Natural disasters are part of living on an active planet like ours. Since the start of the 20th century, these disasters have cost more than $7 trillion dollars and claimed more than 8 million lives. It can be hard to predict when and where these disasters will occur, which is why it is important to always be prepared.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare for natural disasters.

General Planning

The best way to prepare for a natural disaster is to have a plan in place for each type of disaster that is likely to occur in your area. If you live in the South East, for example, you should have Hurricane and Tornado plans. Families in the Midwest might have Tornado, Fire and Earthquake plans.

Start by establishing a meeting place for all family members during an emergency — especially if home isn’t safe — and finding multiple routes to that meeting place. Assign each family member a set of responsibilities for the emergency. One person could be designated as a contact person while another keeps track of family members and a third ensures supplies are ready, for example.

Practice your plan at least twice a year and have a designated emergency contact who lives outside the area that might be impacted. Finally, make sure at least one person in your emergency group knows CPR and first aid. Keep those certifications up-to-date!

Basic Emergency Kit

You should have an emergency kit ready to go in case you’re forced to evacuate or you’re stuck in your home. These kits should include:

  • Food — You need three days’ worth of nonperishable food for each person. Canned foods, dried foods and other non-perishables work well. Non-perishable snack foods like nuts and granola bars are a good choice, too.
  • Water — You will need at least one gallon of water per person, per day. If you’re evacuating, keep at least a three-day supply of water with you. If you’re staying home, store two weeks’ worth of water.
  • First aid kit — Keep a fully stocked first aid kit with you at all times. You never know when you’ll need it.
  • Radio — A battery or crank-powered radio can keep you in touch with the outside world if power and internet fail.
  • Cell phone chargers — If the power goes out, your cell phone is the best way to keep in touch as long as the towers stay standing. Keep it charged as long as possible. Battery backups and solar chargers can keep you connected. There’s even a camp stove that turns heat into electricity for charging phones and other devices.
  • Cash — ATMs and store credit card readers may not be working after the disaster, so cash is your only option. It’s recommended to have at least $1,000 in cash as part of your emergency kit.
  • Important documents — Keep track of all of your important documents like birth certificates, home deeds and car titles.

Pet Emergency Kit

Our furry family members need supplies, too! Keep Fluffy or Fido happy with their own emergency kit. Here’s what it should include:

  • A pet-friendly first aid kit or other medications or medical items they may need.
  • A harness, leash, pet carrier or crate. Many shelters are pet-friendly but require your pets to be crated while you’re there.
  • Food and water.
  • A photo of you and your pet in case you get separated.
  • Important documents like vaccine records and pet tags.

If you need to evacuate, call hotels ahead of time to see which ones are pet-friendly.

Watch vs. Warning

If you’re under a disaster watch, that means a disaster is possible. You should already have your emergency kit in place, but now is the time to finalize any last-minute preparations.

If you’re under a disaster warning, that means the disaster is happening or will happen soon. Seek shelter or evacuate — and be prepared for minute-to-minute changes.

Preparation: Earthquake

If you live in an area that’s prone to earthquakes, it’s important to know your evacuation route and places in the area where you could ride out the shakes if you needed to. In preparation, make sure you brace and bolt large furniture and appliances to wall studs. Make sure you know where your shutoff valves are for gas and water and have your home inspected to ensure it is secure to the foundation.

During an earthquake: drop, cover and hold on. If you’ve got a sturdy piece of furniture nearby, grab on. Otherwise, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck. Protect your head first, but protect the rest of your body whenever possible.

Preparation: Hurricanes and Floods

Tracking a hurricane is the best thing that you can do to keep you prepared. Watch local weather broadcasts or listen to the radio if the power is out. Know your evacuation plan and fill any available containers with clean drinking water before the storm hits. Keep your car’s gas tank full and turn off any propane tanks attached to the home.

Don’t fill your bathtub for drinking — lead from old pipes and tubs can leach into the water. This water is useful for flushing toilets, though, if your home’s water supply gets cut off.

During a flood, try to stay out of the flood water as much as possible. Move to higher ground and don’t try to drive, walk or swim through the flood waters. If you start to have water in your home, turn off your power at the breaker box to prevent damage and electrocution.

During a hurricane, board up your windows with plywood to prevent flying debris from damaging them.  If you’re in a designated evacuation zone, stay aware of the news and evacuate if the order is given.

If you live in a flood-prone area, be aware that your homeowner’s insurance may not cover flood damage. Make sure to invest in separate flood insurance if this is the case.

Preparation: Tornado

Tornados often spring up suddenly, leaving you with very little time to get to safety if you’re in their path. Before a storm, identify safe places in your home. Basements, storm cellars or rooms or hallways with no windows are the best places to ride out the storm. Don’t stay in a mobile home if you’re under a tornado warning. A vehicle is safer than a mobile home during a tornado.

Watch your local weather for signs of a tornado. These could include dark or green clouds, wall clouds or hail. Listen to your local weather station on the television or radio as well.

If you have small children, consider practicing tornado drills so everyone in the family knows what to do if there is a tornado warning.

In the event of a tornado, seek shelter as soon as possible. Keep your head below any windows and cover yourself with your hands or a blanket to protect against any flying debris.

Preparation: Winter Storm

Winter storms may be easier to predict than tornados or earthquakes, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Before it starts to get cold, take the time to winterize your vehicle and get your emergency plan in place. Radio or weather stations will be your best source of information.

In case of power loss, ensure that you have alternative heat sources and that these are in good working order. Keep your home’s water running at a trickle to keep the pipes from freezing. Finally, dress in several layers of warm lightweight clothing so you can adjust as needed to stay warm or cool. Waterproof boots can also help keep your feet warm and dry.

During the storm, stay inside as much as possible and make sure you eat regularly and stay hydrated. If you’re using a generator, do everything you can to conserve fuel by covering windows at night, closing off unused rooms and keeping your thermostat as low as possible.

If you’re caught outdoors in a winter storm, keep your mouth covered to protect your lungs from the cold air. Importantly, make sure you’re aware of the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. If possible, use public transportation to get where you’re going. If you’re using your car, keep extra warm clothing in the trunk along with things like sand or cat litter for tire traction, de-icing spray and a windshield scraper.

After the disaster has passed, make sure you let your friends and family know you’re safe. Make a phone call, update social media or register for the American Red Cross Safe and Well Website so everyone knows you and your family made it through okay.