It’s National Preparedness Month and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a new catchphrase: “Disasters don’t wait. Make your plan today.”
If recent events here on the west coast have taught us anything, it’s the truth of these words.
In the Pacific Northwest, wildfires are far from foreign. This year was the most destructive season we have had to date. For those who must evacuate in a hurry, it can be extremely stressful to pack all of the essentials with little (if any) time. This is why building an emergency plan and kit ahead of time is crucial. Not only will you be able to leave in a rush if necessary, you’ll also reduce stress by knowing that you are already packed and ready to go.
These three steps will help you prepare the best you can.
Step 1: Make an Organized Emergency Plan
There are many online resources that map out the ways you can make a specific emergency plan. Be sure to consider the ages and medical history of those you live with as you create it.
Before you begin, we recommend asking the following questions:
- Does your family have a designated shelter or meeting place?
- Do you know what your evacuation route for your home should look like?
- Where is the safest place to be in your home if an earthquake were to happen?
These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself and discuss with your family and household members. Take action ahead of time by making a plan that is specific to the needs of yourself and those you love.
Step 2: Build an Emergency Kit
A good rule of thumb when organizing your emergency kit is to pack it with enough supplies to last at least 72 hours. You can start by building a basic emergency kit and then add other items as you see fit.
A basic emergency kit includes these key items:
- Water – the recommended amount is one gallon per person per day to be used for drinking and sanitation
- Food – a stock of non-perishable foods such as canned goods or freeze-dried packaged meals
- Manual can opener – for opening your canned foods
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- Extra batteries – for both your battery-powered radios and flashlights
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle – to audibly signal for help
- Dust mask – in case you need to filter contaminated air
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape – if you find yourself in a position where you need to shelter in place, the plastic sheeting and duct tape can be used to help in “sealing a room” so that you can protect yourself by building a barrier between yourself and what could be contaminated air outside
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties – you’ll want this for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers – needed to turn off utilities
- Local maps – we can’t simply rely on our phones, it’s always good to have a hard copy
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Additional recommended items include:
- Prescription medications – a week long supply is the suggested amount
- Non-prescription medications – includes pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Important family documents – copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records can be saved electronically or a hard copy can be stored in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or a warm blanket – for each person
- Complete change of clothing – keep in mind your particular climate and ideally include some sturdy shoes
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches – stored in a waterproof container
Step 3: Stay Informed
Being informed plays a big part in being prepared! It’s a good idea to learn about the area you live in and what kind of natural disasters are more likely to happen near you.
Your community or county is likely to have its own emergency preparedness plan that will include information on where they will post official weather updates or give instructions on how to sign up for local alerts. Learning about all the potential threats that could cause you distress is an act of empowerment and places you in a position to react quickly and logically during an emergency. Websites like ready.gov are packed with disaster preparedness plans for both natural or manmade disasters.
Nobody wants to expect the worst but we can all do our best to get organized and prepare in advance. Take advantage of all the resources that are available to you both online and in your community and give yourself the power of preparedness.