Just a few short years ago, it was commonplace to mock people who were concerned with disaster preparedness. We watched shows like Doomsday Preppers and laughed. We turned disaster preparers into jokes and memes and shared them with our friends online. Fast forward just the tiniest bit, and here we are living in uncertain times- now possibly more than ever.
Each year, climate change is deemed responsible for a rapidly rising number of natural disasters. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, landslides — they all are at an all-time high. Now, add in our current global political climate. We are actually living in a reality where world leaders threaten each other with nuclear weapons over Twitter.
Disaster preparedness doesn’t seem like such a joke anymore, does it? Do you know what you would do to stay alive and protect your family during an extreme weather event? A nuclear attack? Keep yourself and your loved ones safe when the unthinkable happens by making a disaster preparedness plan before disaster strikes.
What is a Disaster Preparedness Plan?
What is the purpose of a disaster preparedness plan, and who needs one? To put it simply, everyone should have a disaster preparedness plan. Even if you live in an area that is low on natural disasters, man-made catastrophes happen. In fact, they may even be more deadly than anything Mother Nature can dish out.
Even a small contained disaster, like a house fire, needs a plan. Who will get the pets out? Who will make sure the smoke detectors woke everyone? Where will everyone meet after evacuating? If there is no plan, injuries become more likely. Stress increases when you’re left unsure of whether or not your friends and family are safe.
The last thing anyone needs during a catastrophic event is more stress. Making a disaster preparedness plan is as simple as narrowing down the who, where, and what that matters to you when the world around you is falling apart.
It can be broken down into a few easy steps. Once you have a plan, write it down and make sure everyone on your list has a copy.
Identify your nearest and dearest
Imagine the world as you know it devolving into a disaster movie around you. Fire. Sirens. Looting. Who are the first people you find yourself worrying about? Make a short list of those closest to you. The ones who are worth risking your own safety for. This usually means immediate family and maybe a very close friend or two. Time will be of extreme importance during a disaster, so be as selective as possible.
It is also wise to identify an out-of-state contact to act as a hub for communication. Many times, local phone lines will become unusable due to the number of calls placed during a disaster. Make sure everyone in your group has the phone number for your out-of-state contact.
In the event of local phone lines becoming unreliable, this contact can take and pass on updates from everyone. This will be invaluable if your group becomes separated at some point. Your out-of-state contact can let you know if your loved ones are sick or injured, or even direct you back to each other.
Choose a meeting place
Once you’ve listed the essential people in your life, take some time to discuss a meeting place. This is the central location where you will all meet in the event of a disaster. Choose a large, sturdy public building that is easily identified, even through smoke, debris, or chaos. Schools, libraries, and hospitals are all good choices.
You may decide to go even farther and designate a specific place inside the building. If so, be sure to choose a large, easy-to-find location, like the school gymnasium or hospital cafeteria. You may choose to move to another shelter later, but these large landmarks are easiest for initially meeting up with your group.
Once you find each other, you can then see if anyone needs medical attention and then assess whether or not to head to another place to set up camp. Checking the radio for local alerts can help you decide whether or not to wait when it comes to moving from one place to another.
Just like any plan, a disaster preparedness plan is only as good as its execution. Make sure to assign a specific job to each adult on your list. If there are children or elderly in your group, make sure someone has the job of gathering them and getting them to safety. Be sure to have someone who is responsible for bringing supplies.
Assign one person the task of contacting everyone else on the list. This person will find out whether each group member is okay, where they are, and if they can get to the designated meeting place. This will avoid the confusion of everyone trying to contact everyone else at once.
Also, if you happen to have a fortune buried in your yard or basement, now might be the time to dig it up and make sure it makes it to your destination with you.
Disaster Preparedness Supplies
So, you’ve tasked someone with the job of making sure your group has the supplies necessary to survive a disaster. But what kind of supplies are necessary? What is most important? How much is too much? How much isn’t enough? Will you be able to transport your supplies, and where will you keep them until the day when you finally need them?
When it comes to supplies, you don’t want to be unprepared, but you don’t want to overload yourself with too much. Plan to bring only items necessary for survival. That means only things that provide nourishment, warmth, medical attention, hydration, warmth, shelter, documentation, or safety.
This may mean having to explain to children that there isn’t room for toys or stuffed animals because that space is needed for items that will keep everyone safe. No one ever said disasters were fun.
Disaster preparedness checklist
The following supplies are considered basic for survival, and you should include them in any disaster preparedness kit.
If you find yourself wondering about whether you should place an item in your kit or not, ask yourself whether the item in question is something needed for survival. If the item is more of a want than a need, leave it behind.
Carrying unnecessary supplies will slow you down, tire you out, and could make you a target for less prepared survivors.
- Drinking water
- Non-perishable food
- Necessary prescription medications
- Medic alert bracelets for those with food/medication allergies or medical conditions
- Silverware/can opener
- First aid kit
- Photo IDs
- Toilet paper and hand sanitizer
- Feminine hygiene products
- Garbage bags
- Hand tools
- Rain ponchos
- Dust masks
- Cell phones and chargers
- Corded landline phone
- Pet food and medications
- Diapers, wipes and baby food/formula
- Flashlight and glow sticks
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Flare or whistle
- Tent or tarps
- List of emergency/out of state contacts
- Essential documents (passports, wills, deeds, marriage licenses, birth certificates)
Disaster preparedness kit
The best way to ensure that you and your loved ones will have what you need when disaster strikes is to keep your disaster preparedness supplies together and ready to go in a disaster preparedness kit.
Gather all the items on your disaster preparedness checklist, then find a durable bag or two keep them in. Look for thick canvas, leather, and terms like “camping” or “military grade.” You want something that is easy to carry but won’t fall apart after two days. You can purchase bags specifically for disaster preparedness kits through the Red Cross.
You can also purchase fully stocked kits online. Prices vary widely, depending on how many items they contain. You can buy a basic kit for just $30, while an elaborate one will cost you over $400. These kits can make gathering supplies easier, but they won’t include everything that’s needed.
If you decide to purchase an already stocked disaster preparedness kit, remember to add items for yyouand your loved ones’ personal needs. This includes medications and other medical equipment, personal identification, and important documents. Check any food that comes with your purchased kit to be sure there won’t be a problem with food allergies or intolerance. Be sure to review your checklist and add any items that don’t come with the kit you purchase.
Keep your kit in a safe place, and be sure to check for and replace expired items every six months. Having a disaster kit in place, with everything you need to survive a serious life-threatening disaster is one thing you can control. Knowing you’re ready for a disaster can reduce the stress of an unsure world.