Best Practices and Specific Needs: Items and Strategies You May Have Overlooked

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This is the second posting from the ImpactReady team at ImpactWeather. Our goal is to spread awareness about National Preparedness Month and share information about how you and your family can be prepared for major disasters. Following along the National Preparedness Month guidelines for weeks two and three, the focus of this post will be about how to plan for specific needs before a disaster and how to build an emergency kit.

Emergency Planning and Disaster Response as Concept

Just this morning I was watching the news headlines and was saddened to learn that more than 1,500 homes in Northern California are under evacuation orders due to an out of control wildfire. Can you imagine having only minutes to collect yourself and your family and flee from the perils of a raging wildfire? What would you take with you? What would you do with your pets? What about the elderly or those in need of special assistance? All of these are questions to consider carefully while planning ahead and making preparations. Whether the disaster is a wildfire, ice storm, devastating hurricane, flooding, tornado outbreak or any number of other disasters, you can take measures now to be prepared, stay safe and facilitate the recovery process.

The first step to being prepared is to be informed of the potential risks in your area. Could your area potentially face an evacuation in the event of a natural disaster or some unforeseen circumstance? Do you prefer to ride-out a disaster (such as a hurricane) at home with the potential of being without utilities for days or even weeks during recovery? It’s important to know the answers to these questions prior to the next threatening event.

The next preparedness step is to have an effective communications plan. Inform your immediate family, friends and coworkers (if appropriate) where you will go in case of a disaster. It’s important to have a personal support network that can provide resources and assistance, if needed.

A high priority for preparedness should be building an emergency kit. It’s commonly known that the reality of disaster situations is that everyday conveniences will likely be unavailable. It’s important to think through your daily routine, consider the essentials and prepare a kit that includes survival basics – food, water, prescription medication, first aid, and tools. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) recommends that all of us be self-sufficient for at least three days—food, water, first aid, batteries, prescription meds, everything you need to survive 72 hours without assistance. Other important items to consider including would be important documents (birth certificates, insurance papers, etc) and cash. An excellent resource for helping you build a basic emergency supply kit can be found on the FEMA website www.ready.gov.

For most households, preparing for a disaster often means planning for members of the family who cannot plan for themselves, specifically, children, the elderly, and pets. Being a mother of a young child, I understand that when preparing to spend even one night away from home, the car is loaded almost to the max. How am I expected to evacuate an entire family including two dogs and two cats? Answer: by pre-planning and taking only the essentials.

It is important to remember when preparing kids for an evacuation situation there is a wealth of information on the ready.gov website. When preparing the basics, you will need to include clothes, diapers, special food considerations (we all know young ones are picky eaters!), along with toys and stuffed animals to bring comfort. Helping kids understand that you have a plan in place and that they are safe will go a long way to ease their fears of the situation. For in-depth information about how to help children cope with a disaster, please visit the informational guide for parents found on the FEMA website.

After so many pets were left behind during the Hurricane Katrina evacuation, shelters and hotels now have re-evaluated their pet policy during emergency evacuations.

After so many pets were left behind during the Hurricane Katrina evacuation, shelters and hotels now have re-evaluated their pet policy during emergency evacuations.

When preparing for a disaster, it’s important to consider your pets. Evacuating without them is not an option for most and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to survive on their own, so additional planning is recommended for your beloved furry (and non-furry) friends. Food and water are key, along with medicine and medical records from your veterinary. Collars with ID tags and leashes are a must. Also, you will need to have a crate or pet carrier. Don’t forget sanitation necessities such as cat litter and litter box, newspapers, paper towels, and plastic trash bags. To help ease the burden of evacuating with your animals, consider asking a friend or relative outside of the evacuation area to host your animals. Having up to three days of emergency supplies on hand is recommended. Lastly, carry a picture of you and your pet together in case you become separated. For tips and information on how to prepare your pet for an emergency, please see this helpful brochure.

Preparing for an emergency is challenging, especially for the elderly and people with disabilities. Special considerations and preparations can be made ahead of time to ensure those with special needs are not left unprepared. Having a plan in place to cope with a disaster will lead to a better outcome than having no plan at all. The fundamental steps of preparedness include being informed of the risks, preparing communication and evacuation plans with family and support networks, and having an emergency kit. For those with special needs, make sure everyone knows how you plan to evacuate your residence and where you will go in case a disaster strikes. Make sure someone has an extra key to your home and knows where you keep your emergency supplies. If any lifesaving equipment or medication is required, make sure someone in your support network knows how to use the devices. Also, if the medical equipment at home requires electricity to operate, talk to your healthcare provider about a back-up plan for its use during a power outage. For more information about preparing those with special needs for a disaster, please see this helpful brochure provided by FEMA through ready.gov.

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