Quick Starting a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Your Family

© Darko Kovacevic | Dreamstime.com
You can take a few simple steps to be more prepared.  Really! It can be simple.  Most people don't give much thought at all to planning for emergencies.  They just do what everyone else does (like put jumper cables in the trunk and smoke detectors in their halls) and hope for the best.  Those ideas are a helpful, but you can easily do more.  Give it 10 minutes right now.  Grab a pencil and paper and let's get started.  (If you've already started a kit and a plan.  Great job!  Use this article to review, refresh and update your plan.)

First, what are your risks?

You already have a good idea of some of your family's risks.  Look at your own family members, your routine activities, your residence, your neighborhood, your community and your region.  At each of these levels, ask what natural or man-made accidents or disasters are likely to occur. (eg. wildfires, earthquake, financial strain, neighborhood violence, hazardous waste spill, flooding or other issues) Quickly jot down a quick list of potential problems - maybe the first five or so that come to mind.   

For my family's situation I start with - severe weather, home fire and power outage as most likely.  Then I include product transportation issues and loss of communication as concerns in my urban and suburban blended region. Finally, I'd include earthquake, since I live in a fault affected area.

Next, what needs must be met?

Start by listing your most basic needs and how easily these would be met for a few days with reduced services and utilities - food, water, shelter, heat/cooling, sanitation, communication, transportation, medical, etc. Now, take a look at other immediate needs that must be met for your family within a typical week or so.  This is a very specific list that takes into account personal needs, specific medical and dietary needs, ages, personalities, experiences, fears and other physical or emotional concerns within your own family. Make a quick list that includes the greatest needs for your family in an emergency.

In my family, aside from basic necessities there are a few medications and specific food items that we'd need to have no matter what. I also have four children to accommodate and "entertain," so a few games go into our emergency kits.

What are your resources?

Off the top of your head, make a quick list of the resources available to help you build your emergency plan and kits. Resources may include money, supplies, people, training, equipment, and other helpful items.  Are you in a position to buy a kit full of items for every member of your family, every car, and every school/work location right now?  Go for it.  Do you know people experienced to help you decide what items you may need?  Talk to them.  If the power went out, who would you call for help? (Do they know that?)  Is your home in a rural, suburban, or urban setting?  Some resources may be plentiful, but other types of help may be hard to find in an emergency. What's in your garage, basement or closet already? You may have things you can re-purpose for your kit. 

I started with a very small purchase of basic supplies in a plastic bin, but I took a lot of training through my local Red Cross chapter, CERT, SBC Disaster Relief, and my state Emergency Management Agency.  Then I slowly added food, supplies and equipment as I could afford what I wanted.

What now?

Do something! Get a backpack or a plastic bin and start your kit!  Toss a flashlight and extra batteries in it.  Add a can of soup with a pop-top and a box of crackers.  Now write down contact information for everyone in your immediate family (name, home/cell/work/school addresses and phone numbers, email addresses).  Put it in the bin.  Congratulations! You have a disaster kit and an emergency communications plan.  Then keep this project in the back of your mind as you shop.  Pick up a little item here and there.  (Business fairs are a great place to grab a few freebie items for your emergency kit.) Do you have local training available that would benefit you and your family in an emergency?  Put it to use.

Now use this website for more tips, ideas, links and supplies to keep your family safe and sound when the unexpected strikes.

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Make Your Own Basic First Aid Kit
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Ten (Cheap) Things You Might Need in an Emergency
What Disaster Should I Plan For?

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