Tuesday, October 10, 2017

20 (Free) Ways to Prepare for a Disaster

There have been so many disasters lately!  From hurricanes to mass shootings to wildfires...it seems as if we have had a decade's worth of disasters all in the course of a year or so.  Here are some free ways to prepare for a disaster:

  1. Take advantage of any free classes offered in your community.  Many community organizations (fire departments, hospitals, Red Cross, etc) offer free classes in the community to teach skills that would be useful during a disaster such as first aid, AED, CPR, earthquake preparedness, hurricane preparedness, and other similar classes.  
  2. Take advantage of free disaster preparedness item giveaways in your community.  Again, community organizations often offer free things to help avert a disaster like the fire department giving away free smoke detectors, the hospital giving free child car seats to new parents, the county offering free home earthquake preparedness evaluations for your home, etc.
  3. Develop a communication plan with your family.  If you are separated from your family during a disaster, it is a good idea to pre-plan a couple of friends or family members everyone can call to report that they are OK.  Sometimes phone calls and texts don't go through in the immediate area of a disaster so it is useful to call a family contact who lives outside of the disaster area to check in and relay messages to family members.
  4. Back up all of your important documents and pictures onto your computer and from your computer to a thumb drive.  Instead of evacuating with boxes and boxes of pictures and documents, you can ensure you have all of these important items on one small thumb drive.  If you don't have a scanner, libraries often have free scanners you can use to do this.
  5. Make an evacuation plan.  In case you are given a few hours to grab what you can and go, you need to have an evacuation plan already in place so you will know the best routes to leave your area.  Check out Google maps or other map programs on your computer and determine the best ways to leave your area.  Then drive these routes and check out anything that may make these routes inaccessible during a disaster (like overpasses that could crumble onto the roadway during and earthquake).  Part of your evacuation plan should also be also be a checklist of items you need to toss in the car at the last minute so you don't forget anything important when you leave.
  6. Utilize the free resources of the internet to prepare for a disaster.  Find out what kinds of disasters are most likely in your area.  Read various websites to determine the best way to prepare for these likely disasters.  Google around and see if there are any preparedness classes in your area.  Read news articles about how people who have already went through such a disaster prepared and survived and take notes.
  7. Attend community events that focus on preparedness.  Our city often has free vaccination clinics, preparedness fairs, fire department tours, and other events to show community members what types of resources are available in the city and provide disaster preparedness resources to help citizens prepare for a disaster.
  8. Carry things in your car that could be used during a disaster.  We always have a spare blanket in our car, a case of bottled water, some granola bars, a basic first aid kit, some spare tools from our workshop, etc.  All of which would be useful during a disaster.
  9. Download apps to your cell phone which would be useful during a disaster.  From Facebook to reddit to local news apps to weather apps to emergency alert apps to a Waze app...there are dozens and dozens of free apps that can help you during an emergency.
  10. Use social media to your advantage during an emergency.  If you need help or information during an emergency, you can follow various social media accounts on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc that you can use to ask questions, ask for help, and receive important information (during the shooting in Las Vegas I got a lot of information from the police Facebook and Twitter accounts, I asked questions from our local Emergency Incident Facebook page, and messages for donations of food and water for the first responders and shooting victims were sent far and wide over social media).
  11. Know what to expect (and what to do) during a disaster by reading your work's disaster plan as well as your kid's school's disaster plan.  For further reading you can also read your community's official disaster and mass casualty incident plans.
  12. Learn how to handle basic disasters in your home.  Everyone should know how and when to turn off the natural gas line to your home as well as the main electricity breaker and the water main coming into your home.  Everyone should know how to evacuate your home from each room, both upstairs and down, what to do if there is a fire, what to do if there is a medical emergency, and how to prevent break ins and thefts from your home.
  13. Be physically fit.  This can be as simple as good food choices and some daily exercise and stretching.  If a disaster happens where you need to haul yourself out of an upstairs window, run from an attacker, or duck and cover during an earthquake, all of these things are easier and safer to do if you are in good physical condition.
  14. Determine ahead of time where you can evacuate to if needed.  Ideally you will have friends or family you can stay with across town, across the state, and across the country depending on how wide-spread the disaster is.  Of course you would offer the same shelter to your friends and relatives in return as part of their evacuation plan.
  15. Always carry a useful EDC (everyday carry) bag.  For ladies it's our purses for men it might be a backpack or messenger bag.  There are a lot of things you can carry with you on a daily basis that would be useful during a disaster such as a tampon (for its usual purpose as well as stopping bleeding from a gun shot), a condom (for its usual purpose as well as for a make-shift tourniquet), bottle of water, matches, bandanna, etc.
  16. Make a bug out bag.  A bug out bag is a backpack full of useful items that you can grab and take with you during an emergency.  It should include a change of clothes, toiletries, emergency supplies (tarp, para cord, matches, etc), some cash, a couple bottles of water, some food...basically everything you would need if you had to evacuate and go stay at a hotel for a few days.  With the bag already packed and ready to go, you don't need to put such a bag together when you are only given minutes to evacuate.
  17. Volunteer in your community.  There are many community organizations that provide free training (and often free food and snacks!) to volunteers who help out by becoming a volunteer EMT, volunteer with the Red Cross or Search and Rescue, volunteer with the fire department or hospital, etc.
  18. Know what services are available in your community during and after a disaster.  Where are your local disaster shelters?  What services will FEMA offer after a disaster?  Did you know the FBI, as well as many communities, have a crime victims assistance center which offers a range of services and help to victims of crime?
  19. Do some things to earn money to help bulk up your emergency fund.  Have a garage sale, take in some recycling, sell some unneeded stuff on ebay, apply for class action refunds...any extra money you can earn can go into your emergency fund for use during a disaster.
  20. Decide ahead of time how to help special needs family members during a disaster.  If anyone in your family needs prescription meds, see if they can get 90-day refills instead of 30-day refills so they always have extra medication on hand.  If you have pets, pack a bug out bag for them with extra pet food, a water dish, a blanket, etc.  Same with babies and toddlers; pack their bug out bags with any special items they may need (extra diapers, toys, etc).  For family members with serious medical issues, talk to their doctor about what they should do to prepare for a disaster (ie: people who need regular dialysis, people who are bed-ridden, etc).

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