Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.
September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Designed to increase awareness and help families prepare for every type of natural disaster — from tornadoes and wildfires to tropical storms and floods — this annual campaign challenges all of us to do our homework and plan ahead.
While it’s not easy to think about the possibility of a natural disaster when we’re already struggling to stay healthy and safe during a pandemic, taking a few simple steps now could make a life-saving difference should the unthinkable happen.
1. Know the Disaster Risks for Your Area
From mudslides to earthquakes, any type of natural disaster can disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives and have lasting effects on your physical and mental health. That’s why it’s important to be aware of potential disasters in your area. Do you live in a flood zone? Are you on a coastline where hurricanes are common? Wherever you live, it’s essential to know your area’s weather patterns and what the changing seasons can bring.
Long before potential emergencies arise, take time to sit down and discuss with your family what disasters might affect your area, how to get emergency alerts and where to go if you need to evacuate.
Government-run websites are always a trusted source of information. Each of these sites contains vital information for disaster preparation and relief in your area:
The American Red Cross is also a reliable resource for disaster-related updates and information.
2. Create a Disaster Supplies Kit
After an emergency, you may be on your own for a while until essential resources like electricity and other utilities can get back up and running. This could mean having to provide your own shelter, first aid and sanitation for a few days.
Preparing a disaster supply kit can help you get through those first few days. Use a water-resistant backpack or duffel bag and fill it with a three-day supply of items you may need. This can include:
First aid supplies
If you’re sheltering at home, you will likely be with family you’ve already lived with throughout the pandemic. So, following the same precautions you’ve been taking all along will be effective. Though, during storm season, you may want to stock up on more of your sanitizing products.
Should you need to evacuate to a shelter, things may be trickier. In your supply kit, you will now want to include face masks, soap and hand sanitizer, too. Some have even suggested non-perishable food items (such as protein bars), since sharing food and dining areas may be a concern.
3. Develop a Plan
The Department of Homeland Security said it best: “Be prepared, not scared.” Whether you face a severe storm, hurricane or tornado, a basic plan for safety can help reduce your family’s anxiety, and possibly save their lives.
When disaster strikes, your family may not all be in the same place. That’s why it’s so important to have a basic plan in place that everyone understands.
Your plan should include:
Assigning responsibilities to every member of the family
Considering special needs for your loved ones
Establishing a method for communicating with one another, if needed
Mapping out evacuation routes
Placing your disaster supply kits in an easy-to-access spot
Practicing your plan
Selecting a shelter location
Writing out your plan
Follow local government agencies for updates on shelter availability. Even if you’ve used a shelter in the past, it may have been closed at some point during the pandemic. This is especially true of school buildings, libraries, etc.
Preparation Can Bring Peace of Mind
While it may seem overwhelming, preparing for a disaster while keeping COVID-19 in mind isn’t all that different. It all comes down to thinking about how to add what you’re already doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into your disaster plan.
Unfortunately, disasters won’t wait until you’re ready. With a little preparation and practice, you and your family will have peace of mind knowing you’ve done all you can to get ready for the unexpected. Know that we’re with you at every step as we face these challenges together.