Every year this nation experiences a tragedy–whether natural or man made disaster can strike at any moment. From fires and floods to hurricanes and blizzards there are sure to be more of these events in the future. Because September is National Preparedness Month, I thought this would be a good time to talk about some ways you can get ready for a disaster, and those steps don’t start when something bad goes down. They start months, or even years in advance.

I heard from a preparedness expert that for people who live in urban areas, you have 30 minutes after a major catastrophic event to get out before looting, rioting and absolute mayhem start. Could you get out that fast? Would you be scrambling for birth certificates, social security cards, or insurance paperwork? Would you have any food or water to take with you or could you survive independently in your home for days or weeks  These are all things to consider.

Sheltering in place

Not every disaster is going to require you to leave home. Some events will force you to stay inside–it’s called shelter in place. To shelter in place you may need to seal doors and windows to keep out dangerous chemicals or toxins that could make your family sick. Choose a room that has as few doors and windows as possible and has a water supply. A master bedroom with an attached bathroom is a good choice. Keep plastic sheeting and duct tape on hand to seal cracks in windows and around outside doorways to keep bad air out. Want to learn more about sheltering in place? Visit the CDC’s Emergency Preparedness website for more on this topic.

Make a Disaster Supplies Kit

Whether leaving your home or staying put, you should have a disaster supplies kit. It’s best to have one for each member of your family. Anyone with special medical conditions should have all necessary supplies included–like insulin, alcohol wipes, heart medications, oxygen, etc. Here are some other items to include:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day)
  • Food for at least three days in a backpack and a two week supply on hand at home
  • Medications
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Crank radio
  • Flashlights and batteries (or crank flashlights)
  • Cash
  • Emergency blankets
  • Three days of extra clothes
  • Sanitation and cleaning items (soap, toothbrush, shampoo)
  • Don’t for get about your pets! Remember to include food, medications, and a collar/leash for them.

There is much more to learn and this list is just a start. Small children and the elderly will need extra items we haven’t even begun to cover. Find out more at the CDC’s website and take time today, or this week to put your family’s emergency plans in place. There’s never a better time than right now.