By Sonya D. Lavett
Living on the Gulf Coast, residents become accustomed to torrential rain storms in the summer and during hurricane season. Whether you live up north and have to deal with the dreaded nor’easter, out West with fires and floods, or in the South with the overwhelming humidity in the summer and the sudden tornado, we all have to accommodate bad weather.
Power outages, massive flooding and lack of shelter can happen in the blink of an eye. Being prepared may mean the difference between life and death in some instances. How prepared are you for a bad weather event? Risk management is critical in the life of a business, but sometimes we fail to see the importance of being prepared for disastrous events in our personal lives.
There are certainly those who are stocking up for the next Armageddon, but while bunkers are great and having a six-month food and water supply may make sense to some families, you may not need to operate on such a drastic scale.
- Make a List: The first thing you need to do is make a list; keep it simple. Say the power goes out and it doesn’t come back on for three days. Do you have enough food and water to take care of everyone in your family, including your beloved pets, during this power outage? Do you have a way to prepare food, such as a camp stove or a grill? Write everything down that you and your family would need to survive for several days (maybe even a week) without such luxuries as power or external communication. Be sure to take into account family members with disabilities and any important items.
- Stock up on Water: Water is so crucial. A good rule of thumb is to have at least a gallon a day for each family member. Again, don’t forget the dog! Not sure about the quality of your water? You can add a capful of bleach to a gallon of water and ensure that it is safe enough to ingest. Hygiene is still part of the daily necessities. If you won’t have access to running water, how will you wash your hands or bathe? Keeping extra water set aside is probably a good idea. This will also be needed in case of injury.
- Fill Prescriptions and First Aid Kit Items: For prescriptions, why not go ahead and fill it a week early, so you have what you need if the roads are blocked and you can’t make it to the local drug store? Now is a good time to take stock of what you have, purge any old and expired meds and replenish basics like first aid needs.
- Alternative Power Options: There may be no way to charge a cell phone other than an external power bank or ways to have light. Are all of your communication devices, flashlights and power banks fully charged? A few candles or lanterns are good to keep close. A battery-powered, hand crank radio or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio with tone alert could be invaluable by keeping you informed. Remember the extra batteries.
- List Emergency Contacts: We have a habit of keeping all of our contact info in our cell phones, but what if they are inoperable? This is where a notebook comes in handy. Do you know important numbers off the top of your head? Keep a running list of important contacts or in case of emergency contacts with other important documents, like insurance policy information and other account info. Seal it all up in a waterproof bag.
- Prepare Over Time: How much will all of this cost? It depends. You don’t have to break the bank to become prepared. Make a habit of picking up a couple of extra gallons of water, a roll of toilet paper or even dog food at the store each time you make a trip to ensure that everyone in your family has what they might need to get through a terrible weather event. Keep it all organized and have a running list of your supplies close by. With food and medications, include expiration dates and rotate them out consistently.
- Check Your List Twice: Once you have crossed everything off your list, spread out all of your supplies and make sure you have everything you need. For example, do you have canned goods? Make sure you include a manual can opener so you don’t end up trying to open your food with a hammer.
- Establish a Communication Plan: Now that you have all of your supplies in order, what is your family communication plan? Suppose cell phones are a no-go and you have no way of getting in touch with loved ones. Sit down together and formulate a plan of action for the unknowns. Who will you reach out to? Refer to your emergency contacts document. A relative or loved one out of town may serve you better, as they can be the point of communication for all family members if communication is possible. Where will you meet up if you become separated? How will you stay in touch with no cell phones or other means of communication? Devise your plan, think it through and go over it often with your entire family.
Emergency preparedness is also a great family bonding exercise where everyone can be involved in the planning. Make it fun! There is a nationwide campaign, America’s PreparAthon, where individuals and communities are working to increase community resilience and preparedness. FEMA has some downloadable tools and checklists, which are incredibly helpful and might save you from forgetting something.
We never know when disaster may strike. Being prepared will help you survive and in doing so, you may also be in a position to provide assistance to a neighbor or a loved one who did not take time to prepare.
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