Disasters and emergencies can occur abruptly and unexpectedly, often necessitating the immediate evacuation of your neighborhood or confining you to your home. While local officials and relief workers will be present in the aftermath, it may take some time for them to reach everyone affected. Thus, being aware of what actions to take is vital for the safety of you and your family. By following these steps, you can ensure that your family is well-prepared:
Step One: Be Informed
- Contact your local American Red Cross Chapter or local emergency management office to gather information you will need to create your family’s disaster plan.
- Learn which specific hazards threaten your community (e.g. hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes).
- Learn your community’s response plans, evacuation plans, and designated emergency shelters.
- Find out how local authorities will alert you and keep you informed before, during, and after a disaster.
Step Two: Make a Plan
- Review the information you gathered with your family members.
- Choose an “Out-of-Town” contact person for all family members to call immediately following a disaster. Family members should call this person after a disaster to let them know where they are.
- Choose a meeting place for family members to meet at if they become separated.
- Create a family communication plan. Be sure to include contact information for family members (both work and school), your out-of-town contact person’s information, meeting locations, emergency services, and the National Poison Control Center (1.800.222.1222). Sample forms can be found at www.ready.gov or at redcross.org/contactcard.
- Know the best escape routes and safe places for each type of disaster.
- Plan for those with disabilities and other special needs. Keep support items in a designated place, so they can be found quickly.
- Plan for your pets. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians, and pet-friendly hotels that can shelter your pets, if necessary.
Step Three: Assemble a Disaster Kit
Items to store in your kit include:
- Three-day supply of nonperishable food and manual can opener
- Three-day supply of water (one gallon of water per person, per day)
- Portable, battery powered radio or television and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit and manual
- Sanitation and hygiene items (hand sanitizer, moist towelettes, and toilet paper)
- Matches in waterproof container
- Extra clothing and blanket
- Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils
- Photocopies of identification and credit cards
- Cash and coins
- Prescription medications and over the counter medications
- Special needs items such as eye glasses, contact lens solution, and hearing aid batteries
- Items for infants such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers
- Tools, pet supplies, a map of the local area, and any other item to meet your family’s needs
Step Four: Maintain Your Plan
- Review your plan every six months and quiz your family on what to do.
- Conduct routine fire and emergency evacuation drills.
- Check food supplies for expiration dates and replace when necessary.
- Test smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace smoke alarms every ten years. Read the indicator on your fire extinguisher(s) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to recharge.
Medication Management in Disaster Preparedness
- Understand the types of disasters that are most likely to occur in your community and the potential impact they may have on you and your family.
- Create an emergency list that includes the names of physicians and any special medications or supplies required. This information will assist healthcare professionals and emergency personnel in delivering effective medical care during an emergency.
- If you or a family member have a communication barrier, make sure to include this information in your disaster kit. Immediate awareness of this issue is crucial for physicians and disaster responders during a medical emergency.
- Include detailed information about all medications currently being taken by you and your family members, including exact names, dosages, and any other important details. This will facilitate obtaining emergency supplies if necessary due to medication shortages or inability to bring medications with you.
- List all drug allergies, food allergies, drug interactions, drug reactions, and diet restrictions in your disaster kit.
- If anyone in your family requires special adaptive equipment, make sure to note it down in your disaster kit. If possible, consider purchasing additional portable equipment for easy transportation.
- Ensure that you have everything needed for a three to five-day stay at one location if you are required to shelter-in-place. If possible, keep extra medication and supplies on hand.
- Discuss the shelf life of prescription and over-the-counter medications with your doctor or pharmacist if planning to store extra medication for an extended period of time.
- Include disability supplies such as hearing aid batteries, wheelchair tire patches, spare walking cane(s), incontinence products (if needed), service animal supplies (if applicable), magnifying glass(es), or any other necessary items within your disaster kit.
- For individuals who are immunocompromised: add hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content), masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes as additional supplies within the disaster kit.
- If there is a designated list of individuals requiring special attention during evacuations within your community; ensure that your household is included if necessary. You can contact your local emergency management service who will guide you to the appropriate agency responsible for this service.