5 Simple Ways to Prepare for an Emergency
These resources make putting together a disaster plan easy and fast
An old bottle of water, a couple of cans of soup and a flashlight that may or may not have working batteries in it do not constitute a disaster plan. Yet that’s more than many Americans have on hand in case of an emergency, recent Federal Emergency Management Agency surveys show.
Less than half of us have a plan for big trouble like house fires, tornados, hurricanes or floods. Less than 30 percent of us have emergency kits and an updated cache of food at the ready. If figuring out what to do sounds overwhelming or too time-consuming, take heart. These resources and strategies can help you become prepared.
1. Keep “ICE” numbers in your phone or wallet
Nearly one million Americans arrive in emergency rooms unconscious or unable to communicate each year, according to the US government. If you’re alone and unable to communicate with emergency room personnel after an accident, injury or health crisis, doctors and nurses will need vital info about your health from a family member or designated friend. That’s why it’s smart to keep “In Case of Emergency” (“ICE”) information, with the name and phone numbers of a spouse, family member or close friend, in your phone or on a card in your wallet.
“As more cellphones are being locked, there is less ability to access this information,” notes Robert Luckritz, a spokesperson for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. “Stickers and apps that make the information more readily accessible can be helpful. One technique that we see in use now is placing the ICE number in the background image of the cellphone. But the most reliable place to have this information is in an individual’s wallet. EMTs, emergency department staff or law enforcement personnel will be looking in the wallet for identifying information.”
Related: 6 Things Not to Do in an Emergency
2. Develop and practice an escape plan with your family
Just one in three American households has a fire escape plan, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Take this quiz to find out if you’re prepared for a house fire, then follow these simple steps to create a plan. More than 366,000 home and apartment fires happen each year in the United States, killing 2,570 and injuring 13,210. Making sure your home has working smoke and fire alarms and that you know exactly what to do when one sounds the alarm could save your life.
3. Create a home emergency kit as well as first-aid kits for your home and vehicles
Three out of four Americans don’t have an emergency kit at home or in the car. Having the right supplies on hand will keep your family fed, hydrated, safe and healthy during an emergency. Don’t forget things like extra batteries and a portable hand-cranked or battery-powered radio — just one in four people had these, according to a recent FEMA survey. Also include extra eyeglasses, spare keys for your house and car, local maps and a paper list of emergency contacts.
4. Put together an emergency financial first aid kit (EFFAK)
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 99 percent of Americans don’t think about financial and health records when planning for an emergency. Access to your family’s financial, medical, insurance and identity records is crucial in a disaster. Seventy-one percent of us keep this information in a safe place, but are yours ready to grab in an emergency? Put together an EFFAK with must-have info from all your important documents. Use these checklists and step-by-step directions from FEMA.
5. Get real about weather risks
Maybe your mountaintop home will never be inundated by a flood, but it is located in an area prone to ice or wind storms that take out electricity? Some 54 percent of Americans don’t think their community will be hit by a natural disaster, FEMA says. Yet every area has its own risks. Emergency preparedness experts recommend gathering info about what’s likely in your locale. What you learn could help you make decisions about insurance for your home and about the emergency plans you should have in place. Then download these smartphone apps that can help you if a natural disaster strikes.