What would you do if high winds took out all your phone service? An earthquake cut your water, gas or electricity? Or, you had to leave your home on a moment's notice?
Let's hope you never see floodwater raging toward your front door or have to race from a blazing fire. But planning ahead for natural disasters is important. If the unthinkable ever strikes, disaster planning can help keep your family safe and make recovery easier.
No matter where you live, natural disaster can strike in one form or another. Flooding, fires or destructive high winds have hit every state in the U.S., and 41 states are at earthquake risk, notes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
These disaster preparedness tips from FEMA and the American Red Cross can help you prepare for any natural disaster:
- Know Your Hazards: What disasters are most common where you live? What is the best way to prepare for them? Contact your local Red Cross chapter or emergency management office for info and advice before disaster strikes.
- Alt=Disaster Prevention Tips for the HomeDevelop Disaster Plans: Find out about disaster plans where you work, at your children's school or other places your family spends time. Then hold a family meeting and create your own plan. It should include evacuation routes from your house and two meeting places: one right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and the other in another town. Make sure your family knows the phone number and address. If possible, also include the number and address of a friend or family contact outside your state because it's sometimes easier to make long distance calls during an emergency. Family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Your disaster plan should also include how to care for pets, elderly relatives or other special needs.
- Practice Disaster Emergency Drills: Show each family member how to turn off water, gas and electricity at the main switches. Make sure everyone knows emergency medical and police numbers. Learn how to use the fire extinguisher. Stock emergency supplies, including at least a gallon of clean water per person, and change them every six months.
- Make a Household Contents Inventory: Make a visual or written record of all your household possessions, including any model and serial numbers. Store a copy of this record in a fireproof or safety deposit box.
If disaster actually strikes, stay calm, reassure your family, and follow your disaster preparedness plan. If you must leave your home and have time, take the following in a bag or large container: flashlight and battery-powered radio with extra batteries, first aid kit, prescriptions, eyeglasses, at least a gallon of water and change of clothes per person, nonperishable foods, sleeping bag, area maps, checkbook, cash, credit cards, driver's license or other ID, insurance policies, wills, deeds and other important papers.