Will Your Family Have a Plan When Disaster Strikes?
No one wants to think about a disaster striking their life. But the truth is, no amount of wishful thinking can protect your home and family from the ravages of a natural disaster. If you want to stay safe in a disaster, you need to prepare.
How Likely is a Disaster?
According to the World Economic Forum, floods are the most common natural disaster, followed by storms including hurricanes and tornadoes. Other natural disasters like earthquakes, landslides, and wildfires are less common, but can be a serious concern in certain regions, like the western United States.
While natural disasters have always been a concern, their rate of occurrence is growing. The years spanning 2005 to 2014 saw 14 percent more weather-related disasters than the previous decade, and more than double the rate of 1985 to 1994. That not only means more disasters in storm-prone areas, but also more storms and floods in areas where natural disasters are historically rare. Regarding tornadoes, “Although they are mostly associated with the Midwest and ‘Tornado Alley’, no state is immune to tornadoes. Even sunny California experienced seven of them in 2014. Therefore, it only makes sense to take some precautions and have procedures in place in the event of a tornado.”
Unlike natural disasters, home fires are becoming less common. As the National Fire Protection Association reports, 2016 saw 352,000 home fires across the United States, just over half of the 606,000 home fires in 1985. While some home fires are caused by wildfires, most are started by cooking equipment, heating equipment, and smoking, with a significant minority caused by candles and children playing with flammable devices.
How Can You Protect Against Disaster?
With the exception of home fires, you can’t prevent disasters — you can only prepare and respond. How you prepare and respond determines if your family makes it away safely or not.
Follow these preparedness tips to protect your family in an emergency situation:
- Create a contact list. There’s no guarantee everyone will have a charged cell phone in the event of an emergency. Write down contact information for family members, schools, daycares, workplaces, and out-of-state contacts so you can reach each other from public phones in an emergency. Ensure everyone has a copy of the contact list in their wallet or bag.
- Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are cheap insurance against potentially fatal emergencies. Test detectors monthly and replace batteries at least once per year.
- Establish a safe room. During some disasters, the safest option is to shelter in place when it’s unsafe to evacuate. Find the safest room in your home — this should be a windowless room on the lowest floor away from exterior walls. Make sure everyone knows to meet there during a tornado or hurricane.
- Establish a meet-up point: If you’re ordered to evacuate while your family is separated, an established meet-up destination helps you reunite. Establish one site within your neighborhood in the event of a home fire, and a separate destination outside of your town or city in the event of a large-scale disaster. Keep spare gasoline in your garage so you can evacuate immediately.
- Stock up. Build a disaster kit that can sustain your family for a minimum of 72 hours. This will protect your family if you have to wait for emergency assistance. Your kit should include enough water and non-perishable food to last three days, along with batteries, flashlights, a first aid kit, pet supplies, a spare cell phone and charger, and cash. Consider adding comfort items like sleeping bags, clothing, shoes, and toiletries. Store your disaster kit in the safe room and create smaller kits to store in each family vehicle.
When it comes to fires and natural disasters, there’s no substitute for preparation and communication. As you create your family’s disaster response plan, make sure everyone is on the same page by practicing your plan. By running drills just like you would at a school or office, you ensure your family can act on instinct if disaster strikes.