4 Steps to Individual and Family Preparedness

As mentioned in earlier posts, September is National Preparedness Month.  Through the lens of whole community emergency management, individual and family preparedness is truly the foundation of all our efforts.  If families are not properly prepared our systems in emergency management, response, social services, healthcare, etc. will be completely overwhelmed in the event of a disaster.  If individuals have not prepared themselves for disasters they will not be able to go to work – effectively shutting down government, businesses, and not for profits which provide so many critical services – especially during disasters. 

While my focus lies generally on preparing governments, businesses, and not for profits for disaster, I often get asked questions about individual and family preparedness.  I also stress individual and family preparedness when I speak with clients, as the preparedness of their employees, suppliers, distributors, customers and clients is so important to their continuity of operations.  Every organization should promote preparedness concepts to their employees as part of their business continuity plan. 

There are an abundance of resources out there on individual and family preparedness.  Overall, the best of these resources is Ready.gov.  They make preparedness simple by breaking it down into four key activities:

  1. Get a kit
  2. Make a plan
  3. Be informed
  4. Get involved. 

1. Get a Kit – FEMA promotes getting (or better yet – building) an emergency kit that will sustain you and your family for at least 3 DAYS.  I would suggest that you prepare to be on your own for as long as you can.  If you can do 3 days, why not 4? 

Everyone’s kit is going to be a little bit different based on your needs and your budget. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Water.  It’s a biological essential.  Have AT LEAST 1 gallon of water per person per day for hydration and basic sanitation.  If you live in a warmer climate you will need more. 
    • Pro tip – While you should prepare for your water needs with gallon jugs, consider other water sources to supplement this such as the water in the tank of your toilet or your hot water heater. 
  • Food, another biological essential.  Be sure to have at least three days of non-perishable food per person.  Canned food is always an easy option, although it can be heavy (don’t forget the can opener!).  A lighter-weight option would be military MREs (meals ready to eat) or camping meals (found in most outdoors and hunting stores).  Protein bars and dried fruit are great options as well as they are high in calories (something you may need in a survival situation) and nutrient dense. 
    • Pay special attention to dietary needs or restrictions.  Food allergies are important to note when buying your food.  Also note the amount of sodium usually found in pre-packaged food in the event that a member of your family has sodium sensitivities. 
    • Have pets?  Don’t forget food and water for them, too!
  • Medications.  These can consist of over the counter medications such as ibuprofen, anti-histamines, or anti-diuretics which your family may need (and which you should pack!) as well as any prescription medications. 
    • All food, water, and medications have an expiration date.  Keep a list of your items in your kit with expiration dates noted.  Rotate new stock in when needed. 
  • First aid kit.  Injuries can and do occur during disasters so you should be prepared with a first aid kit.  This is something you can purchase in whole or in part, supplemented with additional items.  Rolled gauze, triangular bandages, and bandaids are important and often used – so stock up! 
    • Get training and know how to provide first aid!  Everyone in your family should take a first aid and CPR class.  Check with the Red Cross, your local community college, or ambulance squad.  Keep a small first aid book in your kit as well – you might not remember everything! 
  • Toiletry and sanitation supplies.  Garbage bags are excellent multi-purpose items.  They can be used to dispose of waste (human or otherwise), to carry goods, or to act as a barrier.  Be sure to have some rolls of toilet paper, feminine products, cleaning solution (a spray bottle of bleach solution is best!), and hand wipes.  Have a baby?  Be sure to pack diapers!
    • Toilet seats that fit on 5 gallon buckets are a great convenience and are available through many commercial outlets.  Before a disaster you can also store some of your emergency supplies in the bucket
  • Emergency communications.  Battery operated, solar, or hand crank radios are a great addition to your kit.  They will allow you to stay aware of the situation and receive important government messages.  These are available through many commercial outlets. 
    • Many of these radios also include features such as flashlights and cell phone chargers.  Be sure that you are familiar with their operation before disaster strikes! 
    • Consider how you will store your kit and how you might have to move it in the event of evacuation.  Plastic bins are a great storage solution buy may not be convenient to move.  Store all items in backpacks inside the bins.  Bright red bins are great to use and should be labeled and easy to find and access. 
    • You don’t have to assemble your kit all at once.  If it’s more cost effective for you and your family, create a preparedness budget and purchase items over a period of time. Tools and supplies.  Other tools and supplies may be necessary to help you survive depending on your situation.  Items to consider are duct tape, a good knife, a folding camping or military style shovel, a hatchet, a wrench, and rope or para-cord. 

2. Make a Plan –Along with checklists for your kit, you can also find checklists and templates on Ready.gov for your plans. A family communications plan is one of the most important plans you can make. How will family members contact each other during a disaster? Consider both cell phone and landline contact methods. Also, an out of state contact should be identified. If family members can’t contact each other, perhaps they can contact this out of state person to let them know they are OK.

Families should plan for sheltering in place by identifying the resources and actions necessary for staying where they are and staying safe. Likewise, families should create an evacuation plan in the event that an evacuation is ordered. What will you take with you?

Lastly, you should be knowledgeable of the emergency plans at school and work. How will notifications be made? What will schools do with children? Where will your meeting place be?

3. Be Informed. It is important to be informed about disasters, be notified of them when they are about to occur, and be able to receive emergency alerts and instructions from government in the event of a disaster. Most states have emergency notification systems established which are free to subscribe to. These systems will contact you per your instructions (cell phone, land line, text, email) to notify you of an emergency and provide you with emergency instructions. Some major cities also have their own similar alert systems. Know what is available in your area and subscribe.

4. Get Involved. Once you have prepared you and your family, help your community to become better prepared. There are a variety of organizations who can benefit from your interest in preparedness. Perhaps you would like to be a health and safety instructor with the American Red Cross or maybe you would like to volunteer through a faith based organization such as the Salvation Army or your local church, mosque, or temple. Local Citizen Corps Councils, if you have one, are focused on disaster preparedness and relief efforts. Volunteermatch.org is a great way to find local community organizations to volunteer with.

Remember, this is just a quick synopsis.  More information can be found from Ready.gov or from the other links provided.  More information on individual and family preparedness can also be found from fellow blogger Kathleen at oyoinfo.net

Be Proactive, Be Prepared! ™

 © 2014 – Tim Riecker

 

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