When people talk about preparing for disaster, this is usually the topic they are thinking about--natural and man-made disasters such as an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, major winter storm, flooding, etc. Fortunately, these things don't happen often but when they do, you need to be prepared ahead of time. Here's how:
- Always keep enough food, bottled water, and other important items stored in your home for use in an emergency. If you can't get out or all of the stores in the area are closed for an extended period, this is what you will have to live on until things get back to normal. (Note: be sure to include items such as medications, baby formula, baby diapers, adult diapers, pet food, and any other specialized items that you can't live without).
- Review your insurance coverages. Many people are surprised to find that their home and auto insurance won't cover things like floods, hurricane damage, earthquake damage, etc. Be sure that your insurance covers these things and/or get specialized riders for natural disasters that are common to your area such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
- Have a selection of emergency items in your home for use before, during, and after a disaster. These would include but aren't limited to: NOAA radio, wrench to turn off the gas, a flashlight for each family member, extra batteries, matches, camping gear, a first aid kit, etc.
- During certain disasters, you may have to evacuate so each member of the family should have their own bag of emergency gear that they can grab and go with only a few moment's notice. This bag should include a change of clothes, shoes, food, water, toiletry kit, etc.
- Know what the most likely disasters are in your area and in the areas you are visiting. Right after we arrived in Atlanta, there were tornado warnings blasting across the TV screen. We had no idea where we were in relation to the warnings and we had no idea what to do if a tornado was coming our way since these are virtually unheard of in Seattle. A little bit of Googling will give you pages and pages of information on how to prepare for disasters that are likely to hit your area and what to do during and after such disasters.
- Get in the disaster knowledge loop so you will receive warnings of possible disasters that are heading your way. This can be done in a number of ways. Our local Department of Emergency Management has a place on their website where people in the area can sign up for email/text/phone call warnings that are sent out when a disaster is imminent. You can also sign up here for alerts and warnings. You may also want to bookmark websites that would be useful during disasters that are likely in your area such as this and this.
- Hold regular practices with your family. These should include fire drills, lockdown drills, communication planning and drills, earthquake drills, tornado drills, etc. Plans and ideas for holding these drills can be found by Googling these topics.
- Plan for a disaster. Do you have a plan for who would stay with your kids if you can't get home? A plan for helping out elderly neighbors and relatives after a disaster? A plan for sheltering outside if your home becomes unlivable? A plan for your pets if you need to evacuate? Think of a variety of disaster scenarios then think of how you would react in those situations.
- Learn skills that would be useful during a disaster. Many communities have first aid classes for the public, HAM radio clubs offer lots of info and classes on using these radios during a disaster, your local Search and Rescue generally needs volunteers and provides excellent training for how to respond after a disaster, and even simple skills such as fishing, hunting, foraging for wild food, and growing your own garden can be very useful in the event of a major disaster.
- Learn about your community. It is a good idea to find out ahead of time: where your community disaster shelters are, where the evacuation routes out of your city are, where there are alternative sources of water that you could use after a disaster (be sure to know how to purify it!), where local sources of food are (ie: parks that have fruit or nut trees), what tsunami or tornado warnings sound like if these are available in your community, etc.