To get started, here are ten simple, and cheap, ways you can prepare for a disaster:
- Make sure you have working smoke detectors with fresh batteries. People are much more likely to die in a fire than in a tsunami, earthquake, or hurricane. Something as simple and cheap as a smoke detector can save the lives of you and your family. Note that some fire departments provide these free of charge.
- Learn CPR and first aid. Another way someone is more likely to die (considering that cardiac disease is THE leading cause of death in the US) is due to heart attack. The way to be prepared for this, and be able to save a life, is to know CPR, AED use, and basic first aid. The best part is that these classes are often offered free of charge at local fire departments, hospitals, and the Red Cross.
- Do you have enough food stored to eat for a week during a disaster? You don't need fancy MREs and high tech freeze-dried foods which cost a whole lot. Rather, you can take $21 down to your local grocery store, buy 21 cans of soup, and there you have your food for a week. Simple.
- Another critical item you need to be prepared for a disaster is water. You can live quite a long time without food but everyone needs water within a couple of days or they will die. Putting aside one gallon of water per person per day for a week is simple and cheap. Five gallon water containers can be purchased at Walmart for a couple of dollars each and there you have your emergency water supply. Just be sure to rotate the water regularly.
- One of people's first needs after a disaster is information. After many disasters, power is out, thus no TV, no internet, and no charging your iPhone. The remedy? A cheap AM/FM radio can be your connection to the outside world after a disaster and what is even better is the fact that a simple radio is actually very inexpensive.
- A first aid kit can be bought as one big kit or you can make your own. This is another low cost item that can offer big dividends after a disaster (or even during a particularly bad cold and flu season).
- Flashlights (and batteries) are a must have during a disaster. Even a simple power outage can be a disaster if your house is pitch black and you have no source of light. Flashlights are simple, cheap items that you can buy for a couple of dollars each. Just make sure you buy one for each family member--having five people share one flashlight would be a disaster in itself.
- Ten items from the dollar store that will help you out during a disaster: a whistle, a pair of work gloves, a breaker bar, a dust mask, a manual can opener, a bottle of bleach for water purification, a box of matches, a packet of moist towelettes, duct tape, big plastic garbage bags.
- An emergency evacuation bag is important. Many times people need to evacuate with only the clothes on their backs (think wild fires, chemical spills, etc). A $10 backpack from Walmart into which you put a change of clothes and toiletries can make a simple evacuation bag that you can keep at the ready in a downstairs closet in case you must leave at a moment's notice.
- Your spare time is a valuable (and free) commodity for emergency planning. If you take the time to make an emergency communications plan, practice regular fire drills with the family, practice stop, drop, and hold earthquake drills with the kids, make back up copies of your computer files and important papers, and do a bit of research (like finding out what your community's emergency sirens sound like, where the closest evacuation shelter is, or what your children's school emergency plan is) you will be much more prepared than the average person in the event of an emergency.
Disaster preparedness doesn't have to be an expensive, overwhelming task. Simple steps, done regularly, can get you and your family prepared in no time and at very low cost.