Have you given any thought to your personal family disaster planning? Are you prepared should a disaster happen in your area today? How do you prepare for disaster? When it comes to family disaster planning, the first step is to formulate a plan. Then you can start to gather what you need to implement that plan.
With all the natural disasters that have taken place recently, many people have started to realize that they may not be prepared for such events. While no one wants to think it can happen to them, we have all seen the footage of hurricanes, wildfires, and wild weather. Natural or man-made disasters can happen to real people, anytime and anywhere. That’s why it’s wise to prepare. You may think of the people referred to by the media as “preppers” to be overreacting, but they have a point about being prepared. Preparation can help you survive a disaster instead of becoming a statistic. Let’s look at some considerations for family disaster planning.
Family Disaster Planning Initial Considerations
There are some initial considerations you need to keep in mind as you begin working on your family disaster planning. You should start with the recommendations below as you begin to map out your plan.
Receiving Vital Information
A very important initial part of your plan should be how you will receive vital information. The information may be prior to the event, as in the case of a hurricane. The warnings are usually sent out days in advance that you may be in the danger zone. Other disasters may not have any warning, such as the fires that rage in the west. Yet you still need to keep abreast of developments should the winds change and suddenly put you in danger. It is unbelievable how many people ignore the information and warnings put out by the authorities. If you are asked to evacuate you should do so as quickly and calmly as you can. Rescue efforts may not be available for those that remain behind. It is a good idea to have a battery-powered radio that you can carry with you to continue listening to the instructions as you are traveling. Keep spare batteries with the radio in your kit. You can even purchase a radio that has a hand crank to supply power should you find yourself without batteries for any reason. Many of the newer radios are also solar-powered.
Your family disaster planning should include an emergency supply kit to have on hand at all times in case disaster strikes. Store your emergency supply kit in such a way that you can grab it and go if you need to evacuate. Bottled water and canned foods can be stored for long periods of time. You want enough for each family member for at least five days. Should you have to remain on your own for a few days until rescue teams can reach you these items will help you to survive. The food in your refrigerator can spoil if the power goes down, which is common after a natural disaster. Make sure you keep medications on hand for those that need them on a regular basis.
If you have small children in the home make sure you have the necessary supplies on hand for them. Stocking up on personal items such as diapers, toilet paper, and toothpaste can help you stay healthy during a disaster. Don’t depend on having the time to pack all these items when you need to evacuate. Keep extras in your disaster kit, and rotate them out so they don’t expire in storage. You may be on your own for 72 hours or longer as the emergency response is mobilized.
Since you may be without power for several days you will want to have lanterns and flashlights readily available. Make sure to test the batteries regularly or replace them every year to be on the safe side. These days you can purchase rechargeable batteries that don’t have to be replaced. You can set up a reminder to charge them in rotation so that they are always fully charged and ready to go. I can’t think of anything worse than the power suddenly going out and the batteries in your emergency lights are dead. Not a good way to start out a survival scenario.
A small first aid kit is essential because you never know when someone will be injured as a result of a natural disaster. You should at least have the basic supplies to clean and treat minor wounds as well as supplies of basic over-the-counter medications. Many people worry about their pets during a natural disaster, but you may not be able to keep them with you during that time. If possible, store food for them as well so that you won’t be sharing the food you stored for your family with them. It’s a good idea to keep some extra dry food for them in case you are rescued and can’t take them with you immediately. It may sound cruel, but rescuers may not have room for pets immediately. Your pets may not have room in rescue boats or aircraft because of limited space and the need to carry as many people as possible. The same will go for bulky personal belongings. Make sure you take these considerations into your initial planning steps.
Creating Your Family Disaster Plan
Family Disaster Planning
Your family is your priority during a disaster, right? To protect your family and assure you all survive a disaster you need to formulate a disaster plan now. A family disaster plan is a MUST for every family.
First, you should identify the likely disaster scenarios in your local area. Where I grew up in Southeast Arkansas, tornados were a constant threat during the warmer months. I have lived on the gulf coast of Florida, so obviously I had to be aware of the hurricane threat. In many places, a rail line runs through your city. Rail lines transport many dangerous chemicals. A chemical emergency is a remote but very real danger when rail lines pass through a community. As a family, you should identify what disasters might reasonably strike your hometown and immediate area. Having planned out things like roles and responsibilities prior to a disaster will make things easier to cope with if the unthinkable happens.
