Natural Disaster Preparation: Will You Be Ready?

Throughout history, natural disasters have wreaked havoc on families, homes, communities, and even entire nations. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), every state in the country has been hit by flooding, fires, or destructive high winds. There are also 41 states that have a significant earthquake hazard.

Advanced planning and preparation can be the key to a quick response and a quick, safe recovery if you happen to face a natural disaster.

First Aid Supplies

In the case of a natural disaster, or any home emergency, it is important to have basic emergency and first aid supplies readily available, and every family member should know where these supplies are located and how to use them. These supplies should include:

  • Prescription and other OTC medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, anti-diarrhea medication, anti-nausea medication, cold medicine, throat lozenges, etc.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First aid instruction book
  • Blankets and sheets
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Assorted bandages
  • Small, sharp scissors
  • Instant ice pack
  • Adhesive tape
  • Absorbent cotton balls
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Water purification tablets
  • Small bottle of bleach
  • Multipurpose knife/tool
  • Large and small plastic bags

These items should be stored in a durable, waterproof container. Update items annually as some, such as medications, may expire.

Develop a Family Emergency Plan

Your family members should all be prepared to respond to a natural disaster. Take time to discuss and practice for emergency situations. Teach responsible family members how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity. Make sure your children know how to safely exit your home. Designate a gathering place near your home as well as another meeting place in the occasion that you are separated.

Knowledge of first aid procedures can be invaluable. The Red Cross chapter in your community can assist you in finding a helpful class for your family. FEMA also has some material to assist children in learning more about disaster preparedness.

Preparing your Home

  • Consult your local building authority for the base flood elevation in your area, and determine whether your home is in a Special Flood Hazard Area.
  • Secure large appliances, such as your refrigerator and water heater, with flexible cable, braided wire, or metal strapping to keep them from falling over.
  • Every home should have an ABC-rated fire extinguisher.
  • Anchor propane tanks and gas cylinders.
  • Make sure your house number is visible from the street in case emergency personnel need to find your home. Some cities offer a program to paint your house number on the curb for a small fee. The best place for your house number is near the front door or slightly above eye level and lit by a light.
  • Permanent shutters are the best protection for high winds. A lower-cost approach is to put up plywood panels.
  • Roofs can be the first to go in severe storms. Simple metal straps can keep roof rafters tied to the top wall of the house and prevent uplift during high winds.
  • Foundation bolts cost around $2 each and can save thousands of dollars worth of damage if high winds, floods, or earthquakes try to force a house off its foundation.
  • Keep important records, such as mortgage papers, medical records, insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, stock and bond certificates, tax records, an inventory of your assets and personal items, and other vital documents in one central location where they can easily be transported if you must leave the area quickly. Keep all papers in a water- and fire-proof container.
  • Check your homeowner’s insurance coverage. Floods are not covered by homeowner’s insurance policies. However, flood insurance is available through the government-backed National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Make food storage a priority. Have at least a five-day supply of food and water for each family member on hand. Store water in sealed, unbreakable containers, and replace it as necessary. Food should be non-perishable goods such as canned or sealed-package items.
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