Friday, March 11, 2011

5 Things You Can Do to Prepare for an Emergency

I woke up this morning to find out that an 8.9 magnitude earthquake had hit a Japan that was resulting in Tsunami warnings for much of California and an advisory for our portion of California. While we are safe (we live about 15 to 20 miles from the coast) it certainly had me thinking about preparing for an emergency. Growing up in Ohio, we had to deal with blizzards in the winter and tornadoes in the summer (and flash floods if it was warm enough, no matter the season). Here in California, our big emergency worry is earthquakes and fires. No matter where you live, there is something that can cause an emergency.

The best thing to do for an emergency is to plan now! If you are ready now, then you'll be ready when the emergency hits.

So how to you get ready? Well, the nice people at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (yup, FEMA) have some awesome suggestions, so check them out!

1. Emergency Kit. Your emergency kit should include 1 gallon of water, per day AND per person in your home for a minimum of 3 days. So a family of 4 should have 12 gallons of water available, for drinking and sanitation. You'll need 3 days worth of non-perishable food for your entire family. Make sure that you have things like a manual can opener to open the non-perishable food!

Keep a flashlight and battery (or hand cranked) radio in your kit as well as extra batteries (make sure you have the right size!). A first aid kit should be available and make sure it's well stocked. A whistle will help in case you are trapped and need assistance, you will be heard a lot better with a whistle then your voice!

Things like baby wipes, paper plates, plastic cups, plastic untensils and garbage bags will help with keeping your area sanitary while in the emergency.

A small emergency set of tools should be available, in case you need to turn off things like your water heater or the gas lines to your home and in case you need to fix something that was damaged.

Other things that you may need depending on your family situation and location includes medications, diapers, pet food and water, cash, a first aid handbook, warm blankets or sleeping bags, matches, feminine items and stuff to keep you entertained like board games and books.

2. Your Important Documents. Documents like your social security card, banking information, insurance policies, passports and other things you would need to identify yourself and to protect your property should be in one centralized place. FEMA recommends a waterproof, portable container. Some people prefer a safe to hold something so valuable. If so, make sure it is fireproof. Personally, we use the container but we don't live in a home where we can install a safe. DO NOT keep these things in a safety deposit box at the bank. In case of emergency, you will not be able to access them! Along with what FEMA recommends, I keep our medical records, that way if something happens and we need a trip to the emergency room, our records our available right away.

3. Know Who and How to Reach Others. FEMA suggests having a point of contact for your family living outside of the area you live in. For example, I would use someone in Ohio as a point of contact in case of emergency instead of my mom here in San Diego. It's often easier in an emergency to reach someone not nearby. Make sure that every person in your family knows the point of contact and has the phone number as well as a prepaid card or cell phone to reach them. FEMA recommends using text messaging as much as possible, since short bursts like texts can get through easier than longer phone calls.

4. Have a plan in place and know the safety areas. When I lived in Ohio, we all knew that we went to the basement during a tornado because the lower you were, the safer you were. Now, I know that the best place to be in an earthquake is in rooms toward the center of the house (away from windows) and in a doorway, since doorways are often reinforced making them less likely to fall during an earthquake.

Make sure everyone knows where the safe spots in the house are. If you have small children, practice with them so they know what to do. If they know what to do, it can help calm down a frightened child and get them to a safer place quickly.

Check with places like your work, daycare and schools about their emergency plans. Make sure your kids know what they are expected to do when they aren't home too.

5. Keep an emergency kit in your car. With the amount of time we spend in our cars, you should have at least a small kit in your car. I was given one by my aunt and uncle 8 years ago and it has been in every car I've had since then. If you end up using some of your kit (for example, the road flares or bandages) make sure to restock it!

While nobody wants to be in an emergency, hopefully this list will help keep you and your family safe. Preparing now can be a literal life saver in an emergency. You may be like me, with only part of this list complete (I need to show my daughters what to do in an emergency and finish up our emergency kit) or have a lot still to do, but by spending a little time each day for the next week or two, you can be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way!


Sara Thompson said...

We kept a fully stocked emergency kit in our car for years and one day decided to remove it since it hadn't been used.
We lost our house to a fire and I realized how much that emergency kit was needed and we didn't have it. Now we keep one in our trunk at all times and take it out once in awhile to update medicines (allergy med, pain relievers) and any food that might need changing out.
We keep food, utensils, toiletries and first aid supplies in the kit as well as clean underwear (not enough room for clothes), poker cards and blankets.
Also remember to plan for your pets. We didn't and our cat carriers were amongst the first things destroyed. Two stressed cats and no carriers was not a good thing (thankfully neighbors loaned us theirs).

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