It is impossible to see the images of devastation without feeling incredible sadness for those who are suffering in the wake of the Sandy superstorm. From across America, people are reaching out to help those in need, sending money, sending repair crews, sending their prayers and wishes.
There is something else that everyone who was not affected by this storm can do right now: get prepared. Now is the time while you are seeing those images and thinking about what you would do if you were faced by this kind of tragedy.
It may seem as though this is something that couldn't happen to you but that is not true. In the past decade, every single state in America has had a Presidential Disaster Declaration. Every one. Severe storms are the most common disasters but we also face flooding, tornadoes, fires and earthquakes.
Surveys show that fewer than 10 percent of Americans have taken the basic steps to be ready for a disaster. The good news is, it is not hard to do. The bad news is that if you wait until the disaster has struck, it is too late. There are three basic steps: make a kit, make a plan and get informed. If you do these three things, you will be ready:
Tip 1: Make Sure You Have an Emergency Kit
Making a kit isn't hard to do. We purchased two kits from the Red Cross but you can easily assemble your own. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists what you need.
In short, you need to have a three-day supply of nonperishable food and water; flashlight and batteries, first-aid kit, 30-day supply of medications, copies of your medical information, cellphone and chargers and a battery-powered radio. You should also have supplies for your pets. They will need to evacuate or shelter as well. The CDC lists other optional items that you might want to consider.
Tip 2: Solidify Your Emergency Plan
Next, you want to make a plan. Go through the checklist and figure out the evacuation route from your community, and decide where you would meet and who you would call if you got separated from your family. The Red Cross created a Safe and Well website that allows people affected by a disaster to post information for their loved ones letting them know that they are OK. As part of your planning, make sure that you have smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide detectors in your home and that they have fresh batteries. Learn how to turn off your power, water and gas in case you are instructed to do so.
Tip 3: Know What Disasters to Look Out For
Lastly, get informed about the disasters most likely to hit your community and what you should do for each. It isn't hard. Most states have this information available on their public health or emergency preparedness websites. Figure out how your local authorities will share information. What are the radio stations they will use? What websites will have information? Then make sure you listen to warnings and heed the advice.
If a storm might hit your area next week, now is the time to fill your car with gas, check your batteries and plan where you would go if you are told to evacuate. And please, if you are told to evacuate, do so. Many lives are lost by people who decide to ride it out at home.
Yes, there will be times when communities are evacuated and the disaster does not materialize. Consider that a drill for the times when the evacuation was actually needed.
My advice is this: Do these things today. Now. When your mind is on the disaster we are seeing on television and in the papers. After the media coverage passes, it is too easy to forget about it. The steps you take today could save your life and the lives of your family.