It’s not pleasant to think about worst-case scenerios. But a little planning can make a difference if the worst does happen. Follow these tips to avoid feeling helpless during a disaster.
BEFORE A DISASTER
Communicate. Talk with your family about who to call, where to go, and what to do if disaster strikes.
Educate. Organize different strategies on what to do for different situations. Map out a fire escape route from all areas of your home, and establish a safe place to go during threatening weather. Make sure all family members know their full names, address, and phone numbers. Agree on an out-of-town relative or friend to call if everyone gets separated during a disaster, and have an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact in your cell phone that first responders can call if needed.
Prepare. Set up warning systems in your home—fire detectors and carbon monoxide alarms give advance notice that can save lives. Use a battery-operated weather radio for advance storm warnings, and subscribe to your local Office of Emergency Management alerts by text or e-mail if available. Keep an emergency kit handy that contains five days worth of non-perishable food and water, first aid supplies, a list of phone numbers (including your electric co-op and other utilities’ outage numbers), medicines, and cleaning supplies. Also, plan for pets or any special needs for family members. Then practice your emergency plans.
DURING A DISASTER
Keep calm. Think clearly and follow your plan. Use the resources you prepared in case of emergencies.
Emergency phone. Keep a corded landline phone handy in case of emergency. If cell phone batteries die, there’s no way to charge them during a power outage. A landline phone will still work without electricity and become your link to the outside world.
AFTER A DISASTER
Be patient. Wait for all danger to pass. Never re-enter an evacuated area without permission to do so, and remember to use caution when you do go back into your home—you can’t always see danger, such as a ruptured gas line.
Avoid delayed danger. Do not approach downed wires or power lines, and watch for rising waters. Keep standby generators in well-ventilated areas—never run a generator indoors, even in a garage.
With a little planning, the worst can be avoided during disasters. Visit redcross.org or ready.gov for more disaster planning ideas. Taking the time to be prepared is worth the effort now in case of emergency later.
Sources: Kelly Trapnell; Underwriters Laboratories, American Red Cross; Federal Emergency Management Agency