Natural disasters are things that you need to prepare for ahead of time rather than just react to them in the moment. If you haven't taken steps to prepare your home and your family for a natural disaster, this is something that needs to be done as soon as possible -- you never know how quickly things can change.
Preparing for natural disaster survival will look different for different families in various areas, but here's a guide on the basics of preparing for natural disaster survival.
Make a Plan
In order to prepare for natural disaster survival, you first have to make a plan. When making your plan, you should think about some of the most common natural disasters that occur based on where you live.
For example, if you live in Florida, you should plan for things like hurricanes and sinkholes. If you live in California, you should plan for things like earthquakes and wildfires. If you live in the Midwest, you should plan for things like tornadoes and winter storms.
Once you've thought about some of the most common disasters that could potentially affect you, it's time to ask yourself the following questions:
- Where are we going to shelter?
- What is our evacuation route?
- How will we get emergency alerts and warnings?
- How will we communicate if we are separated?
As it relates to the first question of shelter, you usually have two options: shelter at home or leave your home for a safer location.
If you are going to be sheltering in place, make sure that you lock doors, close windows, air vents, and fireplace dampers. Turn off fans, air conditioning, and forced air heating systems. Seal all windows, doors, and air vents with thick plastic sheeting and duct tape. Make sure that you have access to your emergency kit and go into an interior room with little to no windows.
However, if you would be unsafe at your home, you could shelter at mass care shelters or with a family or friend located in a safer place. Make sure to research local mass care shelters ahead of time so that you have a plan ready to go in case you need to leave. If you do leave your home, make sure to bring your emergency kit with you.
As it relates to evacuation, make sure to plan out your route in case you have to evacuate and seek shelter elsewhere. Seek out evacuation routes ahead of time and always identify alternative routes in case your first option is blocked due to traffic, debris, etc. Also make sure to plan for your pets during this phase (and others), as some evacuation locations may not accept pets. Finally, if you will be evacuating by car, keep your car's gas tank full if an evacuation seems likely and keep a portable emergency kit in your car as well.
As it relates to emergency alerts, there are several different methods including wireless emergency alerts, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and the NOAA weather radio network. Wireless emergency alerts are sent to your phone like text messages and can be sent by state and local public safety officials.
The Emergency Alert System is a national public warning system that allows the president to address the American people within 10 minutes during a national emergency. This system can also be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information.
Finally, the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) broadcasts continuous weather information based on your physical location and can also broadcast alerts made through the EAS.
As it relates to the fourth and final question of the family communication plan, FEMA recommends that you collect information, share your information, and keep your information up-to-date. You will need to collect phone numbers and email addresses for the household, school, childcare, caregiver, and workplace contact information, an out-of-town contact, emergency meeting places, and contact information for emergency services, utilities, service providers, medical providers, veterinarians, and insurance companies.
Once you have this information gathered, make copies for each member of the household to carry with them at all times. Also place a central copy at home in an easily-accessible location. If any of this information changes, be sure to update it on everyone's sheet.
Make a Kit
Once you have your emergency plan, you need to focus on your emergency kit! Some of the items that you need for your kit may be already in your home, whereas others you will need to go out and purchase.
In any case, having a well-stocked and updated emergency kit is a key part of preparing for natural disaster survival.
Here are some of the different items that you need to have in your home emergency kit:
- Food: Focus on non-perishable food items that can last in your kit and are easy to prepare without electricity. Also focus on high-energy foods with protein to keep your energy levels up.
- Water: Make sure to have one gallon of water per person, per day for drinking purposes as well as additional water for sanitation and hygiene.
- Lighting: Stock up on emergency lighting tools like emergency light bulbs, solar-powered lanterns, or crank-powered flashlights that don't need electricity or batteries to work.
- Warmth: Make sure that your family can stay warm without heat by stocking up firewood, matches, and lighters. Also set aside things like blankets, sleeping bags, and warm coats for each family member.
- First aid and medications: Assemble a first aid kit with all the basics like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and antibiotic ointment. Also be sure to include over-the-counter medications as well as any prescription medications.
- Pet supplies: Account for your pet within your emergency kit by including pet food, extra water, toys, treats, and bedding.
- Documentation: Keep important documents safe and easily accessible. Some documents to prioritize include identity documents, residency documents, health-related documents, pet documents, etc.
Once you have your plan and your kit, you need to practice! This is especially true if you have multiple family members, just to make sure that everyone is on the same page and knows what to do.
It's a good idea to do this at least once a year. You may want to time the practice right before the beginning of the more 'dangerous' time of year depending on where you live.
For example, if your area constantly deals with hurricanes, practice your emergency plan in May before hurricane season officially starts in June. If your area experiences strong winter storms, practice your plan in October before the weather starts to get really cold.
Finally, being prepared doesn't really mean much if you aren't able to act when you need to. This is why staying informed and updated on local events and advisories is so important.
Whether this means checking the news every morning or signing up for daily email briefings, find an easy way to stay informed about events in your area so that you are better able to anticipate emergencies and better react to them.
As you can see, preparing for natural disaster survival doesn't have to be difficult. With some time, research, and practice, you're able to rest assured that your family can get through any situation safely and successfully.