USA Today records 2011 as the Costliest Year in World Disasters. What were those disasters? A tsunami (Japan), earthquakes (Turkey, US East Coast & New Zealand), tornadoes (Central U.S.), typhoons (Japan & Philippines), a volcanic eruption (Southern Chile), flooding (North Dakota, Thailand, Brazil, El Salvador, Australia, Pakistan, & Spain), a hurricane (U.S. East Coast), drought (East Africa, Somalia & China), wildfires (Canada) and winter storms (Europe). If any of these disasters happened in your area, would you be prepared?
If you had to leave your home suddenly (perhaps because of a natural disaster, chemical spill or even an explosion at a nearby business), would you be able to grab and go quickly?
A USA Today Gallup Poll showed that 42% of people don’t have enough food and water stocked in case of an emergency, and 27% don’t have an extra supply of medications. In addition 40% do not have a central contact person in case of a disaster, and 18% don’t even have a first-aid kit. These are all steps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency says are “basic disaster preparations.”
Where do you fall in those numbers?
Fortunately, creating a basic emergency kit and plans for what to do in an emergency are not that difficult and really don’t take an inordinate amount of time compared to the tremendous benefit they can provide in an emergency. Take the following 5 steps to make sure you and your family are prepared for an emergency.
- Believe you are at risk. The American Red Cross says that the main reason people fail to prepare for an emergency is because they fail to believe they are at risk. Emergencies can happen anywhere and at anytime, so be proactive by preparing for an emergency.
- Be aware and share. As with safety in any area, from wearing safety glasses to following safety procedures, awareness is a key component of being prepared. The American Red Cross provides a variety of emergency-specific checklists as a way to have and share preparedness information.
- Prepare to be self-sufficient. Create a basic emergency kit that is waterproof, easily accessible and mobile. In addition, create a Go-Bag to hold additional necessities.
- Maintain your preparedness. Check your supplies every six months and reassess your needs yearly. Maintain your kit regularly so it is safe to use when needed.
- Consider preparedness for other locations. While workplaces, schools and daycares are responsible to a great extent for employee safety and safety of those in their care, this is not a fact that should be depended upon should a large-scale natural or other disaster happen. Create emergency plans for the places where you and your family spend the most time (school, work, daycare, etc.) in addition to the site-specific plans that should already be in place.
Not only does lack of preparation for an emergency affect you and your family in significant ways, it also affects an already-taxed emergency response system. And 2012 does not appear to be improving over last year; if anything, 2012 will eclipse 2011 with natural disasters. (In January and February 2012, Australia experienced severe flooding, Mozambique a typhoon, and Europe severe winter weather with over 600 dead). While no one can prevent natural disasters, almost everyone can be prepared. The steps above are the starting point for doing just that.
Note: See a related article Everyday Carry for the Car to find out how many people prepare and what experts recommend for vehicles in emergencies. Also related are Everyday Carry for Men and Everyday Carry for Women, which reveal what men and women feel are essential items to always have with them.