How to Prepare for the Next Disaster - The Best Time to Prepare is Today.
Since most disasters are unpredictable, the best time to prepare is today.
Disaster can strike at any moment. If you’re caught off guard, you could easily lose your belongings and your property. More importantly, you could lose your life. If you have already been through a disaster, you understand how terrifying the experience can be and how little time there is to think. If you haven’t yet experienced a disaster, consider yourself lucky.
Although we cannot hope to stop a disaster from occurring, especially natural disasters, it is fully within our capacity to prepare for it and mitigate the damage it incurs. Today, we’re going to provide a detailed guide on how you and your family can prepare for the next big disaster.
What Is a Disaster?
Most people already know what disasters are. However, to properly prepare a disaster, we must be clear on the events that qualify as one.
A disaster can be defined as an unexpected and unfortunate event. One of the key elements of a disaster is that it is not easily predictable and may cause significant adverse consequences. A disaster can be on a large scale, such as an earthquake. A disaster can also be isolated, such as a loved one tripping down the stairs.
Why Prepare for a Disaster?
Disaster can strike at a moment's notice, without giving any prior warning. Disasters can force you into a position wherein you have limited to no access to necessities or a position wherein you must evacuate your home. Of course, relief workers will flood to the scene following a disaster. This does not mean they will immediately be able to reach you. Preparing for a disaster may significantly minimize the distress and danger you and your family may face.
Preparing for a Disaster
In general, disaster preparedness can be divided into three distinct phases: before a disaster, during a disaster, and after a disaster. We’re going to delve into a deeper account for all three stages, guiding you throughout the steps you must take to survive any disaster.
1. Be ready at home.
Disasters know no bounds. They do not discriminate between homes and places of work. It is important to prepare, plan, and practice, similar to what you most likely did in middle school. Think back to the fire drills and earthquake drills you may have gone through.
One of the first things you can do to prepare for a disaster is to stay aware of current events. We must emphasize that disasters cannot truly be predicted. However, some situations foretell an incoming disaster. For example, if you live near the shore and have seen on the news that a very strong storm is coming, you can intelligently infer that flooding may occur in your area.
The next step to take is to educate yourself. Do your research regarding possible disasters in your area and how to prepare for them. Ready.gov provides toolkits and downloadable emergency plans that may prove to be useful. Be sure to involve all the members of your family in the disaster planning process. If any one person is unaware of what to do in case of a disaster, he/she can become a liability for everyone else.
2. Be ready at work.
Disaster preparedness also extends to the workplace. Does your office already have an emergency and evacuation plan in place? If so, be sure to thoroughly understand the plan. If not, be sure to bring up the issue with the proper authority in your workplace.
How will you stay in contact with local authorities to determine what to do? Be sure to know whether there are landlines in your office which you can use for communicating with authorities. It's also a good practice to leave a list of emergency numbers at a place easily accessible to everyone. Answering these questions is of the utmost importance when it comes to disaster preparedness in the workplace.
3. Know your community's vulnerabilities.
This has been mentioned earlier, but it deserves its own point. Know your community’s vulnerabilities. If you are in an area prone to flooding, be sure you are adequately prepared to deal with that kind of disaster.
Some cities are particularly prone to landslides, especially in rural areas. Do your research and be aware of how your immediate vicinity is vulnerable to disasters. From there, tailor your disaster preparedness plan accordingly.
4. Learn about agencies and roles.
No one government agency takes complete responsibility for disaster risk reduction and management. The responsibility is shared among all US government agencies. Do your research regarding the agencies and their specialized roles. This will allow you to know exactly who to contact when you find yourself in a particular situation.
You can take this one step further by acquainting yourself with the authorities in your county or municipality. Take time to understand the roles of the authorities on the local level and be sure to obtain their contact numbers.
5. Find mitigation funding.
There are many free and budget-friendly ways to set up disaster mitigation systems if needed. However, the more effective systems are costly and may be out of reach for some families. This does not excuse any household from fully preparing themselves for future disasters.
A handful of grant programs exist specifically to fund disaster mitigation programs, reduce losses, and protect property and life from any future damages caused by disasters.
