While nobody expects a disaster, everyone should be prepared. When disaster does strike your community, you might not have access to food, water, or electricity for several days. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to ready yourself for an emergency. According to the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other groups, these are the steps everyone should take before a disaster takes place:
Learn about the risks in your locale
In order to prepare for a disaster most effectively, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on what kinds of disasters are most likely to happen in your community. Check with your city and county government to find out. If they do not provide those sorts of resources, Check out FEMA, the Red Cross, and the CDC websites for more help on disasters.
Develop an emergency plan
Before you ever find yourself in an emergency, create an emergency plan to share with any family members or housemates:
- Identify a role for each member of your household so you can work as a team.
- In case you are separated, choose two places to meet: Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a wildfire, or outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.
- Memorize and/or carry emergency contact information in writing and on your cell phones (don’t forget to take cell phone chargers with you if you evacuate. Better yet, get one that charges your phone in the car).
Choose two safe havens that you can get to most quickly, and map the routes you would take to get there. Once you’ve created Plan A and Plan B meeting places, practice evacuating your home along different routes. And in case you need to ask for assistance along the way, know where local fire, police and other city services are. Try to keep your gas tank half full at all times.
Have an emergency plan for your pets, too.
Pets are especially vulnerable in a natural disaster. They’re used to a pampered life, and they may run away and hide if things get rough.
- ID your pets with tags and microchips
- Get to know their hiding places
- Prepare an emergency kit with food and water and medical supplies for them just as you do for yourself, a minimum of three-day’s worth
- Check out pet-friendly locations to stay in case of evacuation.
- Plan for someone to check on your pets if you are not home.
- If you evacuate, take your pets.
- If you stay home, bring your pets inside, even those that may not usually stay inside all the time.
Take daily preventative measures
- Keep a pair of sturdy shoes under the bed; if you live in earthquake territory, this is a must-have in case you’re in need of a quick exit.
- Carry “ICE” in your wallet (and phone). These are “In Case of Emergency” numbers for your friends and family, as well as first responders like emergency medical technicians, fire and police officers. Don’t be a hero, get help!
- Create a home emergency kit and emergency food supply. It’s essential to have an Emergency Preparedness Kit in your home, but also consider a second one in your car.
Disaster-proof your home
A few simple steps can help protect your home from almost anything nature has to offer. No matter where you live, you should have weather-tight doors and windows. You should also be sure your homeowner’s insurance policy and home inventory are up to date. Here are some DIY (Do-It-Yourself) tips for some of the most likely forms of disaster:
Prepare an emergency financial first aid kit. No matter your income level, rebuilding your life after a disaster can be incredibly costly and complicated—especially if you aren’t financially prepared and properly insured. By creating an emergency financial plan in advance, you might stave off unnecessary, and costly, headaches down the road.
Follow these steps:
- Compile your important docs, such as the deed to your home and car and bank account info.
- Review your insurance policies and financial paperwork to be sure it is all current
- Safeguard paper and electronic copies of all files in safe locations
- Update your emergency financial preparedness kit on a regular schedule, such as your birthday, at tax time, or other major marker you’re likely to remember. Bills don’t take a break. It’s important to remember that even in the event of disaster, you are still responsible for paying bills, such as mortgage, utilities and credit cards.
- Figure out how to access your money in an emergency. The best plan is to have some sort of emergency cash stash in a protected place where you can access it immediately. However, you’ll want to be sure you can access your bank accounts as well.
Install the Red Cross’s disaster apps
Now that we live in such mobile-friendly times, the Red Cross has made several emergency apps available for your smart phone or tablet. There are first aid apps for you and your pets and disaster-specific apps with detailed information on pre- and post-disaster preparation. Another app will direct you to places offering emergency food and shelter. The Red Cross also has a friend-and-family locator you can use to locate loved ones. These apps are all free through the Apple Store and Google Play.
Take a thorough home inventory
You may have the best insurance on the planet, but without an accurate inventory of your possessions, your insurance claim in the face of loss will be harder to process. Your insurance company will need proof of every loss.
- Take written and video inventory
- Start from the smaller possessions to the large
- Include only your most valuable possessions, not every spoon, dish or tapestry
Information from Sarah Owen with MoneyGeek.com