Disasters are no one’s ideal, but they do happen from time to time and often without warning. Whether it’s a flooded basement or an area-wide disaster such as an earthquake or fire, you want to be prepared.
Individual preparedness is where you start, and hopefully by the end, your family, business, school and community will all be ready for whatever comes your way. One way to learn preparedness skills is to attend the Utah Prepare Conference & Expo at the Mountain America Expo Center on Sept. 28-29. You can get tickets to the upcoming conference here.
Life is unpredictable, but your preparedness doesn’t have to be. Use these five steps to be ready for any worst-case scenario:
1. Pack a go-kit
All too often, disaster means evacuating your home with little to no advanced notice. How then can you be ready? By assembling an emergency kit (or multiple individual kits) that’s ready to take at a moment’s notice. This kit should include the following basic items, but be sure to add items that are unique to your family’s needs, such as supplies for pets, children or the elderly:
- A three-day supply of water (1 gallon per person, per day).
- A three-day supply of food that is non-perishable and easy to prepare and consume.
- Mess kits for each family member including paper products for eating food.
- Complete change of clothing, including socks and shoes; pack according to the climate you live in (i.e. coats for cooler weather).
- An emergency blanket, sleeping bag or warm blanket for each family member.
- Flashlight and battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
- Extra batteries.
- A first-aid kit complete with basic medical supplies.
- A seven-day supply of any prescriptions you or a family member require.
- A multipurpose tool that has a manual can opener.
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items.
- Copies of important documents such as insurance policies, medical information, birth certificates, passports and deeds.
- Emergency information that can be found at ready.gov.
- Family and emergency contact information.
- Cellphones and chargers.
- Extra cash.
- Matches in a waterproof container.
- Maps of the area you live in.
This is not an exhaustive list and each person’s kit might look different in certain ways. Consider storing a kit at your home, in your vehicle and even at your place of work. It never hurts to be overprepared. If you’re wanting a more exhaustive list or to compare what different resources suggest, you can learn more at ready.gov, redcross.org or fema.gov. Remember that your family’s needs will change over time, so try to have an annual update to your kit each year.
2. Make a plan
Aside from having the necessary supplies available in the event of a disaster, you should have a plan already set in place so that family members will know what to do in case of emergency. Disasters are sudden and cell phone coverage isn’t always reliable when everyone may be trying to make calls at the same time, causing a temporary outage in cell signal. Although FEMA does suggest using mobile phones to your advantage during a disaster, it’s vital to have a plan already in place should you not have the ability to contact loved ones.
Start with several possible scenarios. What are the top five most likely disasters to happen in your area? Hold a family meeting or activity night where you go through each scenario to make a plan. If there’s flooding, meet at high ground (e.g., the local high school on a hill). Discuss with your family fire safety and which are the safest exits to take from your home. Put strategies and plans in place so that if a disaster does occur, your loved ones will know what to do. No one can predict a disaster, but you can plan for what to do if one happens.
3. Hold disaster drills
Cities and governments have disaster drills for a reason so they have a physical practice for protocol and execution of plans for such events. If you can hold a disaster drill with your family, each member (especially the children) will be much better prepared. Talking about what to do in a disaster is a good place to start, but holding drills will solidify the knowledge and skill set needed to succeed under stressful circumstances. You can find emergency/disaster plan templates online like this one at ready.gov, where the final step is to practice your plan. You don’t need to talk about it all the time, but a couple times a year is appropriate.
4. Stay informed
As long as you are able to follow the news in your area, you can often know about certain disasters before or as they are happening. Hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and fires are all regularly covered on the news. Twitter can also be a useful tool for knowing immediate updates throughout your region. Don’t forget to utilize your local departments of public safety web pages either.
Use websites like ready.gov, redcross.org and fema.gov to read up on the disasters that are likely in your region and how to plan for them. There’s a wealth of information online about how to prepare and what to do in the event of a disaster.
Talk with families in your neighborhood and local leaders about disaster plans. There’s never a bad time to start planning for a rainy day, and that includes any type of disaster.
5. Get involved
Communities can become stronger and better prepared when they work together to prepare and get through a disaster. Although not every community has official disaster awareness events, you can find them if you look. Utah.gov has a “Be Ready Utah” website to help Utahns prepare their families, schools and communities for such disasters. To avoid getting overwhelmed, start small and work up to complete preparedness. Doing something each week can help you accomplish a lot.
With this season’s wildfires, many in Utah have had to evacuate to protect their families. To know the steps to take to be ready in case of an evacuation, check this link from ready.gov.
If you’re looking for specialized disaster preparedness education, come to the Utah Prepare Conference & Expo. Visit exhibits with useful information and products or attend classes with specific instruction geared toward our area’s needs. If you want to take the next step in your disaster preparedness, get tickets to the upcoming conference here.