6. Conduct a risk assessment.
Conduct a risk assessment to help you identify potential hazards and what consequences they may bring about. In the household, this can be done simply by performing a visual check. Pay attention particularly to fire hazards such as electronics and any cables that require replacing. After identifying the areas that are most prone to cause disaster, follow through with action and solutions to mitigate risks.
7. Plan for all types of risks.
We mentioned earlier that you should find the vulnerabilities of your community and focus your planning around those vulnerabilities. This does not mean you should discount the likelihood of other types of disasters to occur.
Disasters are not limited to natural disasters and hazards. Some disasters are, sadly, man-made. These include fires, industrial accidents, acts of terrorism, etc. It is important to account for all types of disasters when coming up with your disaster preparedness plan. The more detailed your plan is, the better. We've compiled a shortlist of a few things you should take into consideration.
- Disaster Preparedness Kit. When preparing your disaster preparedness kit, be sure to focus on the essentials. If you find that something is not necessary, it's probably best to remove it to make space for something that is. Include enough food and water for yourself and your family to last a few days. If you require certain medication that must be taken regularly, be sure to include them as well. Of course, you will require first aid equipment such as bandages, disinfectants, gauze, etc. These are readily available on our website.
- Means of Communication. When preparing your disaster preparedness kit, it is important to remember that your family may not always be together. Some items may go in a shared kit, but everyone should have their kits. In these kits, be sure to include some means of communication. Consider that you may not always be in the range of a cell site and you may not always have access to a phone charger.
- Escape Plan. Most offices have emergency escape plans posted on their walls. It's best to have something similar to this for your household. If you need to evacuate your house properly, you need to create an effective escape plan for each floor. Note down all exits and possible paths to get to the closest exit from each room.
- Emergency Fund. Lastly, be sure to have enough liquid assets to tide you over a disaster. The more liquid, the better. The best option, of course, is to hold cash. Disasters are not only devastating experiences for your property and family but also your finances. Pre-disaster financial planning is key. If you can, consult a certified financial advisor who can help you chart the best course for you.
During a Disaster
If you’ve followed all the steps above and have spent enough time meticulously preparing for disaster scenarios, your chances for getting through any disaster has already been significantly increased. By preparing, you’ve already won half the battle.
During a disaster, most people are likely to panic, making it very hard to keep a clear mind and remain calm. This is why evacuations must be practiced over and over again until they become natural and until they require little to no thinking. When a disaster strikes, there are a few things you must do to ensure your safety and the safety of the people around you.
If you are evacuated:
- Keep calm and wait for the directions of the relevant authorities. They will provide evacuation instructions that you must follow in an orderly manner. Do not forget to carry your disaster preparedness kit with you.
- Unplug your appliances and turn off all utilities such as electricity, gas, and water. There have been many cases of fires breaking out after a disaster because of a gas leak.
- If, and only if time permits, elevate furniture and appliances to higher storage or the upper floors.
Before leaving, be sure to lock your home and bring your keys with you.
- Upon leaving your house, inform someone outside of the affected area regarding your whereabouts. If you can, call a family member across the country and tell them how you’re doing and where you are evacuating to.
Again, most of the points listed above should be followed only if time permits. During a disaster, time is a luxury and is not on your side. The most important thing you can do is to leave promptly and keep yourself safe.
If you stay at home:
- During disasters, there is a high likelihood that electricity will be cut off. Keep yourself updated with updates from authorities by listening to channels on a battery-powered radio.
- Stay away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
- The moment electricity gets cut off, be sure to unplug all appliances and keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed.
After a Disaster
After a disaster, there will probably be many thoughts running through your head. However, there are only two things you must immediately attend to.
- Check for injuries. Do a quick visual body check of yourself and your family members. Look for any signs of injury. You can also start feeling around your ribs and other body parts to see if you feel any sort of pain after applying pressure. If that’s the case, seek medical attention immediately.
- Check your home for damage. You need to verify the structural integrity of your home as soon as possible. Small cracks along your walls may eventually give in. You would want to have that fixed before that happens.
In closing, there are a few points that I would like to emphasize again.
- Your life is more valuable than anything else. When making decisions, always keep your life in mind. For example, do not run back into a burning building just to retrieve your laptop or any other belongings. Always put your safety above all else.
- Preparation is key. Knowing what to do during and after a disaster is important. However, you immensely increase your chances of surviving a disaster if you’ve taken the time and effort to prepare beforehand.