No matter where you live, chances are you’re at risk for some type of natural disaster or emergency. That isn’t meant to scare you: It’s just a fact. It also doesn’t mean you can’t put some steps in place to mitigate your risk.
The first step to emergency preparedness is developing a plan. This type of personal emergency plan allows you to have all the essential information you need ready and available in case of an emergency. And developing a plan doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are 10 activities you should consider in your emergency preparations:
- Understand the types of emergencies you might face. Depending on where you live, it could be hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, fires, floods or earthquakes. Different types of emergencies might have different planning requirements. For example, where to seek shelter during a tornado might be different if you have a basement (versus not having one).
- Check your insurance policies. Know where your insurance policies are and review your coverage for emergencies and disasters. Consider creating an inventory of your belongings in case you need to file a claim at some point. It could also help to have pictures of your belongings for identification purposes.
- Get familiar with the FEMA website. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, also known as FEMA, is the government agency responsible for disaster assistance. Its website has lots of information about emergency preparedness, including emergency plans for kids and how to put together a home first aid kit.
- Research the free resources available to you. In addition to FEMA, check out the websites for the Red Cross, national weather services, and your state and local government. Not only should you bookmark those sites for easy access, but see if they have mobile apps you can access on your phone if the power goes out.
- Know your work policies. Most workplaces have emergency plans that go into effect in disasters. Make sure you know where your company’s plan is located and how it impacts you. If you’re a member of the company’s emergency response team, think about how you’d secure your personal belongings and take care of your family at the same time.
- Prepare an emergency preparation budget. The best time to stock up on supplies is when you’re not facing an emergency. Create a list of items you’d like to keep on hand in case of an emergency and then plan to purchase those items as your budget permits. Sometimes the items you’re looking — for example, flashlights and batteries — can be picked up on sale.
- Plan for electrical and water outages. Even if a storm narrowly misses your area, you could lose electricity or safe water. Create a list of grocery items you’ll want to have on hand, such as nonperishable food items and drinkable water. Also, don’t forget to have an adequate supply of prescription medications and cash on hand, because ATMs and credit card machines won’t work when the power is out.
- Develop a communication plan. When emergencies happen, your family and friends will want to know you’re safe. The reverse is also true: If a friend or family member is in an area experiencing a natural disaster, you’ll want to know they’re okay. Designate a place where people can “check-in” or “mark themselves safe.”
- Document the plan. You don’t have to memorize your plan. Put the key points of your plan on paper and refer to it when you need to. Make sure if certain family members have a specific responsibility, they know what they need to do.
- Debrief after every use. Every time you use your plan, do a quick debrief — even if you prepare for a storm and it doesn’t happen. Ask two questions: 1) What did we do well? 2) What could we do differently next time? This might sound silly, but your plan will get better if you do a little debrief after each use.
Obviously, no one wants to have a disaster or emergency happen. But we still need to plan. Having a personal emergency plan can put your mind at ease that you’ve done your homework, prepared, and have the steps in place to keep yourself and your family safe.