You should also think about what would happen if you were away from home and disaster were to strike. You might not be able to get home to grab your main disaster kit. Should you carry a smaller kit in your personal vehicle. This is another thing you need to consider.
Preparing for disaster while you don’t have the pressure of impending doom is always the best choice. It’s going to be pretty hard to think of rational solutions when you are suddenly faced with rising floodwaters that you can’t do anything about. Keep the following in mind: there may be no telephone lines or cell phone signals, and no electricity. Since most pumps for the water system run on electricity, if you lose power you will probably end up with no water. You should plan on a minimum 72 hour (3 days) supply of food and water for each family member. This supply can be as simple as canned food and bottled water, or as high-tech as freeze-dried food that can last up to 25 years. It comes down to your choice and your budget. Just remember that hoping it doesn’t happen to you won’t cut it in a survival situation.
If You Need to Evacuate
If you are asked by emergency personnel to evacuate it’s best to do so. Have emergency supplies packed in a way you can grab them and go on short notice. Take only what you need for a few days. This isn’t the time to pack the whole wardrobe for the family. If you have to go to a shelter they won’t have room for a ton of personal belongings. You’ll have to leave them in your car which will just invite theft or looting by desperate individuals. Remember during an evacuation fuel may be in short supply as well. Extra weight in the vehicle will only decrease your fuel mileage.
Here are a few suggestions of things to consider when formulating your disaster plan:
1. Know what type of disasters might affect your community and base your disaster plan on that.
2. Know if your community has a warning system. If yes, can you recognize it at any given minute? For example, many communities in tornado-prone regions have tornado sirens.
3. Give consideration to the elderly, disabled, and pets. Extra planning may be needed to make sure they are safe.
4. Set a place where your entire family could meet in case you cannot return to your home. Have backup plans in case the first place is inaccessible.
5. Plan escape and evacuation routes multiple ways in case one is not an option. Always have a backup plan to the backup plan.
6. Keep emergency numbers in a safe place above possible floodwaters, and in a fireproof box if possible. Also, keep a copy in all the family cars in case one isn’t available or is disabled.
7. Don’t just create a plan and then put it in storage. Come up with times to practice the plan and then record any issues you find. Adjust your disaster plan to correct the things in your original plan you identify as weaknesses.
8. Although being physically and mentally prepared is important, you need to be totally prepared. Your disaster kit needs to include basic necessities (food and some toiletries). Arrange a kit where there is a 72-hour supply of food and water for everyone. Soap and other basic toiletries will help with your health in a disaster scenario. Basic hygiene is important to remain healthy and can also help lift your spirits. Being dirty and feeling unlike yourself can affect you mentally during a survival situation. A flashlight and spare batteries, fire-starting items just in case, and a solar or crank-powered radio to get the latest information are also recommended.
9. If you are financially able, purchase a small generator for your home. This can allow you to remain somewhat more comfortable if you lose power. It can also keep food from spoiling by plugging in a refrigerator or freezer.
10. Remain calm and keep children calm and occupied. Plan with your children what to do and who to contact should you become separated.
What belongs in your disaster kit? That really is an individual decision based on your disaster plan as we outlined above. But there are a few tips on things you may need in almost any disaster.
A disaster kit should be designed to help you survive until help arrives, or the situation has stabilized to the point you can start recovering. If you are confined to your home a disaster kit should be able to provide food, water, and a source of power while you are waiting for help. If you are affected by an earthquake or tornado you may be without power for an extended period after the event. A source of power can be crucial, as well as food and water. A disaster kit is an individual kit and should be designed by you with the things YOU and your family may need to survive at least 3 days. This is the expert recommendation to allow time for local emergency responders or FEMA to mobilize.
The following recommendations are the minimum for a basic disaster survival kit:
1. The most important supplies during a disaster situation would be water, food, supplies for first aid and sanitation, extra clothes, and bedding.
2. The supplies should be stored inside a backpack or duffle bag, so they are easy to grab and go should evacuation be required. The key here is to be able to get it immediately during a disaster and to carry it around with you if you have to.
4. Bottled water can be stored for long periods and should be purchased and stored with your food. It is easy to carry and safe. Plan 1 gallon of water per day per person at minimum for drinking. In hot and humid conditions such as after a hurricane, water needs will increase due to perspiration. This does not include water for cooking or hygiene. Additional water should be stored for those purposes, in addition to the supply for drinking.
