Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making Emergency Preparedness Easier for the Whole Family

Hurricanes, chemical spills, ice storms, power failures, floods... any of these events can lead to a crisis situation if you aren’t prepared. One way to keep a challenge from turning into a crisis is to have a clear plan in place for dealing with the unexpected, and a simple, ready-to-go emergency kit. September is National Emergency Preparedness month and the peak of hurricane season, so now is the perfect time to make a plan and build your own emergency kit.

Disasters can hit at any time, any place, with limited warning. If a plan doesn’t already exist, then it will be too late to make one… much less act on it. So follow the advice of the emergency responders: make a plan, build an emergency kit, and stay informed. These three tips will help you and your family if an emergency should occur.

Make A Plan

There are several key factors in making your disaster plan. First, you need to answer a few important questions:

·     If your family is separated, where will you meet in the event of an emergency? Don’t count on cell phones and email, as they may not be available in an emergency. Instead, decide ahead of time on a safe place to meet, and choose an alternate location in the event the first choice is inaccessible.

·    Who knows how to find you?  Include an out-of-state relative or friend on your planning team. Let them know where you will meet, and make sure that you can contact them easily. If something happens, they can be alerted and can let others know where you planned to meet. Remember, a local contact is likely to be affected by the same emergency affecting you.
·     Who knows the plan? Your emergency plan isn’t much good if you are the only one who knows.  Write it down, give a copy to your emergency contacts, and make sure everyone on your team knows what to do. Remind everyone (practice) from time to time so you are always ready. Find out more about making a written emergency plan by viewing

·     What equipment will you need? A simple emergency kit can be a lifesaver – literally. Put together an emergency kit and make it part of your plan.

·     If you have small children that are in school or daycare, find out what the school’s policy is about pickup during times of bad weather. Will they call you? Or will they announce it on local television stations and radio?

·     Do you have pets? Will they need to go with you in the event of an emergency?

·     Do you have elderly neighbors that may not realize that there is bad weather or an emergency situation coming?
Build a Kit

Building an emergency kit requires some pre-planning and shopping, but once it is done you won’t have to do anything except check to make sure it is up to date annually. This is also a good time to review your written plan. An emergency kit is designed to be used either inside the home, for a shelter-in-place situation, or outside the home if you are required to leave your home for a period of time. "Shelter-in-place" means to take immediate shelter where you are—at home, work, school, or in between. In the event of a chemical spill or a fire at a chemical plant, it may also mean "seal the room." In other words, you will need to take steps to prevent outside air from coming in.
Let’s start with the basics of building a kit:

·    First, find a plastic tub or bin with a lid, preferably one that latches or snaps on tightly. 

·     You’ll need a flashlight or fluorescent lantern (the lantern allows you to light up a larger area). Also, emergency candles, a lighter, and/or matches are recommended. Candles should be the glass jar type, which are less affected by wind or weather and don’t require a holder.
·     Assemble or purchase an up-to-date, complete first aid kit.  This should be separate from your household first aid kit, so that is stays complete and in place.  First aid kits should contain an assortment of first aid items, such a Band-Aids, antiseptic, bandages, tape, aspirin, sanitation and hygiene items, and depending on the individual may need to also contain  prescriptions, glasses/contact lenses and solution.

·     Clothing is the next category to consider.  It is a good idea to consider a several-day supply of clothes; and clothing can be folded into Ziploc bags. If you are preparing your kit in the summer, remember to consider packing for various temperatures and seasons. Grab a poncho or three as well, for rain or to make a small shelter.

·     Think about your clothing and bedding needs. Include some blankets; woven blankets are less bulky than quilted comforters, and wool blankets retain heat even when wet.

·     Food is the next emergency kit category. Camping or backpacking food, which can be found at many sporting goods or outdoors stores, is ideal for this purpose. While most people think of canned food as a primary food to pack, it is heavy and requires lots of accessories (pots, pans, etc.). Backpacking food is efficient for either a shelter-in-place or an evacuation because of the built-in heater packs. Try a few first, so that you know how to prepare it (and what you like!).

·     Have at least 3-4 cases of 8 oz. bottles of water ready near your emergency kit. Gallon jugs are also fine, but people tend to waste a little more water if they are pouring from a jug. With the smaller bottles, they can be used for drinking, rinsing or smaller usage.

·     Other supplies needed include a length of rope, large trash bags for storage or to keep items dry, and a small fire extinguisher. Duct tape and a plastic tarp are also good items to have in your kit in the event that windows need to be secured.

·     Once the essentials, including the first aid-kit, clothing, food and water and supplies have been packed in the bin, you might consider entertainment ideas, especially if there are children in the family. Books, puzzles, or activities that do not require batteries may be helpful if traveling in the car or for extended periods away from home.

·     Supplies for your vehicle may also be in order, including: a flashlight, extra batteries and maps, a first aid kit, tire repair kit, pumps, bottled water and non-perishable food.
Finally, documentation is extremely important for completing your kit. Organizing a “financial first aid” kit will help you gather all of the important documents, such as insurance paperwork, home owner policies, and bank account information – these are items you’ll need if you have to completely start over from scratch.

Although it may sound a bit overwhelming, a little thought and a little planning will help you and your family be prepared for whatever surprises come your way.

Stay Informed

Important Links
Visit FEMA’s for more information about disaster preparedness for your family, and tips on making an emergency plan and kit.  The same information can also be found in Spanish on

This link will help you Develop a Family Disaster Plan.

Here's some help with Evacuation Plans.
Quickshare your emergency information: This online application allows you to create an email with basic emergency information to send to family and friends that you would like to contact in the event of an emergency.

TEEX’s Emergency Preparedness page has links to more information that you can use to make your preparations easier and more complete.

Plus, here is an extensive, but not all-inclusive, list of potential disasters, as well as actions you can take to stay safe. A list of most likely disasters may include: Blackouts, Chemical Threat, Earthquakes, Explosions, Extreme Heat, Fires, Floods, Hurricanes, Influenza Pandemic, Landslide and Debris Flow, (Mudslide), Nuclear Threat, Radiation Threat, Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Wildfires, Winter Storms and Extreme Cold, Tsunamis and Volcanoes.

Take care of yourself and your family by being prepared. Remember: make a plan, get a kit, and stay informed!