Life has a way of reminding us to expect the unexpected. From something seemingly as small as a tree falling in your front yard during a thunderstorm to having your entire life suddenly uprooted by a hurricane, you might find yourself in a situation where you need to make fast decisions to protect you, the members of your household and your home.
While you can’t plan for the moment you experience an emergency situation or natural disaster, you can prepare yourself in a way that will empower you and your household to take quick action that will lead to a smoother, and possibly quicker, recovery. It may even save a life.
It’s a heavy topic, but we’re here for you with a list of five ways you and your family can start preparing for emergencies or disasters, according to Ready.gov.
Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit
The first step to prepare for an emergency situation is to assemble an emergency supply kit, a collection of food, water, medical and other emergency supplies in a secure and accessible location in your home, work and car.
You’ll want to ensure that your kit is fully-stocked and up-to-date at all times so you’re never caught off-guard by a disaster. Your kit might require restocking every year or so, depending on the expiration dates of food or medical supplies.
Use the detailed emergency supply kit on Ready.gov to get started. They even have a printable version you can take to the store. Don’t forget to customize your kit, as every household has unique needs, such as supplies for pets or senior care.
Your kit should include enough basic necessities, like food and water, to last you and your household at least up to 72 hours, in case of prolonged emergency. For example, you should have one gallon of water per person, per day for three days as well as enough food (preferably non-perishable) for three days.
Make sure your supply kit is secured in airtight plastic bags, inside of easy-to-carry containers (e.g., a plastic bin or duffle bag) and stored in accessible locations, such as your garage or the trunk of your car.
Don’t Forget Batteries and Chargers for Your Technology
If you have a smart phone, you can use it to receive emergency alerts about outages, flooding or evacuation routes, as well as communicate with any members of your household, should you be separated in the emergency situation. You can download the FEMA app and set up local alerts on your phone.
Make sure that if you pack your phone, you also pack any chargers or supporting technology supplies that will keep your phone charged. Buy an extra set of phone chargers just for your supply kit, so you don’t have to scramble for your charger in an emergency. If you feel inclined, you can also purchase an extra phone just for your supply kit.
However, technology, such as cell phones, radios and TVs, might not always come through during an emergency situation. If there’s a power outage, you’ll need to turn to either battery operated technology or pack essentials (e.g., cash and local maps) to get by.
Packing a battery-powered radio and extra batteries can help you stay up-to-date on any emerging information during an emergency or disaster.
Store Financial and Personal Information in an Accessible Place
Like an emergency supply kit, you’ll also need to assemble your important financial and personal information, such as your finances, insurance, medical and other records, in a secure and accessible location in your home.
In the event of an emergency or disaster, this information is important, if not absolutely necessary, to have on hand in case you’ll need to file a homeowners insurance claim after a natural disaster.
Ready.gov has a list of what documentation you should have at the ready in case of an emergency. You can store this information in either a secure safety deposit box, a mobile app on your smart phone or on the cloud. If you have the ability, use all three methods, just in case technology fails during an emergency.
Start an Emergency Savings Fund
Disaster can strike at any time, and while it’s good to be prepared with emergency supplies and personal documentation, you’ll also want to make sure you’re financially prepared for the unexpected.
Start an emergency savings account that can be used in any crisis situation. While it’s traditionally suggested to have a rainy-day savings of $1,000, consider all the expenses, including food, temporary lodging and fuel, and make sure you’re saving for the worst case-scenario.
Considering the unreliability of technology during a natural disaster, Ready.gov suggested to keep this savings account in the form of cash, in the case that ATMs or other electronic forms of payment fail. Store your savings in a secure and safe place in your home, preferably next to your emergency supply kit.
Lastly, Ready.gov suggested to obtain renters/homeowners insurance, as well as health and life insurance if you haven’t already. If you currently have any form of insurance, make sure you review your existing policy and current coverage carefully in the case of family emergencies or natural disasters. You’ll also want to confirm any deductible costs for insurance and medical co-pays and factor the cost into your emergency savings fund.
Establish a Household Communication Plan
When you’ve prepared your emergency supply kits and made arrangements, both finically and medically, for a natural disaster, it’s time to establish a communication plan for the members of your household, including family and friends.
Ready.gov breaks it down into three simple steps:
First, meet with your household to identify specific needs (e.g., communication, childcare, work, pets or medical conditions). Assign responsibilities different members of the household, making sure everyone understands their role and is ready to execute during an emergency. For example, in the case of a natural disaster, delegate who in the household should be in charge of turning off utilities, like gas and electric.
Next, establish a set spot where everyone in the household should meet, if an emergency evacuation is necessary. Make sure you have an emergency contact that’s out of town and able to coordinate information with other members or your household, family and friends.
Most importantly, take time to practice your plan with your family or members of your household. You don’t want the first time you go through this to be during an emergency. Set up a day to run a drill or exercise with your household and go through every step of your communication plan until everyone feels confident and comfortable. You should do this at least once a year as a refresher.
Preparing for an emergency or natural disaster might not be a fun, but it is absolutely necessary to protect your loved ones and to educate yourself about how to start your road to recovery if needed.
Do you have any preparation tips we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below.
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