Recent years have shown us that disasters come in many forms. Different places face varied risks, ranging from hurricanes and flooding to wildfires and tornadoes. But they share one thing in common: Being as prepared as possible will help you weather them more effectively. How can you prepare for such uncertainty? Here are some steps you can take to help keep your community, neighbors, and family.
Identify the threats
Think about the particular threats most common in your area so you can focus on the most common situations. For example, if you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires, you can learn about practices and resources to help keep your neighborhood and community fire safe, such as encouraging people to clear a perimeter around their homes and advocating for ready water supplies to keep homes and grounds wet in case a fire breaks out. September is Disaster Preparedness Month and Ready.gov publishes the steps to best prepare for a variety of disasters. Be sure to read and educate yourself and your community about what you can do.
Make sure people stock up on staples
During disaster situations, businesses in the community may be closed. So, encourage community members to have enough nonperishable food and water to last at least a week or two. Suggest stocking up on foods in cans and jars and keeping a supply of bottled water on hand. Don’t rely on frozen foods, as electricity outages may affect freezers.
As your area’s seasonal risk increases, spread the word about keeping extra quantities of first aid and paper supplies, diapers, feminine hygiene products, medicine, and other needs in a safe, dry place, too. As the COVID-19 pandemic taught us, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves can also be important supplies.
Prepare for power outages
In our digital age, an electricity outage can make receiving communication difficult. This is where an old-school transistor radio can be a lifeline of information. Remind community members to check radios periodically to make sure they’re functional and keep extra batteries on hand. Don’t store batteries in radios, as they can damage the internal mechanisms over time. And while people sometimes opt for emergency power generators, be sure that you share information on how to operate generators safely.
Show people how to make a “go bag”
Another important concept to share with community members is the “go bag”—the bag of essentials you can grab if you need to leave quickly. Think about what the typical person would need to take with them if they had to leave their home in just a few moments. These bags should include a few changes of clothes, nonperishable food items like energy bars, a flashlight, first-aid kit, list of emergency phone numbers, and other items. The University of California Berkeley’s Office of Emergency Management published this handy list to help prepare a “go bag.” Share this information with your community members and encourage them to act on it.
Promote protecting important papers
Disasters like storms, fires, floods, and tornadoes can destroy important papers. It’s important to store papers and information in a safe place and also have copies of them in an alternate location or backed up online. Store passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, and other essential documents in a waterproof and fireproof document bag or case. Ideally, this will be kept in a secure, but convenient place so you can take it with you if you need to.
Make copies of the documents so you have them in case the bag or case is lost or inaccessible. Store them in a safe secondary location, such as a bank safe deposit box or even in a secure cloud backup system. Consider creating a written or video home inventory that catalogues the items of value in your home in case they are damaged or destroyed during the disaster.
Involve the community
A prepared community is a safer community. The folks at ready.gov have put together a comprehensive site to help you educate yourself and your neighbors about everything from seasonal weather risks to financial preparedness. There’s also a section dedicated to youth education, with games for kids and resources for parents and teachers.
If you’d like to get involved, you can download preparedness curricula to share with your child’s school, or join your local Community Emergency Response Team, and learn more about disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Help others assemble first aid kits to keep in their homes or help elderly neighbors prepare for hurricanes or other emergencies.
Find more opportunities, ideas and inspiration, using this simple volunteer search.
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