Almost 200 million people a year are affected by natural disasters. Almost 100,000 are killed and some $160 billion a year is spent on disaster relief. The effects are long-lasting. In the wake of three major hurricanes and an unprecedented wildfire tragedy in California, no responsible person can afford not to take steps to prepare. The next disaster could be in your neighborhood.
Although every corner of the United States is prone to some form of natural disaster – from storms to earthquakes, to fire and even volcanoes – fewer than half of Americans are prepared at all to deal with them when they strike.
You can’t choose your disaster, much less when it will hit, but there are some commonalities to all disasters you can prepare for, so listen up:
Why You Need to Prepare
Immediately following an emergency, utilities may be severed. You will not have water, refrigeration, or phone service. Emergency responders may not be able to get to you, so you’ll need to depend on yourself for a while. Most of the inhabitants of Puerto Rico were still without power, communications and water for weeks after hurricane Maria devastated the island.
Even if you can get out, stores and gas stations sell out quickly and may not be restocked in a timely fashion. You may have little or no warning. In addition, some of the dangers may not seem obvious, like fire in a hurricane or flood.
How to Prepare
Know the types of natural disasters that are likely to occur in your area, but prepare of the unlikely ones. For example, earthquakes are expected in San Francisco, but who thought that multiple, out-of-control wildfires would be a problem?
Have an evacuation plan. If you need to leave the area, where will you go? What if the road is blocked? What are the alternative routes?
What will you do for shelter? That question may have different answers in an earthquake than in a flood or hurricane.
You should always have food available for three days. But consider as well that you may find yourself giving aid and shelter to others.
You can usually do without food and shelter for longer than without water. You must have a plan to access enough water to keep you and yours alive for several days. A portable camper’s water purifier is a good investment.
When fire breaks out, what will you do? Your home should have one or more fire extinguishers. It’s a good idea to keep your fire extinguisher in a fire extinguisher cabinet so you know exactly where the fire extinguisher is if a fire is to occur. Also, to ensure that your fire extinguisher is in working condition it’s important to get an annual fire extinguisher inspection.
Your Emergency Supply Kit
Put your emergency supply kit in something that is waterproof and portable. You may need multiple containers.
To to make it through three days you will need one gallon of water per person per day. Any water you use for drinking, washing, or preparing food, cleaning dishes, brushing your teeth, or making ice must not be contaminated.
You will need about 2,000 calories per person per day of food. Non-perishable goods such as canned vegetables, soups, and powdered milk don’t need much in the way of preparation. Keep a variety of foods in stock, both for variety and for complete nutrition.
In addition to bandages and creams, have syringes, splints, and a suture kit. A disaster can produce more than everyday scrapes and bruises. Include a week’s worth of prescription medications as well as things like ibuprofen, antihistamines, and antibacterial creams. Keep in mind the special needs of infants, like diapers.