Are You Prepared? Ensure Resiliency for Yourself and Your Family in the Wake of Disaster

In an era where disasters, whether natural or man-made, occur at an alarming rate, citizens should be proactive in preparing themselves for even the most unlikely scenarios.

There are three real types of disaster: technological (hazardous materials incidents and nuclear power plant failures), natural (weather) and man-made (terrorism). When planning for your family’s resiliency you should consider how the type of disaster might alter your preparedness and recovery plans.


Why Prepare?
Being prepared can drastically reduce the impact of disasters as well as ease fear and anxiety that accompany hazardous situations. Local municipalities have emergency preparedness plans in place to assist citizens when disasters strike. You should be aware of your government’s preparedness plans including where your closest safe-house might be. It is likely that your local emergency responders’ efforts will be needed elsewhere during a disaster and thus you should know how to respond to severe weather or other disasters that may occur in your area. You should also be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days.

Your preparedness plans should include plans for before the disaster strikes, during the disaster, and once the disaster has passed.

Before the disaster you should:

  • Know the risks your geographic location may be subjected to
  • Make certain you are fully insured (purchase flood insurance)
  • Develop plans for what you should do during the disaster
  • Assemble a supplies kit
  • Ensure your family and friends are prepared and understand any assistance they may need

During the disaster you should:

  • Be prepared to activate your plan
  • Help others if you are able
  • Follow your local municipality’s instructions

After the disaster you should:

  • Repair damaged property
  • Take steps to eradicate potential for future loss
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Natural Hazards
Natural hazards are natural events that threaten lives, property and other personal assets. Natural hazards can often be predicted and tend to occur repeatedly in geographic locations due to various weather patterns and physical characteristics.  Natural hazards include flood, fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, extreme cold, extreme heat, tsunami, etc.

It is important that you consult FEMA.gov and/or your local municipality’s disaster preparedness site to gain a better understanding of which natural hazards might threaten your home.

For more in depth information (including preparedness checklists) regarding protective measures for various catastrophic weather events please consult:

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Technological Hazards
Technological Hazards include hazardous materials incidents and nuclear power plant failures. These events generally occur without warning and victims are generally unaware of the occurrence until years later i.e. health problems that arise as a result of hidden toxic waste sites. The number of technological events is increasing as a result of newly introduced substances and human error.

To understand technological hazards that may be present in your area, consult your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). These organizations are responsible for collecting intelligence on hazardous materials in the community. Your LEPC will be able to tell you what you should do to minimize your risk of exposure to various materials.

If a Hazardous Materials Incident occurs in your community, tune in to local radio or television stations for instructions.

Household chemical emergencies are another type of technological hazard. Some general protective guidelines concerning household chemicals include:

  • Only buy as much of a chemical as you will need
  • Keep chemicals in their original containers
  • Don’t store chemicals in food or drink containers
  • Do not mix household chemicals with other products
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions
  • Do not smoke while using household chemicals
  • Dispose of hazardous materials correctly (check with your local municipality to determine whether there is a hazardous waste collection program in your area).

Take preventative measures and be proactive about safeguarding your home from a chemical emergency. Be aware of the symptoms of toxic poisoning, ensure you are following all of the aforementioned guidelines and keep the national poison control number handy: (800)222-1222.

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Terrorism
Terrorist attacks are generally unexpected and result in large-scale loss of life, destruction of property, widespread illness and injury, the displacement of a large number of people and devastating economic loss. In general, high-risk targets for terrorist activity include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities and significant monuments or landmarks. In the immediate area of a terrorist attack you would have to rely on police, fire and other emergency responders. There are a few general guidelines you should follow in preparing for this potential crisis:

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Be cautious when traveling; be aware of unusual behaviors and report unattended luggage
  • Be aware of your closest emergency exit
  • Be prepared to react without services such as phone, gasoline, electricity, access to cash, etc.

Terrorist events usually occur in the form of explosions, biological threats, chemical threats, nuclear blasts and radiological dispersion devices (RDD). For more information on protective measures and preparedness plans regarding a specific type of terrorist attack, please consult:

It is important to note that the Homeland Security Advisory System in is place to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist attacks. Be aware of the “level of alert” regarding the likelihood of domestic terrorism. To determine the current threat level, visit www.dhs.gov.

So… Are You Prepared?
There are dozens of ways disaster could affect your family and property.  To be wholly prepared for each potential scenario is daunting. These few preparedness guidelines will make your family more equipped to responsibly and prudently respond to a potential hazard.

Conserve Water: Water is a finite resource (especially) in the wake of a hazardous event. Never pour water down the drain. Check your plumbing for potential leaks and replace inefficient faucets, pipes, etc. Use a bucket to catch excess showering water. Take short showers. Do not let water run when brushing your teeth, etc.

Disaster Supplies Checklist: Have any and all potentially needed supplies in a central location. This includes: medical supplies, sanitation supplies, food, water, equipment, tools, clothing, documents, etc. For in-depth printable checklists, please consult: http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1549-20490-9451/appendix_b.pdf

Family Communications Plan: Your family may not be together when disaster strikes so plan how you will contact one another. Your plans should include potential inability of phones, mail, electricity, etc. Plan where you’re going to meet in the case of emergency. Gather phone numbers for people your family members may be with during the course of an average day. Ensure all family members understand how to respond to various disastrous events.

For More Information
If you require further information regarding any of these topics, please consult the Department of Homeland Security’s website, www.ready.gov or FEMA’s publication Are You Ready?