Lately, it seems as though disasters have been cropping up regularly. We hear about hurricanes, tornadoes and, lately, earthquakes. We have heard of two major earthquakes in the relatively recent past, the Christchurch quake  in New Zealand and, even more recently, the devastating and horrifying earthquake in Japan . While our hearts and thoughts go out to those affected, it is also a time to reflect on our own disaster preparedness.
Emergency preparedness is important. While there is no way to completely prepare for a disaster, there are some things you can do to increase the chances that you and your family will be able to weather one. Some of the things to be worried about include food, some sort of shelter or warmth, usable water and how to care for injuries. Consider what type of disaster is most likely to strike your locale, and prepare for that. Where I live, practically on top of the Wasatch Fault, earthquake is the most likely disaster, although my basement flooded  recently; a flood isn’t out of the question. Here are some things we have prepared in case of emergency:
Basic Emergency Preparedness Supplies
It is a good idea to have some basic emergency preparedness supplies handy. Many of our supplies are in the form of extra storage. We have food storage to ensure that we have extra food in the event that we can’t get to the store — or that a financial emergency strikes and we have to make our money last. It is also a good idea to have a supply of water stored. You can use containers, such as soda bottles, to keep water. It can be used for drinking, sanitation and cooking.
Finally, we keep a propane heater at the ready, just in case we need warmth. It can accept large cylinders or small, and we have a grill and a camp stove (alternate means of cooking — and warmth if we are desperate). We also have a supply of propane containers in a safe place. Whenever you have supplies of food, water and fuel, it is important to rotate them so that they remain relatively fresh.
Other basic emergency supplies include:
- First Aid kits
- Radio (we like the crank kind that don’t require batteries)
- Flashlights (again, the crank kind)
- Extra batteries for battery operated devides
- Fire extinguisher
- Paper and pencil
- Paper towels and toilet paper
- Personal hygiene items
- Garbage bags
- Blankets and/or sleeping bags
- Matches (in waterproof container)
- Can-opener (non-electric)
- Eating utensils
- Cash and important financial documents (a good place to keep these is in a solid fire safe, small and portable, for protection from elements)
- A tent (for alternate shelter)
- Soap and liquid detergent
- Any medication that you need
You should also put together — or buy — a 72-hour kit (with food, water, basic hygiene and First Aid) for each member of your family. You can also put together an emergency car kit, for when you are away from home, or if you have to leave quickly. Have your 72-hour kits readily accessible so that you can grab them as you leave the house.
Have an Escape Plan
You should also have plan of action in the event of an emergency. Everyone should know where to meet if you have to leave the house. Also, an out of town emergency contact should be used to help coordinate when things get really crazy. When local lines are tied up, it is often easier to reach someone out of town. Make sure everyone in your family memorizes the number of the out of town contact so that there is a way to connect even if you don’t have a cell phone (and it’s address book). Inexpensive pre-paid phones for emergency use can also be used.
Have at least two escape routes planned out from your home. Know how to turn off the water and gas so that you aren’t flooded, or the gas leaks don’t cause bigger problems. Practice getting to your water and gas shut-offs, practice going through your emergency escape route, and make sure your children know how to get out. Talk to your children’s schools to find out their evacuation point, and know what you will do if disaster strikes while you are at work. You can get a little more information at Ready.gov .
Finally, keep your plan up to date. People change their phones, move, or otherwise change in ways that need to be reflected in your plan.
With some planning and preparation, you can improve the chances that you will make it through a natural disaster or other emergency.
(Photo: ivanwalsh )