3 Steps to Prepare Your Family for a Disaster

Photo by Mishella / Shutterstock.com

No matter where you live, there’s a natural disaster waiting to happen. Tragically, residents of the Texas Gulf Coast region are learning that lesson all over again this week.

You can’t prevent a disaster, but you can take steps that will help you navigate the mayhem that ensues. Here are some key steps to take now, including how to assemble an emergency kit that can make a big difference for your family in a crisis.

1. Gather your important records

One often overlooked item in disaster planning is financial records and other key documents such as birth certificates and the title to your car. It would make sense to have a contact list with important phone numbers — your insurance company, your bank and your doctor — for instance.

Be sure to have two copies. One copy can be stored in a watertight container that you can easily grab from your house. The other one should be kept elsewhere in the event that the house is destroyed or unsafe. You can store them in the cloud, or send them to a relative or trusted friend who lives in a different state, in case a large region is affected.

It’s hard trying to rebuild your life after major losses, but this step will at least make it easier to get started. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a financial preparedness checklist to help you identify essential items that should be stored.

2. Have a plan

What if this hypothetical disaster strikes in the middle of the day? Both spouses are at work — in different places, most likely — and the kids are at school. You need to have an idea of where to connect. The family residence is an obvious first choice. However, in many disasters, that’s just not viable.

Make sure you have a backup location. Local governments have designated areas for shelters, often places like city halls, schools or community centers. These can be good choices and are the sort of place that should be on your radar screen anyway. It would not hurt to have an alternative backup location, one that everyone knows about and knows how to get to.

Don’t rely on using your cellphones to keep in touch. When disaster strikes, networks tend to be overwhelmed as everyone tries to call or text. Power outages also may disrupt the number of available cell towers. Texting uses less data than calling, so try that first. But make sure everyone knows to meet at your preset location if technology fails you.

If you have small children, make sure your caregiver –be that a long-term nanny or short-term baby sitter — knows the plan. Have instructions written down, and let the caregiver know where those written instructions are located. Familiarize yourself with plans at your child’s school. In the event of a disaster, know what the school plans to do, and how you might communicate with staff there.

3. Build and maintain an emergency kit

The federal government suggests you have a kit prepared that will see you through three days without assistance. Depending on where you live, that may not be enough. In rural areas, with less dense populations it may take longer for government resources to get on the scene.Before you put the kit together, remember, it will need to be refreshed. Water and food can go stale, and batteries can die even if they’re not used. Every few months, refresh the kit. No need to waste the food. Just pull it out of the kit and put it in the cupboard as you restock with fresh supplies.

One system for making sure the task isn’t forgotten is to restock whenever we spring forward or fall back for daylight saving time. Here are the bare essentials for your kit:

  • Water: Disasters can foul public water supplies, and power outages can mean private wells may not work. Guidelines call for 1 gallon of drinking water per day per person. Volume-wise, this can add up quickly. A family of four would need 12 gallons for three days.
  • Food: Again, you’ll want a three-day supply for everyone in the family. It might be obvious, but you want nonperishable items. Canned goods (don’t forget a can opener), dried meats, dried fruit, etc. Try to avoid salty foods or things that might make you thirsty. Make sure the foods you store don’t require water — you’ll want that for drinking. Bear in mind you may not have electricity or gas, so these should be things you don’t need to cook.
  • Medications: If you take medications, make sure to have an extra supply. Just like food, these can go stale. So, be sure to rotate them out.
  • Pet food: Your pet will be in this with you, and will need food and water, too.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio: Your local government probably has an emergency broadcast channel. Find out what it is and tune in on this radio so you can listen for news and instructions. If you have a battery-operated radio, make sure you have spare batteries. Hand-crank radios will have power as long as your arm is working.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries: Know how many batteries you’re going to need.
  • First-aid kit: Make sure you have at least the basics, such as bandages and some disinfectant. There are many first-aid kits you can buy.
  • Whistle: This simple item can be a life-saver if you need to signal for help.
  • Dust mask, etc.: You may need to filter contaminated air. You may also need plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place. These supplies can make the difference if there’s some kind of chemical or biological spill, or even an attack.
  • Personal sanitation supplies: This should include moist towelettes, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties.
  • Wrench or pliers: Use these to turn off utilities. In addition to having the tools on hand, make sure you know how and where to turn off your utilities. If there’s a gas leak, it can start a fire, and the fire department will already have its hands full. If there’s a water leak, that water damage will make cleanup that much harder.
  • Manual can opener: Don’t be the person holding a can of beans that you can’t open.
  • Local maps: Remember, your smartphone may not be working. A map can help you find alternatives if roads are blocked.
  • Cellphone with chargers, inverter or solar charger: I’ve been saying you won’t be able to count on your phone, and you won’t. But it might work — or it will eventually.

Your personal circumstance may also dictate additional items you will need, such as baby food and diapers, or climate-appropriate gear such as heavy sleeping bags if you live someplace that gets cold.

Check out the federal government’s Ready.gov website for more details and suggestions.

What are you doing to prepare for a disaster like Harvey? Let us know by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
This Is the Best Time of Day to Take Blood Pressure Meds
This Is the Best Time of Day to Take Blood Pressure Meds

The right timing can help you prevent a big — and possibly fatal — mistake.

7 Social Security Blunders That Can Ruin Your Retirement
7 Social Security Blunders That Can Ruin Your Retirement

Making even one of these mistakes can easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

Retiree Households Lose $111,000 to This Social Security Misstep
Retiree Households Lose $111,000 to This Social Security Misstep

A study finds 96% of retirees make this mistake when claiming Social Security benefits.

5 Medicare Mistakes to Avoid for a Healthy Retirement
5 Medicare Mistakes to Avoid for a Healthy Retirement

Medicare can be confusing. Beware these missteps — which can hike your costs.

5 Reasons You Should Work for as Long as You Live
5 Reasons You Should Work for as Long as You Live

These benefits might make you think twice about retirement.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach
10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach

Does the pandemic have you reaching for bleach more than ever before? Learn the ins and outs of using this powerful disinfectant.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.