Emergency Preparedness Basics
Are You Prepared?
Though no one likes to think about potential disasters, emergencies can and do happen. Because in most cases there’s little or no warning about when an emergency situation will strike, it’s important to always be prepared to keep yourself and your family safe. Though hopefully you’ll never need to rely on your advance preparations, taking the time to ensure you’re as ready as possible could be a life-saving move.
More than 4,000 Americans die and more than 20,000 are injured each year in fires, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). By taking these precautions, you can avoid many fatalities:
- Install smoke alarms. Don’t forget to check batteries regularly.
- Review options for escape routes. Practice escaping from each room with all family members.
- Ensure that all windows are easy to open. Avoid complicated lock systems that might be hard for kids to use and check that no windows are painted shut.
- Consider escape ladders, especially if your home has multiple levels and bedrooms aren’t on ground level.
Flooding is the most common U.S. disaster and can happen in any state. Don’t fall prey to the “it will never happen to me” mentality. Be prepared:
- Make a portable supply kit for your car. Include sleeping bags, clothing, prescription medicines and medical supplies, bottled water, nonperishable food, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- Purchase a flood insurance policy, especially if your area’s flood risk is high.
- Tune in to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio during a flood watch or flood warning.
If you live in a hurricane-prone community, the following actions can help protect you, your family, and your property:
- Build a “To-Go Bag," a portable kit with a battery-powered radio, nonperishable food, water, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- Create an evacuation plan. Include where your family will meet, alternate transportation routes out of your area, and how you’ll leave if you don’t have access to a car.
- Protect property with flood insurance. Install hurricane shutters to protect windows from high winds and reduce the risk of serious damage.
Tornadoes can occur suddenly in any state at any time of the year. The most important way to prepare is by determining how and where you’ll take shelter. Here are some safe options:
- Underground shelters like basements and cellars. These areas provide the best protection.
- Small interior rooms or hallways. These areas are second-best, especially on lower floors.
- Cars don’t provide adequate protection. Instead, go to a building with a strong foundation.
- Keep an emergency kit. Include nonperishable food, water, flashlights, and batteries in your shelter location.
California isn’t the only danger zone when it comes to quakes. Forty-five of our 50 states are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes. To cover all ground:
- Prepare your home. Fasten shelves securely to walls, placing heavy objects on lower shelves, and avoid hanging pictures above your bed.
- Designate family meeting places. Choose locations both within and outside your neighborhood, in case you’re not together when a quake strikes.
- Assemble an emergency supply kit. Make sure it contains nonperishable food, water, a battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
While the hazards of winter months vary across the country, some regions are guaranteed to experience blizzards, winter storms, and extreme cold every season. There’s no excuse to be unprepared. When winter is upon you:
- Check and update your family’s emergency supply kit.
- Stock up. Make sure you’ve got enough rock salt, sand, snow shovels, and blankets before bad weather hits.
- Insulate pipes. Allow water to drip out of faucets during cold weather to prevent them from freezing.
- Ensure that your home is well-insulated.
- Purchase snow tires or chains as necessary.
The National Terror Alert Response Center says that preparing for a terrorist attack provides you with the best chance of survival in the event of an actual attack:
- Create an emergency communications plan. Choose an out-of-town contact so you can check on each other.
- Choose a pre-determined meeting place. Designate a location away from home where family members can gather during evacuation.
- Assemble a disaster supplies kit. Remember to include “special needs” items for family members, like medicine or infant formula.
Tsunamis, or seismic sea waves, can strike anywhere along the U.S. coastline. They can move hundreds of miles an hour, so acting quickly is vital:
- Be alert for signs. If you’re in coastal waters and notice a dramatic recession of water, move inland to higher ground immediately.
- Exercise precaution. If a tsunami is in your area, avoid the beach.
- Stay informed. Listen to NOAA radio, watch TV, or check the internet for official instructions.
Resources for Emergency Preparedness
Taking preparatory action can provide you with a measure of control in the face of unexpected situations. However, the best actions to take in emergency situations vary greatly. Take the time to learn more about potential emergencies that could happen in your area and the appropriate responses to them.
You can receive more detailed information on specific emergencies and disasters at ready.gov.