It’s scary to think that a natural disaster can occur at any time. If you live in an area affected by tornadoes, earthquakes or floods, you don’t always get warning when they will happen. So how do you prepare for such an event?
Why Do You Need To Plan For A Natural Disaster?
As I mentioned, you don’t always know when a disaster will occur. Even when you are aware, they can be devastating. One critical tool that every family needs to aid with any natural disaster is a family preparedness plan.
It’s smart to have a family preparedness plan because:
- Your family may not be together when disaster strikes and, in addition to that, cell phones, landlines or the internet may not work. How will you know how to get in touch with each other?
- It will allow you and your family to know what steps to take if something goes wrong.
- Being prepared will also reduce some of the stress associated with any disaster.
- Most importantly, it will help to keep you family safe.
How To Prepare For A Natural Disaster
Usually the first thing you want to do in an emergency situation is to contact your loved ones and ensure they are safe. You may also need to get in touch with emergency services. Write this contact information down. In the event that your cell phone battery dies and computers are not available, you can still access the information.
Below is a list of emergency services for which you should have contact information:
- Hospital/ Clinic
- Poison Control
- Service providers including electric, water and gas companies
Contact information for family, friends and neighbours should include:
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- Home, cell and work phone numbers
- Email address
- Work address
- Name, address and phone number of your children’s school
Be sure to include contact information for family and friends who live out-of-state or in different countries as well. Identify one person outside of your local community for your family to use as a way to reconnect. It could be easier to call people outside of your district as local lines may be jammed.
If disaster strikes, it may be necessary to know your insurance information for medical, homeowner or renter, car and any other type of insurance you own. Include the following details:
- The name of the insurance company
- Phone number
- Your policy number
Ensure that your insurance policies cover natural disasters especially ones experienced in your area. If they are not covered by your general policy, purchase supplemental insurance. Read the fine print of your policy. For example, it may cover wind damage but not flooding which can be caused by certain storms like hurricanes.
Also, check that your insurance covers the current value of the items you own. If you purchased your home years ago, you may have more possessions now than when you first applied for the policy.
Are your premiums up-to-date? If you have not been paying your insurance, you may not be covered when something goes wrong.
Keep detailed health records for your family. If anyone experiences a medical emergency, this information can be quite useful to emergency personnel:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Previous medical procedures
- Allergies to medications
- Current prescriptions
Create an evacuation plan and practice it with your entire family to make sure they know what to do. Draw a map of your home showing all possible exits. Plan a main route as well as an alternate way out of the house. If you live in an apartment, your evacuation route should use the closest stairway and not the elevator.
Also, plan multiple routes out of your neighbourhood in case you need to leave quickly. This is especially important if you are new to the area.
Emergency Meeting Point
Decide on a safe and familiar place for your family to meet if you can not go home or you need to evacuate. Emergency shelters are great options for a meeting point. Select one that is closest to your home and then have a backup just in case. Make sure the location is accessible for family members with disabilities or is animal friendly if you have pets.
Safeguard Yourself And Your Home
There are several ways to protect your home from a natural disaster.
- Replace windows and doors in your home with impact-resistant ones. Alternatively, use shutters to protect windows and glass doors.
- Use hurricane straps to make the structure of your home, especially if it is wooden, more resistant to strong winds.
- Trim overgrown trees or limbs that are close to the house.
- Keep your home in good repair. Fix cracks or any weakened structures as soon as possible.
- Install a sump pump and flood walls especially if you live in a flood prone area. Seal the basement walls with a water-resistant compound.
- Consider bolting or otherwise securing heavy fixtures or appliances that may topple over in an earthquake to the walls or floor e.g. water heaters.
- In fire-prone areas, have a hose long enough to reach around the house, garden plants should be of the fire-resistant variety and avoid using combustible material on the roof or any other part of your home.
- Storm cellars or basements are good shelter from tornadoes and hurricanes. Consider having one installed if you live in an area affected by either of these types of natural disaster.
Install a fire-proof and water-proof safe in your home. Store important documents such as birth certificates, passports, legal documents, medical records etc. in there.
Also store cash, bank statements and recent utility bills as proof of address.
If you will be leaving your home, store the documents in a waterproof bag and take them with you.
Stock Up On Supplies
After a natural disaster, stores and supermarkets may not open for several days and even if they do open, you may not be able to access them if roads are blocked, flooded etc. Ensure you have plenty of non-perishable food and bottled water at home for your family.
Purchase supplies such as:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables (Ensure you have a can opener!)
- Peanut butter
- Dry cereal and granola
- Dried fruit
- Cookies, chocolate (Who doesn’t like a sweet treat?)
At the very least, you should store a 3-day supply of water for your family but ideally have enough water for up to two weeks. You will need 1 gallon of water per day per person.
Consider Special Requirements
Stock up on prescription medications, baby supplies like formula and diapers, feminine hygiene products etc. Have your child’s favourite games, toys or stuffed animals handy to keep them entertained during and after the natural disaster. Make sure you have your glasses or contact lenses and solution handy.
It is important not to forget about your pets.
- Have a supply of pet food and water that can last up to two weeks.
- Be sure your emergency meeting points are pet friendly.
- Do not tie or cage animals like dogs or cats during a natural disaster. It is better that they be free so they can protect themselves, if necessary.
- Ensure they are wearing a collar, if applicable.
- Take note of the registration number of your pets in case they get lost or lose their collar.
Have recent photos of all of your family members including your pets. If anyone is missing or you get separated, the photo can help.
Keep a well-stocked emergency kit on hand. It should contain a first aid kit, blankets, sleeping bags, extra batteries, a flash light, battery-powered radio, work gloves, duct tape, scissors, liquid chlorine bleach, plastic sheeting, tools for securing your home, rain gear, towels, matches and a whistle. Of course, you can add anything else you may think you need.
Create an emergency binder for your family that contains contact information, medical history, insurance information, map of your neighbourhood, any other important documents and family photos. This is a great way to keep all of your paperwork in one place so it’s easy to grab and go, if you have to.
Thinking about the “what ifs” in life are never fun but having a plan is oh so necessary to help protect your family and home from any natural disaster.