disaster planning tips
for families

While they may never happen to you, a disaster such as a fire, flood, earthquakehurricane, and other catastrophes strike millions of homes and families each year.

So it's only prudent to prepare for them. Assembling a disaster kit should be a top priority. Your kit  should contain enough supplies to see your family through at least three days without basic services.

While you can buy emergency kits, it's simpler and less expensive to create your own.

how to create your family disaster kit.

Start with a few basics:

  • Drinking water: Put aside some water if nothing else. If your local water is contaminated or shut off, you'll need water not only to drink but for cooking and bathing. Store at least one gallon (4L) per person per day, for a minimum of three days. Refresh your water supply every six months. Water gets a little flat and tastes funny if stored too long.
  • Food: Your emergency food supply should include up on a week's worth of nonperishable, easy-to-prepare foods. Good bets include canned or powdered milk, canned goods, granola bars, and comfort foods such as candy or cookies. (You may be needing a little comfort.) Avoid salty foods because you'll need to conserve water.
  • First Aid Kit: You should have a first aid kit whether you have a disaster kit or not. Stock it with a first aid manual, bandages, adhesive tape, scissors, thermometer, latex gloves, sunscreen, aspirin, acetaminophen, antacid, anti diarrhea medicine, syrup of ipecac, and any prescription medications your family takes.

  • Basic Cleaning & Sanitation Supplies: You'll need liquid soap, toilet paper, antibacterial soap, disinfectant, bleach, garbage bags, and paper towels.
  • Several Changes of Clothing & Bedding: Pack at least one change of clothing for each family member, including: heavy duty boots or shoes, gloves, hats, and blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Important Family Documents: Keep these records in a waterproof, portable container: will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds certificates, passports, social security cards, immunization records, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and companies.
  • Extras: Round up a flashlight, a radio (with extra batteries), a can opener, a camp stove, aluminum foil, matches, a fire extinguisher, an extra set of keys, a little spare cash, extra eyeglasses, and books or games for the kids.

In addition, a crowbar and shovel are useful if you need to work your way to a family member trapped by fallen objects. A hammer and nails will help secure your home's doors and windows if you must evacuate.

If you have an infant, stock up on formula, diapers, and baby wipes. And if a family member requires medication, make sure you have an up-to-date supply on hand. Don't forget food, water, and a leash or cage for pets.

plan for the worst ahead of time.

During an emergency, the more you have planned ahead of time, the calmer and more assured you and your family will be.

These 6 step will help you through the process:

  • Talk with your family about disasters that can happen where you live, and why it is important to prepare for them. Make sure every family member knows his or her responsibilities. Designate an alternate in case a person is not there at the time.
  • Plan where to meet after a disaster. Choose two places: one right outside your home, in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire; and a second outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate your neighborhood. Ask and out-of-town friend to be your "family contact". After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are.
  • Learn how and when to shut off utilities. Each responsible family member should learn how and when to turn off utilities such as electricity, water, and gas. 
  • Conduct fire drills and practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation rote and plot alternative routes on a map in case main roads are impassible or gridlocked. Practice earthquake and tornado drills. Commit a weekend to update phone numbers, disaster supplies, and review your plan with everyone in your home. 

storing your disaster planning supplies.

Store your emergency preparedness supplies in a conveniently located duffel bag or backpack that you can easily carry should you have to evacuate. 

Make sure everyone in the family knows where it is. Keep a smaller version of the supplies kit in the trunk of your car. 

Keep all items that don't fit in the bag, such as water containers, in a place where they're easy to reach in a hurry.

Re-think your kit and family needs at least once a year.

Replace batteries, update clothes, etc. Ask your physician or pharmacist about storing prescription medications.

final tips for readying your family disaster kit.

  • Tape a "Don't Forget" list of last-minute items to take; such as an extra pair of glasses, important documents, and keepsakes.
  • If you smell gas after an emergency, turn off the gas at the main shutoff valve next to your gas meter.
  • Use a wrench to give the valve a quarter turn clockwise or counterclockwise; when the tang (the part you put the wrench on) is perpendicular to the pipe, the valve is closed.

Plan for the worst case scenario. In the best case scenario, your efforts will have been a complete waste of time. Oh darn, we never had a disaster! Who could complain about that?


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