What Should I Know About Disaster Preparedness?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Disasters can happen at any time, and without warning. It is always a good idea to be prepared for the worst. Disaster preparedness is being ready for any catastrophe, natural or man-made, that may come along, and knowing how to react in the case of an emergency.

Non-perishable food, like dried fruit, should be set aside for disasters.
Non-perishable food, like dried fruit, should be set aside for disasters.

Disaster preparedness isn’t difficult. With a little common sense and some careful planning, it is possible to be prepared for almost anything. The first thing to do is to understand which disasters are the most likely to happen in your area. Will they require evacuation, or will you be able -- or even forced -- to stay home? If evacuation is likely, have several safe places planned ahead of time where you and your family can stay. If it is likely that you will be able to stay home, consider what you will need to survive without heat, running water, and electricity.

Any small pets should be kept in a carrier during a disaster.
Any small pets should be kept in a carrier during a disaster.

Disaster survival kits are an essential part of disaster preparedness. Smaller kits can be left in the car, while larger kits should be located in an easy-to-access part of the home. These kits should contain several changes of clothes for each person, personal supplies, such as shampoo, soap, and toothbrushes, and warm blankets. Also included should be a fully stocked first aid kit and several flashlights. A battery-powered radio is another necessity.

Many families develop disaster plans, especially in areas prone to hurricanes or other natural disasters.
Many families develop disaster plans, especially in areas prone to hurricanes or other natural disasters.

Make copies of birth certificates, social security cards, licenses, and insurance cards, and place them into a waterproof container to keep them safe. A sealable plastic snack bag works well for this. Included in this bag should be enough cash for you to survive off for several days or weeks. Don’t assume that you will be able to stop at a bank on your way out of town. It may also be a good idea to pack a few games, books, or other small activities to keep yourself and your family occupied and entertained.

Non-perishable foods, like granola bars, should be set aside for disasters.
Non-perishable foods, like granola bars, should be set aside for disasters.

A disaster preparedness kit should also contain food. This is especially important when seeking shelter in your own home. There should be one gallon of water per person for each day you may be without clean running water. Most experts recommend being prepared for two weeks, at least. There should also be plenty of extra water available, just in case. Non-perishable food that does not require preparation should be set aside for disasters. This might include granola bars, jerky, canned goods, and dried fruits and vegetables. Dried milk, cereal, cookies and crackers are also good things to have stocked up. Vitamins should also be available, especially for children and pregnant or nursing mothers.

Batteries may be useful in an emergency kit.
Batteries may be useful in an emergency kit.

In a situation where the power has gone out, and you will be staying at home, eat food from the fridge before food from the freezer. Save stockpiled food for last. Don’t forget family pets when preparing for a disaster. Food, water, and other supplies should be stocked up and set aside with the food for the family, along with any leashes or pet carriers you might need for evacuation purposes.

A flashlight should be included in an emergency kit.
A flashlight should be included in an emergency kit.

Invest time and thought into disaster preparedness. In addition to being well-stocked, it is always a good idea to know how to defrost frozen pipes, turn off electricity and gas supplies, and treat contaminated water. While being prepared won’t prevent a disaster, it can help you and your family survive in relative comfort.

A first aid kit should be included as part of disaster supplies.
A first aid kit should be included as part of disaster supplies.
Photocopies of personal documents, like social security cards and passports, should be kept in an emergency kit.
Photocopies of personal documents, like social security cards and passports, should be kept in an emergency kit.
A disaster preparedness kit should include a non-electric can opener.
A disaster preparedness kit should include a non-electric can opener.
Bottled water should be kept in a disaster kit in the event that sanitation and normal water supply systems are disrupted during an emergency.
Bottled water should be kept in a disaster kit in the event that sanitation and normal water supply systems are disrupted during an emergency.
Disaster preparedness can include learning how to defrost frozen pipes.
Disaster preparedness can include learning how to defrost frozen pipes.
A disaster kit should include safety pins.
A disaster kit should include safety pins.
Canned goods are an important addition to disaster supplies.
Canned goods are an important addition to disaster supplies.
People may not be prepared to evacuate quickly in the event of a major storm, which can cost emergency services time and potentially endanger people when they are asked to evacuate.
People may not be prepared to evacuate quickly in the event of a major storm, which can cost emergency services time and potentially endanger people when they are asked to evacuate.
It's important to have a safe place to take shelter in during a severe storm.
It's important to have a safe place to take shelter in during a severe storm.
Water, batteries, flashlights and extra food should all be included in a natural disaster emergency kit.
Water, batteries, flashlights and extra food should all be included in a natural disaster emergency kit.
Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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