How and When to Prepare for Disasters


There are no areas of the world that are exempt from disaster. Whether you live in a place that is subject to tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes or other natural disasters, it is important to plan and have supplies on hand to escape the danger and survive their impact.

Some people prefer to plan for additional threats that have nothing to do with nature, and everything to do with man’s influence on their surrounding areas and lifestyle as well. These are important considerations, and events that can impact anyone, anywhere, no matter what their location. Both types of disaster preparation have key elements that need to be addressed:

  • Route of escape
  • Food, shelter and clothing
  • Protection equipment and tools

The First Step in Disaster Preparations

Get together with the people in your family. This should include all extended members of the family in your immediate area who are likely to be affected by the same situations as you and your household. Discuss the types of disasters most likely to occur and how they should be handled.

Decide which types of disasters require family members to flee the area, and which ones are better with everyone hunkering down in a specific location prepared for long-term survival when necessary.

Make a plan for escape if situations require fleeing the home. Two types of flight plans should be discussed, those that involve only household members should a singular event such as a fire or natural disaster hit only one of the homes in question, and the other for a full-scale evacuation of all of the family members for a regional disaster.

Create an escape route from the home, and have a pre-determined location for reuniting any family members separated during the escape, or if some are not at home when the event occurs. The location can be simply right outside, at a neighbor’s house or other nearby location for a singular event such as a house fire, or at a local police station or hospital for a larger community wide event.

Consider where family members will stay when needed if evacuations need to be longer than a day or two. Local motels are expensive if the time is more than one or two nights.

One of the most important evacuation preparations you can make is to practice getting to safety quickly. Have evacuation drills at least once a year; more is better. When you do the drill, have all family  members get out of the house, and any who are away at work, school or running errands at the time of the drill should meet at the designated spot when the drill is called.

Alerting family members who are not at home via cell or other message systems will let them know what type of evacuation drill is in process and where to go.

Make sure all members of the family have a complete list of contact information for each other and any locations designated as safe spots. The list should include landline and cell numbers for each person or location. Full addresses, email, social media information and the numbers of work and school locations for each member of the family.

Additional information can include local hospitals, family doctors and police. All members of the family should carry a copy of this list at all times, and one can also be hung in a prominent place in the home.

Food, Shelter and Equipment Preparations

There are two types of emergency preparations your family should have ready. The first is a flight kit, also known as a bug-out bag. This kit will have everything all members of the family will need while en-route to the safe location you have planned for any emergency.

Bug-out bags have to be mobile, and easily carried, so do not get too carried away. Make sure there is enough food and water for all members of the family to get them through the trip, some common first aid items, a supply of prescription medications for family members who must have access to them, some over-the-counter pain medications, blankets, a change of clothing, a coat, gloves and hat, a flashlight and some hand sanitizer will do in most cases.

The other type of preparation should include everything all of the family members will need to survive an isolation stay at home. Whether the quarantine is self-inflicted to stay away from trouble outside, or medically required due to outbreaks occurring in local areas, having enough supplies on hand will make it bearable, and result in less anxiety.

There should be enough food and water for all members of the family to last at least three months. Have medical supplies and prescription drugs stashed away and keep them in rotation so that they are not out of date when needed. Keeping an emergency generator with fuel sources ready and in good condition will help if power issues occur in the community.

While some people are not comfortable with defense weapons, having enough for each family member to protect themselves with in the event of a man-made situation is a good idea. Make sure all family members old enough to protect themselves and each other are trained in using the type of weapon involved.

Remember that even natural disasters can, unfortunately, bring out the worst in neighbors and other people in the local area. Looting and other forms of theft and destruction are common when situations seem dire. People who haven’t prepared themselves may try to take advantage of your well-stocked preparations.

Know When Disaster is Imminent

Most communities, towns and cities have emergency broadcast alerts for when disasters are possible. Sign up to get them sent to your cell phone and/or email. Having alerts sent to more than one type of communication device is a good idea in the event one of them isn’t working at the time the messages are sent out.

How Location Effects Preparations

Where you live will affect how you plan in two ways. First, the types of disasters most likely to occur will be a guide to what you need to have on hand. While you may want to prepare for extraordinary circumstances, your first thought should be having on hand the items to survive disasters that occur normally in your area.

If you live in a tornado zone, you will want to prepare for that type of disaster. If you live on a flood plain, you will need a different type of plan. Second, the space you have available may affect how you plan for a disaster. If you live in a small home or apartment, it may not be as easy to accumulate large stockpiles of food or equipment to survive a long-term emergency.

It is possible to keep a bug-out bag and some food supplies even in the smallest space. No matter how big or small the area is where you store your emergency equipment and supplies, make sure food is rotated regularly to keep it fresh and check all equipment to make sure it is in good condition. Keep a supply of batteries and other operational supplies on hand and you will be in better shape than most when situations are at their worst.


About Author

Tami lives in rural Illinois with her husband of 32 years where they raised their two children in the homestead lifestyle and now share their love of living off the land with their grandchildren as well.

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