Preparing Your Family for a Disaster

No one wants a disaster to happen close to where they live, but would you and your family be prepared if something did happen?  Disasters can be large, or they can be small, but many of the steps your family can take to prepare will help you regardless of the type of disaster.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), recommends that every house have an Emergency Supply Kit.  The kit could be invaluable in the event of an emergency, whether the disaster was a major snowstorm that caused power outages or a man made disaster that caused you to evacuate your home. 

Having an emergency supply kit in your home, and even a smaller version in you car, is very important.  When disasters happen, you and your family may not be able to leave your home for supplies.  You also may not be have time to stop at a store to pick up extra items.  Additionally, after a disaster, local officials and relief workers may be in your area, but they cannot reach everyone immediately.  Depending on the disaster and its severity, it could take hours or days to reach you and your family.  That is why every house should have emergency supplies.  No one wants to have a disaster happen, but don’t you want to be prepared if there is one?

Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Whistle to signal for help

  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)

  • Local maps

Once you and your family have gathered all of your supplies, pack them in an easy to carry container.  Store your Emergency Supply Kit in a convenient place known to all family members.  Keep a smaller version of your Emergency Supplies Kit in the trunk of your car.  Remember to keep items in airtight plastic bags.  Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, and when a disaster strikes you many not have much time to respond.  A highway spill of hazardous material could mean instant evacuation.  A winter storm could confine your family at home.  An earthquake, flood, tornado or any other disaster could cut off basic services such as gas, water, electricity and telephones for days.

Additional Items to Consider

The basic Emergency Supply Kit is just that – basic.  Think of other things beyond the items on the list above that your family may need.  Does anyone need daily medications?  (Ask your physician or pharmacist about storing prescription medications)  Does anyone have any special dietary concerns?  FEMA also makes the following recommendations for additional items you may want to have on hand in the event of an emergency.

 Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:

  • Prescription medications and glasses

  • Infant formula and diapers

  • Pet food and extra water for your pet

  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container

  • Cash or traveler's checks and change

  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov

  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person.  Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.

  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.

  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.

  • Fire Extinguisher

  • Matches in a waterproof container

  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels

  • Paper and pencil

  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Rotating and Refreshing Your Emergency Supply Kit

Now that you and your family have an Emergency Supply Kit, there are still a few more things to take into consideration.  We rarely know when a disaster will strike.  It could be tomorrow, or it could be 10 years from now.  Every 6 months you and your family should review and rotate items in your Emergency Supply Kit.  (For some families, you may want to consider doing this more often if there is an infant in the family or someone else who has rapidly changing dietary needs.)  In order to make sure that your supplies will be fresh and usable when you need them most, consider rotating new food into your kit, exchanging old batteries for new, rotating fresh water into your kit, making sure the extra clothing still fits, any prescriptions are current and that nothing is outdated in your first aid kit.   

Create Your Family Disaster Plan

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance:

  • How you will contact one another?

  • How you will get back together?

  • What you will do in different situations?

Family Emergency Plan

Find out what kinds of disasters, both natural and man-made, are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified.  Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community.  One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts.  You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or emergency workers may go door-to-door.  If you aren’t sure how we notify residents of Clinton County about emergencies, contact us here at the Emergency Management Office.

  • Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster.  Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children.  Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.

  • Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen.  Explain what to do in each case.

  • Pick two places to meet:

    • Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.

    • Outside your neighborhood incase you cannot return home.  Everyone must know the address and phone number.

  • It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.

  • Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact.

    • Consider giving everyone in your family a list of important phone numbers including your out of state contact, work phone numbers, other family members and doctor’s information.

    • Make sure children know how to use a pay phone and their phone card.  Although he or she may have a cell phone, it may not work.

    • Post emergency numbers and contact information near phones in your home.  Make sure people like babysitters know where these lists are located.

  • You may have trouble getting through on the telephone, or the telephone system may be down altogether, but be patient and keep trying.

Emergency Plans

You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school.  If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.  Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together in the event of an emergency.  You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance.

Remember to keep your Family Emergency Plan current.  Just like your Emergency Supply Kit, you should review the phone numbers and other information on a regular basis.  You may also want to consider posting all emergency numbers and emergency family contacts near each phone, and making sure each family member has a list of important contact names and numbers with them at all times.