We all see them on TV or hear about them on the radio--disasters such as tornadoes, floods and hurricanes that devastate small towns and portions of big cities. You might have a matter of days or hours to prepare for such events, but other times they strike swiftly and lethally, out of the blue. While we've seen images of New Orleans devastated by Katrina or the tsunami engulfing large swaths of Japan, we don't think it will happen to us, in our town, our city. Think again--these events are becoming more and more common, and in areas that used to be immune to certain weather events.

Visit your local authority's website before you're in an emergency situation.

  • Find out who the local authority is during disasters; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website contains state-by-state disaster lists on their website (fema.gov).
  • Your city or town's website will often have links to local agencies with information on disaster response, school closings and evacuation plans in your area.
  • If you work outside of the home, ask your employer's human resource department if there is a protocol to follow in disasters.
  • Take a Community Emergency Response Team class from your local Citizen Corps chapter. Keep your training current.

Settle personal details before a disaster happens.

  • All family members should have a contact card listing a meeting place and phone number and a contact information for a friend outside the region with whom family members can check in.
  • All family members should have the number and a phone to call with.
  • Ensure that you have carriers and food for pets.
  • Check your insurance for coverage of emergencies known to strike your area.
  • Take a first aid and CPR courses at a local chapter of your national Red Cross or Red Crescent society (see directory at ifrc.org).

Pack a "Go Bag" -- See full instructions on our Go Bag page.

Once You're Aware an Event May Strike Your Area stock up on vital provisions in case you are sheltering in your home.

You will need:

  • Two gallons of water per person per day; prepare for a minimum of three days
  • Kitchen matches and large candles
  • An additional flashlight (besides the one in your Go Bag)
  • Another first aid kit (in addition to the one in your Go Bag)
  • Duct tape and thick plastic to cover windows
  • Extra pet food
  • Extra dry foods such as energy bars, peanut butter and canned goods that don't require heating; don't forget a can opener
  • Fill the bathtub and other large, plastic storage containers with water for bathing and to flush the toilet
  • Refill prescriptions
  • Fill the gas tank of your car in case you need to evacuate at a later date
  • Be sure to have a radio and extra batteries on hand to hear updates on your situation

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