This chapter describes how to prepare for any kind of disaster.
Creating a disaster plan
One of the most important steps you can take in preparing for emergencies is to develop a household disaster plan.
- Learn about the natural disasters that could occur in your community from your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter. Learn whether hazardous materials are produced, stored or transported near your area. Learn about possible consequences of deliberate acts of terror. Ask how to prepare for each potential emergency and how to respond.
- Talk with employers and school officials about their emergency response plans.
- Talk with your household about potential emergencies and how to respond to each. Talk about what you would need to do in an evacuation.
- Plan how your household would stay in contact if you were separated. Identify two meeting places: the first should be near your home—in case of fire, perhaps a tree or a telephone pole; the second should be away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.
- Pick a friend or relative who lives out of the area for household members to call to say they are okay.
- Draw a floor plan of your home. Mark two escape routes from each room.
- Post emergency telephone numbers by telephones. Teach children how and when to call 911.
- Make sure everyone in your household knows how and when to shut off water, gas, and electricity at the main switches. Consult with your local utilities if you have questions.
- Take a first aid and CPR class. Local American Red Cross chapters can provide information. Official certification by the American Red Cross provides "good Samaritan" law protection for those giving first aid.
- Reduce the economic impact of disaster on your property and your household's health and financial well-being.
- Review property insurance policies before disaster strikes—make sure policies are current and be certain they meet your needs (type of coverage, amount of coverage, and hazard covered—flood, earthquake)
- Protect your household's financial well-being before a disaster strikes—review life insurance policies and consider saving money in an "emergency" savings account that could be used in any crisis. It is advisable to keep a small amount of cash or traveler's checks at home in a safe place where you can quickly gain access to it in case of an evacuation.
- Be certain that health insurance policies are current and meet the needs of your household.
If you know of friends or neighbors with special needs, help them with these extra precautions. Examples include:
- Hearing impaired may need to make special arrangements to receive a warning.
- Mobility impaired may need assistance in getting to a shelter
- Households with a single working parent may need help from others both in planning for disasters and during an emergency.
- Non-English speaking people may need assistance planning for and responding to emergencies. Community and cultural groups may be able to help keep these populations informed.
- People without vehicles may need to make arrangements for transportation.
- People with special dietary needs should have an adequate emergency food supply.
If you have a disability or special need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your household in an emergency.
- Find out about special assistance that may be available in your community. Register with the office of emergency services or fire department for assistance, so needed help can be provided quickly in an emergency.
- Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your needs and make sure they know how to operate necessary equipment.
- Discuss your needs with your employer.
- If you are mobility impaired and live or work in a high-rise building, have an escape chair.
- If you live in an apartment building, ask the management to mark accessible exits clearly and to make arrangements to help you evacuate the building.
- Keep extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, food for guide or hearing-ear dogs, or other items you might need. Also, keep a list of the type and serial numbers of medical devices you need.
- Those who are not disabled should learn who in their neighborhood or building is disabled so that they may assist them during emergencies.
- If you are a care-giver for a person with special needs, make sure you have a plan to communicate if an emergency occurs.