Remove the stigma of paranoia from preparedness. Preparedness means confidence. Confidence means peace of mind. Your family’s preparedness plan can be put together in a single afternoon. No one ever thinks about disaster striking their home or town, but it’s important to have the confidence of being ready.
September is National Preparedness Month, sponsored by FEMA. The theme of the month is “Don’t wait. Communicate.” Communication is your most vital tool during an emergency. Having a plan in place, simple or complex, can save lives and at the very least, ease the tension of dealing with emergencies.
“Go-bag” is usually a term associated with large scale disasters or “doomsday” scenarios, but having one of these ready to go in your home makes it easier to evacuate an area quickly. Pack a flashlight, non-perishable food, first aid kit, local maps, fresh water, batteries, a battery-operated/crank radio and a change of season-appropriate clothes. This is something that is easily accessible when you need to move on short notice.
Forget bread and milk. You need water and non-perishables in your home. If you are not being ordered to evacuate your home, be sure that you have stocked your home in the event that you will be stuck in it for over 48 hours. Avoid the bread and milk hordes at the grocery store and prepare ahead of time. Have plenty of canned foods and bottled water available in your stock. Keep two weeks worth of food and water (a gallon per person, per day) stored. Keep the food and water in a cool, dry place.
If your power goes out, eat food from the refrigerator first, then from the freezer. Do not eat your non-perishables until you have eaten all edible food from your refrigerator and freezer. Do NOT eat refrigerated food that has been exposed to room temperatures for over an hour.
Also, talk to your neighbors about potentially keeping two-way radios in your houses around the neighborhood so you can continue to communicate back and forth. This is especially useful if you have elderly or special needs neighbors.
Your family may be spread out when a disaster strikes. School, work, etc. can have your family sprawled all over the town, so make sure that you all know where to meet up in case of an emergency so you can all evacuate the area together. Stow two-way radios in your vehicles or in a backpack in case cell phone networks go down. The terrorist attacks of September 11th didn’t just cause massive casualties, but massive confusion and panic as well. People could not reach their loved ones due to cell phone networks being overwhelmed due to astronomical call volumes in and out of Manhattan. America’s cell coverage grid has greatly improved since then, but a cell phone is still not a 100% reliable form of communication in an emergency. Have a way to let your family know everyone is safe.
Somewhere as close as the end of your block or a family member’s home in the suburbs will work as a rallying point in case you need to leave your home. Is everyone in your family fit to walk long distances? Will you have any handicapped people with you? Is your car in good enough condition to be on the road for hours?
Again, cell phone and internet coverage may be down during a disaster, so make sure that you have a way of getting information to your party so you know when the all-clear is given or if you need to remain evacuated. Be sure to carry an emergency crank radio with NOAA weather alert capability and AM/FM tuner to keep up with the news.