5. A 3-day supply of nonperishable foods should be in the kit for each person. Note that you can get by with less food in a survival situation. But water is an absolute necessity. If storage space is a concern you can purchase freeze-dried foods which can be reconstituted with water. Don’t forget energy foods such as fruits or nuts which can help give you a boost if you are expending lots of energy trying to survive.
6. First aid supplies are important. You can purchase a basic first aid kit or put one together yourself. Whichever you choose, it should include bandages, gauze, tape, tweezers and scissors, antiseptic wipes, and liquid antiseptic soap for cleaning wounds. You might want to include basic over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, nausea, and anti-diarrheal drugs. Also, make sure any prescription medications you require are easy to grab and throw into the kit.
7. Personal sanitation items including toilet paper, trash bags, and any personal hygiene items such as shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrush.
8. Each person should have at least one set of clothes and shoes. In cold weather include a jacket and cold weather gear as well.
9. Small items that you may need include a battery-powered radio, spare batteries, a lamp or candles, waterproof matches, and kindling to start a fire in case you get stranded. A knife is always good to have on hand. A Swiss army knife or multi-tool is a must-have if you don’t carry a tool kit in your vehicle at all times.
10. Copies of important personal documents that are sealed in a watertight storage bag or container. These are important should the unthinkable happen, and you lose your home.
Disaster Food Supply
A small supply of food can be critical to surviving a local disaster in relative comfort compared to those who didn’t plan for such a circumstance. Many people plan for a disaster food supply that takes into account the most often cited need for a 72-hour food supply on hand. The 72-hour figure takes into account the average time it takes to mobilize a response to a disaster. However, it may take much longer to restore basic services. Unless you want to stand in line for food and water, a better solution may be to plan on a 2 week to one-month food supply for you and your family.
Planning your disaster food supply
You’re going to have to do some simple math in the initial planning stages of your family disaster planning to make sure you have enough calories for each individual. This is important to help you maintain the physical and mental ability to survive during a disaster. The estimated caloric intake for males per day is 2500. For females, it’s 2000. For children, it’s about half that, but a lot depends on the age and activity level of the child. To be safe add another 1000-1500 calories due to the fact that after a disaster you will most likely be expending additional calories. Additional supply is always a good thing because the last thing you need is to feel constantly hungry in addition to the stress of dealing with a disaster situation.
Now that you have an estimate of how many calories of food you’ll need, you also need to plan for a clean water supply. Remember, if the power is out the pumps that get clean water to your house will not be functioning. The water supply may become contaminated in flood conditions. Plan on at least one gallon per day per person. Also consider if you will be using food products that need water for preparation, such as coffee, freeze-dried foods, pasta, beans, rice, etc. This adds additional water needed in storage for cooking.
Stocking your disaster food supply
Now that you have an estimate of how many calories you’ll need per day to feed you or your family, it’s time to plan your food and water supply. You don’t have to stock everything at once. Just buy a few extra items and add them to your regular shopping lists. In no time you’ll have a fully stocked disaster food supply. Remember that you’ll want to stock items that have a long shelf life. Some suggested foods that are good for storage include:
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Dried rice or beans
- High protein and energy bars
- Canned meats such as SPAM or tuna
- Peanut Butter
- Spices for cooking
- Instant milk
- Cooking oil
- Nuts and granola mixes are great sources of protein
Freeze-dried prepackaged foods can be used and take up less storage space. They are usually more expensive but can have up to 25-year shelf life. This list should get you started on your disaster food supply. Remember to add extra water into the supply for things like coffee, instant milk, and cooking.
Managing your disaster food supply
Both the Red Cross and FEMA suggest a minimum of a 72-hour supply and suggest up to a 2-week supply if possible. If you double that estimate you should be able to eat well no matter what disaster you face. A 30-day supply will keep you and your family well-fed and functioning at a healthy level as you go through the stress of getting your life back together. Consider portion sizes as you plan your supply.
Where should I store my supplies?
When doing your family disaster planning you need to take into account where you will store your disaster food supply. Where you store your supplies really depends on the space you have available. A basement is great because it doesn’t have the wild temperature swings a garage may have. Just be sure the basement won’t flood and ruin all your food. Planning where to store your supply can take as much thought as the supplies you put into it. But don’t ignore this step because you also want easy access for checking expiration dates and rotating old stock out and new stock in. Planning your disaster food supply is a great step toward helping your family survive in case disaster strikes. By being prepared you will have one less thing to worry about in the event you find yourself in a disaster situation.