September is Disaster Preparedness month and with disasters coming in many forms, it helps to be informed. Recent trends over the years also show an increase in frequency and severity. To offset the potential for devastating physical and financial loss, preparation is the best preventive measure. This edition provides planning considerations and steps you can take to be ready and minimize a disaster’s short and long-term effects.
Identify the threats
Natural disasters vary in their characteristics. Where fires and hurricanes may pose the need to evacuate the area, tornadoes and serious snow storms more often require sheltering-at-home. Understanding your neighborhood resources and regional weather threats can help guide your preparation activities. Keep a watch out on weather advisories that provide regionally-specific guidance from fire hazard levels to flood evacuation zones.
Stock up on supplies
Stock-up on several days (at least seven days) of non-perishable supplies from canned goods to bottled water. During and the days following a disaster may limit businesses from operating in a community. Don’t rely on frozen foods, as electricity outages may affect freezers.
Be ready to evacuate
For years, AARP encourages people to be prepared by packing evacuation plans ahead of a looming disaster. Your plan should include several options for hotel accommodations and understanding the protocols for your county’s emergency shelters. Be prepared to protect yourself from COVID-19 when evacuating. Disinfect touch surfaces and wash or sanitize your hands often.
Pack a “go bag”
A “go bag”—contains routine essentials ready for a quick exit and should be able to sustain a person for several days. Consider packing clothing, nonperishable food items like energy bars, a flashlight, first-aid kit, list of emergency phone numbers, and have your medications listed on your packing list. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides tips on getting your go-bag ready. Make sure you include COVID-19 supplies such as alcohol-based sanitizing wipes, several cloth masks, a small bottle of bleach, and nitrile or latex rubber gloves in both kits.
Prepare for power outages
Communications options to call for help or to stay tuned on inbound emergencies is key to keeping safe, but potential power outages can interfere. Consider options such as an old-school transistor radio for early warnings. For homeowners with generators, they have the capability to keep essential power running but proper operation is essential to avoid getting sick or injured. Every year, the CDC cites that 4,000 people die in the U.S. from accidental non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning, with cases spiking after a natural disaster hits. Watch FEMA’s short generator safety video for quick tips on safe generator operations.
Protect important documents
Store passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, and other essential and hard-to reproduce documents in a waterproof and fireproof portable bag or case for ease of portability and to protect from natural disasters’ destructive effects. Make copies and store them in a bank safety deposit box and backed-up online. You could also create 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 and helping a neighbor can help yourself be better prepared too. Think about getting involved with your local Community Emergency Response team where you can learn about disaster response skills. Doing so can deepen your connection with your neighbors and hone your skills at getting ahead of a natural disaster to keep family, friends and yourself safe.
Ways to get involved
There are a variety of ways to get involved with your community around disaster preparedness. Visit the links below to learn more or visit www.ready.gov for a comprehensive listing of preparedness materials by disaster type. Opportunities available include joining County Emergency Response Teams or activities that get the whole family involved. AARP also has resources specific to the adults 50 plus including:
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