Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2015 Vol. 62 No. 9

When Disaster Strikes: Is your Family Prepared?

Have you ever thought about what would happen if you and your family were affected by a natural disaster? Have you made a disaster plan? Do you have a ready kit for your family if needed? These areas are often overlooked by most people and can create further chaos to an already hectic situation. Here in Texas, we face many types of natural disasters:

  • Hurricanes
  • Flooding
  • Tornados
  • Snow and ice storms
  • Wildland fires
  • Earthquakes

Any of these events can vary in size and impact to our communities from minimal to catastrophic damage. Major challenges are presented when we have to balance our preparedness and planning for a predicted threat like a hurricane or tornado versus a sudden disaster like an earthquake or wildland fire. Throughout the year we can predict what possible natural disasters we may face and receive advanced warning notifications for planning purposes.

The real question is what do you do with that information to prepare your family? Being prepared as a family is one of the most important processes you can do to minimize the potential impact of a disaster. Focus on the following areas:

  • Family Communication and Notification Plan:
    • Contact cards:  write down contact names, numbers and addresses for all family members, nearest relatives and neighbors.
    • Have a notification plan of how and who to contact to avoid confusion and missed family members for accountability.
    • Keep in mind that cell and Wi-Fi services may be interrupted, so have back up means to communicate (such as Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, home or work phone lines).
  • Family Emergency/Disaster Plan:
    • Make plans geared towards what types of disasters you are most likely to face for the region of the state where you live. Different disasters and severe weather bring different types of challenges.
    • Designate meeting points in your house for sheltering along with an evacuation routes if needed to leave your house.
    • Designate meeting points if you are away from home or split from your family.
    • Know where your emergency kit is located and have it with you when you have enough warning of a possible disaster or severe weather.
    • Know how to shut off the gas, water and electricity to your house if needed.
  • Emergency Kit:  A good rule of thumb is to have three full days’ worth of supplies. Kits can vary depending on family size and needs but should focus on the listed items below:
    • Food and water. (Canned or dry foods that are easy to make and won’t spoil are best. It is recommended to have one gallon of water for each day for each family member if possible.)
    • Safe cooking and eating utensils.
    • Light sources and batteries.
    • First aid kits.
    • Trash bags.
    • Personal hygiene and toiletry items.
    • Seven day supply of medications. (Also write down your medications—including dose amounts and how often each is to be taken—along with existing medical conditions and physicians’ names.)
    • Multipurpose tools.
    • Cash.
    • Copies of important documents such as home insurance, immunization records and passport numbers.
    • Extra sets of car and house keys.
    • Games for activities.
    • Medical supplies.
    • Baby supplies.
    • Pet supplies.
  • Preparing:
    • Practice your communication and notification plans with family members.
    • Practice your emergency disaster plan at home and ensure the younger children understand what to do and where to go.
    • Check you emergency kit quarterly and replace needed items like batteries, food and water.
    • Take a CPR and First Aid class.
    • Involve your neighbors and friends to spread the education.
    • Involve your children, so they don’t fear these processes in case they’re home alone when a disaster occurs and your family is separated.
    • Know the school release process for your kids if they are being released early due to a disaster or severe weather and you cannot get to them quickly. Have a backup plan for where they are to go and or who can get them.

Another area commonly overlooked is what to do when there is a major power outage or water main break and you are still at home. You may go several days without electricity or municipal water. You may be able relocate with family, friends or in hotel for a few days and not be affected as much. But, if you are unable to leave your home when a severe snow or ice storm occurs knocking out power and water, have a backup plan for cooking, maintaining enough food and water, and safely staying warm. Having battery backup or small generator is always a good idea.

Stay connected to the news or social media updates from your local emergency services and emergency management entities. When you have no means to recharge your phones during power outages, consider conserving the battery life by only communicating with family members to provide updates or call for emergency services.

The key to success when faced with a natural disaster is being prepared and proactive for the safety of you and your family. Stay engaged, educated, updated and maintain good situational awareness for what to do when a disaster or major weather event occurs. You can find great preparedness information online at several websites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Emergency Home Preparedness
American Red Cross

Below I demonstrate how make a home emergency kit for a family of four by placing enough supplies to last three full days in two sealed five gallon buckets.

How make a home emergency kit
How make a home emergency kit
How make a home emergency kit


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