For Any Disaster: Make a Disaster Preparedness Plan
One common thread you’ll see in almost every section below is that you’ll need a disaster plan. You should be familiar with it before the disaster, and ready to act on it in case the unthinkable happens. We can tell you all about the best thing to do in the heat of the moment—and we will—but when the danger has passed, a disaster or emergency plan for your family or coworkers can be the difference between you meeting up in a secure location or being lost, unable to find one another.
We’ve shown you how to prepare for a disaster before, and you should bookmark the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster preparedness site, Ready.gov, but here are some stand-out tips:
The previously mentioned disaster kit from 72hours.org is a must-have. Offered up by the City of San Francisco, the 72hours guide can help you prepare for any type of disaster, and has special tips if you have children, are disabled, are a senior citizen, have pets, and more.
Keep your family’s most important documents, like birth certificates, passports, and social security cards in a safe place in case you need to grab them and leave the house. Create a home inventory and keep it with those documents. Make digital copies, and put them on a flash drive in the same place. A portable safe/fireproof box is a good idea.
Make sure you have a well-stocked go-bag that will keep you safe, warm, fed, and any medical needs you have taken care of for at least a few days. Include things like emergency food and water, an emergency radio, batteries, extras of any prescriptions you take, and even a charged cell phone just for 911 purposes. 72hours’s guide says that you should prepare to take care of yourself for at least 72 hours without help. If you want to plan for longer, this list is a good start.
Make sure you and your family have a planned and practiced escape route from your home, and a place you all agree to meet up if something terrible happens. Whether it’s a burglar or a fire, everyone in your home should know the fastest way out of the house safely. Escape ladders from high windows are good investments, but if you live in an apartment building or high-rise, memorize the fastest route to a stairwell. Finally, practice your escape route with your family so everyone’s clear on it.
Make sure you’re familiar with the emergency or disaster plan at your office. Your company should have evacuation routes from your workplace and meet-up locations outside of the building. If you don’t know what they are, ask. If no one knows what they are, come up with them on your own. Ask yourself where the closest stairwell to your desk or work area is, and time yourself getting to it. Find out where the closest first-aid kit in the office is, in case you need it.
Gear and kits are great, and you should definitely have them on hand, but nothing replaces a good escape plan that you can quickly act on without thinking about it in case of an emergency. Many people die in accidents and natural disasters simply because they don’t know what to do and find themselves waiting for someone to tell them. Plan accordingly.