Preparedness is everyone's job.
Not just government agencies but all sectors and levels of society -- service providers, businesses, civic and volunteer groups, industry associations and neighborhood associations, as well as every individual citizen -- should plan ahead for disaster. Here are ten ways you can be prepared.
1. Identify Your Risk
What are the hazards where you live and work? Do you live or work in a flood plain or in a high fire danger area? Are you prepared for an unexpected human-made disaster that can strike at any time? Do you have a family plan in case of an emergency? Check with your insurance company to see if your home is in a high risk area for fire, flood or tornadoes. Lots of preparedness information can be gathered from your local chapter of the American Red Cross and Ready Colorado. Get informed.
2. Create a Family Disaster Plan
What will you do in an emergency, even if away from home? Where will you meet? How will you communicate with each other? Is your family able to take care of itself and be self sufficient for 2-3 days without services?
- Where to meet if you have to evacuate. Designate a meeting place outside your home. Have a backup meeting place in your neighborhood in case your first rendezvous point is inaccessible. Make sure your children’s schools or caregivers have a disaster plan and that they schedule annual “disaster drills” with parents. Look for information from local authorities about evacuation rotes and shelter locations.
- Identify an out-of-state friend or family or family member to be your “family contact” for everyone to check-in with — it is often easier to call long-distance following a disaster.
How to get important information in your community and how to talk to family members should you become separated. To be fully informed:
Know your area’s emergency alerting radio station. Make sure to have a portable radio with extra batteries so you have access to important information about emergency response efforts in your community.
Keep a touch-tone home phone that does not require plugging into an electric outlet. After a disaster, cell phones and wireless phones may not be working and if the power is out phones that require an electrical plug in won't work either. Home phones that only require a plug into the phone service line will work even if the power is out.
If you are able, use your touch-tone phone to call your out-of-town family contact. Try to be brief and to the point when contacting family members or your out-of-state contact. Phone lines are valuable communications channels for emergency response teams. If you are in your car, find a safe place to pull over and stay in your car. Turn on the car radio to gain important information about where to go and what to do.
How to take care of your family pets:
- Store food and water for them in your disaster supply kit, and keep their tags up-to-date.
- Look for information on how and where you can temporarily shelter your pets during and after a disaster.
3. Practice Your Disaster Plan
After you have sat down with your family and written your plan — practice it. Start by having family members meet at a designated spot outside your home — like you would after a fire. Know how to respond in the event of any disaster — whether to stay put indoors, or evacuate your neighborhood by car. If you need to evacuate, know the proper procedures and routes as determined by your local authorities.
4. Build a Disaster Supply Kit for Your Home and Car
If you are stranded in your car or have to be self sufficient at home until help arrives, you need to have a disaster kit with you. Your home disaster supply kit should have at least the following items and be kept in containers that can be easily carried or moved such as backpacks, plastic totes, or suitcases. Carry a kit in your car for emergencies when you are on the road.
- At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food, and water for all family members. Replace water every six months. Restock food items.
- First Aid Kit.
- Battery-powered flashlight and portable radio with extra batteries. Replace batteries on a regular basis.
- Change of clothing and footwear, and one blanket or sleeping bag for each family member.
- Extra set of car keys, and a credit card and cash.
- Extra medications.
- Sanitation supplies (toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.)
- An extra set of prescription glasses.
- Keep important family documents in a waterproof container.
- Other items you feel you will need and things to entertain yourself.
5. Prepare Your Children
Talk to your kids about what the risks are and what your family will do if disaster strikes. Practice your family disaster plan every six months. Empower your children to help write the family plan, build the disaster supply, and lead the drills. The more informed and involved children are in disaster planning, the more prepared they will be.
During the first few hours or days following a disaster, essential services may not be available. People must be ready to act on their own.
6. Don’t Forget Those with Special Needs
Infants, seniors and those with special needs must not be forgotten. Make sure that supplies for your infant are in your kit and that you have items such as medications, oxygen tank or other medical supplies seniors or the disabled may need. Have enough special needs supplies for at least 3 days. Be sure that the assisted living facility where a family member resides has a disaster plan and that you know what it is.
7. Learn CPR and First Aid
Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross and get trained on basic first aid and CPR. Your training could save the life of a loved one or neighbor following a disaster.
8. Eliminate Hazards in Your Home and the Workplace
You must secure the contents of your home or office to reduce hazards, especially during shaking from an earth-quake or an explosion. Strap down large electronics, secure cabinet doors, anchor tall furniture, and secure overhead objects such as ceiling fans and pictures. If you live in a high fire danger area, also take the necessary steps to protect your home against wildfires. Find out how you can make your home fire safe by contacting your local fire department.
9. Understand Post 9/11 Risks
In the event of chemical or toxic exposure — or bombs and explosives — do not panic.
- If you hear an explosion, take cover under a sturdy table or desk, away from falling items. Then exit as quickly as possible.
- If there is a fire, stay low, cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth, and seek a safe escape route, away from heat or flames.
- If you are trapped in debris, cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing to avoid breathing dust. Shout to alert rescuers or tap on a pipe or wall. Conserve your energy.
- If you think you have been exposed to any chemical or biological substance, take off contaminated clothing and place in a trash bag, then shower. Contact a physician or medical clinic as soon as possible.
10. Get involved: Volunteer
Donate blood, educate your neighbor, volunteer today by joining your local American Red Cross, Fire Safe Council and other volunteer organizations in your area.