September is National Preparedness Month in the United States. It's a month to promote awareness of and plan for possible natural and community disasters. The timing of it couldn't be better, too, because it's the peak of hurricane season for cities and towns along the Atlantic Ocean. We’ve all seen the devastating effects of hurricanes, storms, and natural disasters throughout the year and across the country. And National Preparedness Month serves as a good reminder of how important it is to have supplies and a household emergency plan in case disaster strikes.
So in honor of National Preparedness Month, we’ve written a guide for our readers that walks through some useful emergency planning tips. This includes how to build and set aside an emergency kit, how to plan for an emergency, and other things you can do to feel prepared for extreme weather or community events.
When Disaster Strikes
A community emergency is an event that is either extreme weather, a natural disaster, social unrest, or any other disaster that causes damage, stops normal life, can be life-threatening, and disturbs your access to resources that you need on a daily basis. This can mean a disruption in electricity, heat, food, medical care, and even a safe place to stay. Events like blizzards can cut off the power, water, heat, and access to transportation. Hurricanes often cause flooding, damage, and can also cut off the power, water, and access to transportation. Drought and fires can cause extreme damage, unbreathable air, loss of power, and lack of access to transportation. So, familiarize yourself with the weather patterns in your area to prepare for whatever is likely to come your way.
How to Build an Emergency Kit
In case of a disaster or disturbance to your normal access to resources, you'll want an emergency kit. This can include food, water, light, fire, fuel, warmth, medical supplies, and anything you may need in case of losing access to these fundamental needs at any point in time. It’s best to prepare supplies that can last you at least a week, as one never knows when rescue will arrive or normalcy will return. The best kits include:
- Drinking water: at least one gallon per day person.
- Non-perishable foods: canned and easy-to-prepare items work best for this.
- Flashlights and lanterns
- Extra batteries and solar chargers for devices
- Family-sized first aid kit plus any medications needed
- Wrench, pliers, and multi-purpose tools such as pocket knives
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (such as passports, ID cards, medication information, birth certificates, licenses, etc.)
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Bleach, toilet paper, towelettes, and garbage bags for sanitation.
- Emergency blankets that are designed to keep you warm, regular blankets, and sleeping bags
- Maps of your region
- Pet supplies and baby supplies, if applicable
- Matches, lighters, and fire starters
- Rain gear and gloves
- Extra clothing, shoes, and jackets
- Surgical masks or dust masks (especially in areas affected by wildfires)
- Duct tape, scissors, and a plastic tarp to shelter in place
While this may seem like a hefty list, depending on what disasters your area is prone to, some of these items could save your life. Keep them all stored and boxed away in a safe and dry place that is easy to access. When staying alert about incoming possible weather events or fires, it’s good to pull this box out to have on hand just in case. Don’t tuck the box too far away because some disasters, such as earthquakes or civil unrest, can happen quite suddenly.
Forming an Emergency Plan
Emergency Action Plans are pretty standard in public, municipal, or office buildings. Make one for your home and household to ensure that your family knows what to do in the case of an emergency. In moments of urgency, it can be difficult to make quick decisions, and every second counts, so it’s best to form this emergency plan ahead of time. Here are the steps for creating an effective action plan:
- Discuss with your family or household members how to respond or prepare for different types of emergencies that are likely to happen in your area. Familiarize yourself with disasters common to your area. Think about emergencies that may require you to shelter in place versus emergencies that may require evacuation.
- Plan on what to do in case you are separated during an emergency. Choose two places to meet up: one near your home and one outside your neighborhood, depending on the kind of emergency. Plan on evacuation routes and destinations in case you have to evacuate. Finally, identify emergency contacts and determine how you might reach loved ones to let them know you’re safe.
- Plan for those in your home with special needs. This could be the elderly, disabled, pets, or children. Your emergency plan should include these groups too.
- Questions to guide writing your Emergency Action Plan: How will I receive alerts and warnings? What is my shelter plan? What is the evacuation route? What is my household/family communication plan? Where is the emergency preparedness kit? What specific needs are required by members of my household?
Other Ways to Prepare
There are also other extra ways to prepare for an emergency in your community. Sign up for first responder classes or first aid training to be of assistance in your community if disaster hits. It’s good to have some training to be better prepared in emergencies and more able to stay calm in stressful environments. This National Preparedness Month, be sure that you’ve got all the pieces in place to be prepared in case disaster strikes. An emergency can happen in a moment, so it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.