The Basics

Basic Disaster Preparedness Concepts

Build a Kit
Collect supplies to form ideal emergency kits that keep items you may need at hand during an incident. You can buy emergency kits that are pre-made, but they won't be customized to the needs and habits of your family. 
Make a Plan
Collect information to create your family's individualized emergency plan to keep you safe and sound during an emergency.  List detailed contact and location information (home, school, work, etc.) for everyone including out of town contacts.  Decide how you'll communicate and where you'll meet during and after likely emergencies (house fire, power outage, evacuation, etc.) Make certain you share the plan with friends and family, as well as your out of town contacts.
Stay Alert
Before an emergency, go over your written plan and have everyone practice what they'll do to ensure they'll be ready with knowledge and supplies. During an emergency, make sure you are getting up to date information and instructions from local authorities and sources (police, fire, and media) and follow your plan.

Rules of Three
In an emergency, the Rule of Three indicates the order you try to meet your needs. You can last:
•3 minutes without air
•3 hours without shelter
•3 days without water
•3 weeks without food

Use the acronym PACE to evaluate your family's emergency readiness with backup resources for each item or process you use in your everyday life.  Try to keep all your needs (food, light, heat, communication) reinforced four deep. PACE stands for:

Primary – electric can opener
Alternate – manual can opener (more portable, no power required)
Contingency – mini military can opener (easily stored in an emergency kit)
Emergency – whack a can with a sharp tool (whatever... just have a plan and try it once)

Risk assessment
No one can anticipate and prepare for every possible disaster, so consider which emergencies would be most likely and most concerning to you in your situation.  Prepare for those first, then slowly add supplies and training to develop a more complete plan.

Natural – winds, rain, flood, drought, snow and ice, earthquake, volcano, landslide
Technological – utility loss, hazardous materials, product shortage, communications failure
Nuclear – power plant malfunction, radioactive material leak
Other - civil unrest, looting, medical, pandemic, psychological, terrorism

Preparedness and Mitigation
Preparedness includes planning and provisioning for emergencies that you might face. Mitigation includes making long-term, on-going or permanent changes that reduce your risk or loss from disasters.

For example, preparedness for a family in an earthquake prone area might include: 
  • assembling a disaster kit that would accomodate a week without power,
  • creating a communications plan based on texting with an out of state relative,
  • and keeping a single burner propane stove and several cans of soup in the pantry.

Mitigation for that same family might entail :
  • anchoring furniture and appliances (bookcases, wardrobe, refrigerator and water heater) to walls,
  • installing flexible gas lines and shut off valves for each gas appliance,
  • and moving heavier items to lower shelves or behind latching cabinet doors.

You can find many classes in your area that will help you prepare for the disasters and emergencies you might face.  American Red Cross chapters offer basics like first aid, pet first aid, and CPR.  Red Cross volunteers may receive additional training as needed.  Your local municipality, police or fire department may offer CERT training (Community Emergency Response Team) through Citizen Corps or other emergency training opportunities.  The Medical Reserve Corps enlists and trains volunteers with a variety of backgrounds to meet medical needs in times of need. FEMA offers online and classroom based training.  Extensive online training is available to anyone.  Many volunteer and faith based organizations train and prepare individuals to prepare for and respond to the needs of those facing disasters.