Preparing for a Disaster: 5 Things to Do, Just in Case

September is National Preparedness Month - are you prepared? REALLY prepared?


You've heard all the "no-duh" tips before about preparing for a disaster - keep water and non-perishable food on hand, have a flashlight with extra batteries...

But this month the federal government is hoping you will get down to details to make a plan for, not the unthinkable, but the inevitable: wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or even terrorism and pandemics.

To get the word out, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Authority, has built an extensive website to help citizens plan and prepare.

Ready.gov offers instructions on how to ready your family, your home, your car and even your business for an emergency. The site includes tips specific to disasters common in the Foster City/San Mateo area, such as fires, major power outages and more, and there are even diagrams on how to seal off your home in the event that the outside air is contaminated. 

Here are five things Patch found that can help you get ready:


1.  Build a tailor-made kit

You're smart enough to build a kit with food and water, but FEMA suggests making sure you include foods your family will actually eat. If you're kids have never eaten a bean in their life, maybe a disaster isn't the time to present them with a can of cold red kidney beans. Also, don't forget to include high-energy foods like protein bars and, FEMA suggests you skip salty foods that will make you thirsty.

2.  How much water is enough?

Speaking of thirsty, FEMA suggests storing one gallon for each person for three days. But if you live someplace hot, consider storing more. Click here for more tips about what not to use to store your water.

3.  Some non-food items you should have in your kit:

  • Duct tape, plastic sheeting and dust masks in case you need to shelter in.
  • A whistle to alert responders to your location
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Baby wipes and garbage bags for personal sanitation
  • A can opener
  • (Click here for the full list)

4.  Make a national communication plan

If you have relatives out of state, they may be just the ones you need when your local friends and family are mired in a disaster. Your Uncle Louie in Detroit or Aunt Emmy in Tampa could be the point-person if you and your family become separated. FEMA also offers a downloadable PDF document of a family emergency plan you can fill out and e-mail to family and friends. There is also a PDF contact card that kids can carry with them. (We've included both in the photos section of this article)

5.  What exactly do you say to a terrorist? 

If you received a bomb threat at work, would you know what do? FEMA has put together a list of questions to ask the caller, which you can view here. If you are caught in an explosion, did you know that whistling to a rescuer could save you? FEMA says shouting could lead to inhaling dangerous amounts of dust.

For more information on how to prepare for everything from a blackout to a cyber attack, visit www.Ready.gov.


In the event of an emergency, your smartphone could be your connection to the rest of the world - so use it to follow Patch! Follow us on social media, and sign up to have our daily e-newsletter and emergency breaking news alerts delivered straight to your inbox.

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