Family

Best Disaster Prep, No Matter Where You Are

Smart advice for American families and households — including how to help our first responders

Like everyone else in the field of journalism, I have seen and heard a lot of things in my 15 years in the business. And while advancements in technology have allowed us to write and cover stories faster in recent years, one thing remains the same.

People are not prepared for disasters. And that must change.

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This September is National Preparedness Month (NPM). Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know about what’s been happening in cities and states impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which was later downgraded to Tropical Storm Harvey — vast devastation has occurred and as of right now, more than 53,000 people are in shelters or temporary housing throughout Texas. Heavy winds, massive amounts of rainfall and record flooding literally changed the lives of people in a span of hours, if not minutes.

This year, it was Harvey. This week, it may be Irma in Florida. Next year, it may be Tropical Storm Jingleheimer Schmidt — nd it might be in your neighborhood, town or state.

“We should all take action to prepare,” recommends Ready.gov, the official website of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “We are all able to help first responders in our community by training how to respond during an emergency and what to do when disaster strikes — where we live, work, and visit.”

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Related: One Small Basket, One Giant Step for Neediest

The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, business, school, and place of worship. But how?

Ready.gov recommends people use each week of September to develop a plan. For example, September 1 through 9, make a plan for yourself, your family and friends. Check your insurance coverage and sign up for alerts and warnings in your area. These include call services that will notify you by phone if bad weather is headed your way. Your local television stations may offer plans where they call your phone (rates and other fees may apply).

From September 10 through 16, craft a plan to help your neighbor and community in the event disaster strikes. During this time, you can learn skills you need to help yourself and others until help can arrive. Your power company might also have information on utility safety.

Related: Seven Ways to Keep Kids Safe in Case of Flash Floods

“Practice and build out your plans from September 17 through the 23,” Ready.gov continues. “Build and maintain emergency savings for use in case of an emergency, and know how to access community resources such as shelters and food banks.”

For the final week of September, people should find ways to get involved and be part of something larger.

“Get your campus, business, faith-based organizations, and community organization prepared for an emergency.”

Disasters don’t plan ahead — but all of us can.

This may go without saying for a lot of topics — but if you see a need, take the lead. If the group you approach does not appear to have a plan, talk with the leaders and get one started.

Another way to inform and encourage people about National Disaster Preparedness Month is to share ideas with family and friends. People doing so are encouraged to use emojis and the hashtags #NatlPrep and #PlanAhead with their posts and pictures.

As Ready.gov explains — disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can.

Chris Woodward is a reporter for American Family News and OneNewsNow.com. Based in Mississippi, he is also a contributor to OneMillionDads.com and EngageMagazine.net and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

(photo credit, homepage image: KOMUnews; photo credit, article image: Global X)

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