National Preparedness Month has been observed each September in the United States since 2004. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities. Throughout the month of September thousands of organizations – national, regional, and local public and private organizations – are supporting emergency preparedness efforts and encouraging all Americans to take action.
Emergency preparedness is something all citizens should do in order to better survive whatever calamity that might impact you. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.
While you probably cannot prepare for every sort of disaster, there are some basic protective actions that are similar for almost any event. For example, developing a family communications plan and making an emergency supply kit are the same for accidental emergencies, natural disasters and also terrorism.
Learning what to do in case of emergency and the specific needs of household members including animals will help you reduce the impact of disasters and may save lives and prevent injuries.
Make a Plan
It’s likely your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; and how you will get back together.
Ready.gov has made it simple for you to make a family emergency plan. Download the Family Emergency Plan (FEP) (PDF – 508 Kb) and fill out the sections before printing it or emailing it to your family and friends.
You should also be aware of emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school, faith organizations, sports events and commuting. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance.
Build a Kit
A disaster supplies kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.
Try to assemble your kit well in advance of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you. You will probably not have time to search for the supplies you need or shop for them.
You may need to survive on your own for a period of time after an emergency. At a minimum you will want to have your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Additionally, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days or even a week, or longer. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages.
Recommended Supplies to Include in a Basic Kit:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First Aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Infant formula and diapers, if you have an infant
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
The Citizen Corps National Survey in 2009 revealed that only 57% of Americans surveyed report having supplies set aside in their homes just for disasters, and only 44% have a household emergency plan.
Nobody knows when, where, or how bad the next disaster might be. But this much is for sure: those that have taken any steps towards being prepared will fare better than those that ignore this advice.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.