Disasters happen without warning. There isn’t time to prepare when something goes wrong. Planning ahead for your family can make it easier to find each other and survive. Make a family disaster preparedness plan so you know what to do, and make a kit to ensure you have what you need.
Making a Plan
First, know what the likely disasters in your area are so you can plan for them. More information on many types of disasters, including specific natural disasters, technological hazards, and terrorist hazards can be found at www.ready.gov.
Next, make sure you have a way to find your family. Plan a couple meeting locations. One should be outside your home in case of a home emergency. Another should be out of town. Every member of your family should know how to reach your out of town contact. Printable contact information cards are located at www.ready.gov. These can be kept in a purse, wallet, or backpack so that your whole family always has this information close.
Know what to do if a disaster happens while you are away from home. Keep supplies, like water, a first aid kit, and emergency food items, in your vehicles. Learn evacuation locations for places your family goes often, like work or school. If your family is separated, it may be easier to send texts or emails due to the high phone call volume that takes place during emergency events.
Making a Kit
While making a preparedness kit, consider your family’s needs and preferences. Choose a normal day for your family and pay attention to each item you use. Then decide what would be needed during a disaster. A list of recommended items can be found at www.redcross.org. Keep the kit in a container, waterproof and sealed if possible, so that you can transport it.
Communication – Have an extra cell phone charger or hand powered charger available. Have copies of contact information in the kit.
Staying Warm – Pack a change of clothes for each person as well as shoes suitable for walking and cold weather. Include blankets, sleeping bags, or fleece fabric. While it won’t provide as much heat as a fuel powered heater, a tea light heater can be made with candles and flower pots. Instructions available on www.instructables.com.
Light – Flashlights and extra batteries, or hand powered flashlights, are important in power outages. You can also consider having candles and matches in a waterproof container.
Food and Water – Stock a gallon of water per family member per day. Have a three day supply available if you need to evacuate and a two week supply for an emergency in which you would need to remain in your home. Good emergency foods are items that aren’t perishable and don’t require cooking. Consider granola bars, canned vegetables and meat, dried foods, nuts, and peanut butter as options. You may also want paper plates, cups, and hand sanitizer or wipes.
Special Family Needs – Consider if a member of your family has medical, allergy, or food needs. Have a seven day supply of any medications or medical supplies. A first aid kit is an important item as well. Young children may need different food than adults. Plan to have activities, games, or books for children. The fleece fabric can also be used as a clean place to change diapers or for children to play.
Important Documents – Keep a waterproof document container up to date with medical records, social security cards, bank information, and any other documentation that would be difficult to replace.
Nothing is going to make surviving a disaster easy. However, having a plan can relieve stress and make it easier to reconnect. Keeping your kit stocked will provide you with what you need to take care of your family. Some planning ahead now can help you be ready to deal with the unexpected.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lee Flynn is a freelance writer and expert in emergency food preparedness and food storage.