Preparing for Disaster

Experts give advice on how to prepare disaster plans and emergency kits for you and your family.

By Dulce Zamora

WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Disasters can strike home at any time. The dizzying list of potential catastrophes is scary: floods, landslides, earthquakes, tornadoes, and terrorism.

It's depressing to think about, but the thought of disaster happening at any time may actually benefit those wise enough to prepare for calamity.

"Be prepared," advises Ruth Frechman, MARD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "You never know what could happen. Just a few [steps] can make your life easier in an emergency."

There are many tips available online for making a disaster plan and for assembling an emergency kit. WebMD has culled information provided by government, health and reputable nonprofit organizations. We offer their most common suggestions for survival, for putting together a disaster kit, and for keeping kits fresh.

Take note, though, that the experts offer a lot of advice and suggest many supplies for the emergency kit. It can all be overwhelming. However, taking the time to read through all the information can make emergency planning easier. And it could save your life.

"Individuals think that they have to do everything [advised by the experts]," says Michelle Hudgins, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross. "Everything is not necessarily right for you or your family. Individuals need to figure out what aspects [of the information] are relevant to their lifestyle."

Preparing for the unknown does take some time, but it's hard to argue the price of peace of mind during troubled times.

Making a Disaster Plan

Finding out what bad things could occur in your community is a step toward preparedness.

"Look at your area. Do you live in a hurricane area? Do you live in a flood zone? Do you live in an area where earthquakes happen? Learn about what you would do in those different disasters," recommends Kristin Gossel, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's READYAmerica campaign.

There are also man-made disasters to think about, such as explosions, chemical attacks, or biological assaults. In its web site (www.ready.gov), READYAmerica has listed a number of natural and man-made hazards and gives tips on how to deal with them.

Your local government and local Red Cross chapter should also have a list of possible catastrophes and evacuation plans. Learn the emergency signals in your area. Find out the emergency evacuation routes, and discuss them with your family. Determine the best ways to leave your home and the best ways to escape disaster in your neighborhood or town.

If you cannot meet loved ones inside your home, determine a meeting place in the neighborhood (such as by the neighbor's tree). If that's not possible, plan another meeting place in the area (such as the local coffee shop or the library). If that's still not possible, look at evacuation plans outside of the neighborhood or community.

It's not a bad idea to have a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C. Whatever your plans are, make sure everyone in the family knows about it and knows what to do in different scenarios.

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