The first step in preparing for disasters is planning ahead and creating a disaster plan. A disaster plan will serve as a resource for you and your family by providing a comprehensive plan detailing what actions you and your family must do before, during, and after a disaster. The plan will outline how to mitigate disasters and losses, what to do in the event of a disaster, where to go in the event of a disaster, as well as what resources will be needed to faciliate such tasks.
When preparing your disaster plan, the first step is to identify the disasters that could occur in your region and affect you. Proper preparation can only occur when you are aware of the disasters that can affect you and your family as well as the affects of those disasters. Disasters may include tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, flooding, thunderstorms, winter storms, wildfires, dam failures, high heat conditions, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes, nuclear power plant emergencies, terrorism, hazardous materials exposure, etc. After you have identified the potential hazards and disasters consider what each could entail and what would need to be done to protect yourself and your family. In addition, identify the disasters that are most likely to occur in your region and ensure your plan adequately addresses them. Your local emergency managment agency will assist you in determining which disasters have a higher probability of occurring and affecting you.
The second step is to protect your family and property. This requires keeping your family informed of the disaster plan. Your plan should include an evacuation plan, escape routes, shelters such as motels, hotels, temporary shelters, red cross shelters and shelters for your pets, family communication plans, utility shutoff procedures, insurance and other important documents, as well as money. Sheltering guidelines are also recommended which help determine what type of shelter is most appropriate for each disaster as well as where the shelters are located in your region. In addition, guidelines for managing food and water supplies are also recommended and should include maintaining a reserve of non perishable foods and water. If there are children in the family, get them involved in the disaster plan and practice your evacuation plans and go over escape routes with them. Create a disaster kit for your family that contains equipment, tools, supplies, medical supplies, fist aid kits, and other resources such as food, water, flashlights, batteries, emergency contact numbers and etc.
The third step is to ensure you have properly prepared for your pets. When creating your disaster plan be sure to consider your pets during each step. If you have to evacuate your home or seek shelter somewhere else make sure you have a plan in place for your pets. Never leave your pet behind unless you have no alternative. Having predetermined animal shelters, boarding kennels, friends or family, or pet friendly motels or hotels for your animals should disaster strike will save you time and help keep you and your pets safe by allowing you to evacuate when necessary. In addition, prepare disaster kits for your pets that include pet food, water, leashes, collars, identification, licenses, cat litter/litter pans, can openers, food dishes, pictures of your pets, veterinary records, medication, waste management supplies, first aid kits and etc. Always make sure your pets have their proper identification securely attached on their collars such as licenses, rabies tags, personal ID tags, and microchip tags and that the collars are worn on the pets. Animals have a keen sense of weather changes and can often detect natural disasters and storms. Whenever possible bring your pets inside or confine livestock in barns to alleviate fear and keep them from running away. Disasters can cause pets to act abnormally and special care should be given to ensure no accidents occur due to stressed animals. Some animals may need to be seperated from other animals as they may act irrationally. After a disaster use caution with your pets outside as many disasters leave debris, chemicals, downed power lines, and other safety hazards that could pose a threat to you or your pets.
The fourth step is to ensure that you aware of your local governments disaster plan as well as the state disaster plan. Keep your plan updated and keep a list of resources and contact numbers to police, fire, emergency management, red cross, animal control, animal shelters, boarding kennels, insurance company and etc. The key to preparing for disasters is planning ahead.