Today’s storms, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and winter storms, are getting bigger and increasing in frequency. Every household needs to be prepared for conditions like extended power outages and downed cellular networks. By preparing a disaster kit that includes a satellite phone, choosing a place to take shelter and rehearsing disaster plans with the family, today’s households can stay safe in hazardous weather conditions and cope with the aftermath.
Prepare a Disaster Kit
As the recent damage from tornadoes in Oklahoma attests, when a storm strikes your family may not be able to walk away from the wreckage with many helpful items. To be better prepared for disaster, prepare a kit that everyone in your home can access. When the word comes to evacuate, or if you find yourselves taken by surprise at home, you’ll be better able to deal with the storm’s aftermath and help your neighbors if you have essential supplies.
What to put in your disaster kit depends on your local weather patterns and the members of your household. If you are in a place prone to flooding, for example, you’ll want to make sure that you include rain gear, life vests for children, and maybe even an inflatable raft. If hurricanes are prevalent, then you’ll want foul weather gear and flares.
It’s a good idea to include a satellite phone and a radio in your kit, so that you can be sure of both contacting disaster relief authorities and of hearing updates on the situation, even if power lines or phone lines are down. Also, don’t neglect the needs of the youngest members of your household. Kids will be understandably frightened by a storm and sometimes bored by the long periods of inactivity without electricity, so keep a few toys, books or board games on hand to help relieve their stress. Dogs, cats and other household pets will need some consideration too. Include pet food in your kit along with rations for the rest of the family.
Other useful items to put in the kit include: water or a water filtration device, a first-aid kit, a knife, blankets, a mirror for signaling emergency crews, foods that require no preparation and have a long shelf life, flashlights, extra batteries and a striker or other fire starter.
Choosing a Place to Take Shelter
Some of the children and teachers who survived the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado at school took refuge in the bathrooms, where sturdy walls protected them and a source of water could be relied on if they had to wait for rescue. Other survivors hid in closets. Still others went to local emergency shelters or fled to home shelters such as cellars.
You and your household should have a clear emergency plan for each of the types of natural disasters occurring in your region, and each plan should designate a series of the best shelters. If you can’t make it to the community shelter, then where do you go? It’s important to discuss this with the whole family, so that you move in concert when disaster strikes.
For flooding, you will need to seek higher ground quickly. In this case, it might be obvious where to go, but not so clear how to get there. Your emergency plan for floods should include driving instructions including alternative routes in case roads are blocked.
Rehearse Your Plans
Even the best emergency plan can fail if it’s not followed. Your household should rehearse the steps necessary in case of a disaster to make sure that everyone remembers their own part in it. Conduct practice runs including locating the disaster kit and seeking shelter until everyone is comfortable with the routine.
Should you live in an area that is often subject to extreme weather, it’s a good idea to rehearse as a neighborhood. Cooperation will increase everyone’s chance for survival.