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Natural disasters aren’t known for their convenience. They don’t cater to our schedules; instead they often strike with little to no warning. They can defy predictions and deviate from historic patterns. Disasters — like the damage they cause — are pure chaos. Since catastrophe can occur at any time, it’s critical to stay prepared. Taking a few fundamental steps to secure your safety in the event of disaster will keep you from being blindsided when the time comes.


Make a Plan

Catastrophic events can leave family members isolated amid confusion and fear. Putting together a plan will allow family members to stay in touch and regroup. Some areas are more susceptible to certain types of disaster than others; for instance, those living in coastal areas might develop a plan that involves staying safe at the highest point in your home. Make sure you enroll to receive emergency phone and email alerts, listen to the radio, and ensure that all family members–including children–have access to some form of communication, even if it’s just a prepaid cell phone. In addition, your plan should identify safe points in your house based on disaster type, as well as multiple evacuation routes and meeting places both close by and out of town.


Build an Emergency Kit

Emergency kits contain basic necessities that may be difficult or impossible to obtain during disasters. At least a few day’s supply of food and water is a must; go with non-perishables or foods that don’t require extensive cooking, such as nuts, dehydrated fruit, canned goods, jerky, and ready-to-eat meals. Also pack kitchen supplies, a manual can opener, and a small, portable stove, along with whatever supplies are needed to light and fuel it. As a general rule, kits should contain one gallon of water per day for each person in a household. For electronics, stock your kit with flashlights, batteries, a portable phone charger and a radio. A comprehensive first aid kit should be included, as well as any prescription or over-the counter medicines you think you’ll need. Other essentials include clothing, toiletries, sleeping bags, tents, and a Swiss army type knife. You may also want to pack extra cash, as ATM access may be restricted and credit cards may be unusable. Also pack a spare house and car key. Kits should be stored away from sunlight, in a dry, accessible area with a relatively stable temperature.


Stay Vigilant

Be sure to keep informed as to the progression of developing storms, fires, and other possible disasters that could affect your area. Monitor local news and weather sources and speak with family members ahead of time, so they are prepared to take action accordingly. In cases of hurricanes or other severe occurrences, local authorities may mandate evacuation, but in any event, it’s a good idea to get clear of an impending disaster whenever possible. Before leaving, you may want to place birth certificates, passports, social security cards and other vital documents in a water/fireproof container and take them with you, or scan and upload copies of them to a flash drive.

Many natural disasters can strike without warning, and a lack of preparation can leave you and your loved ones susceptible to catastrophic damage. While successfully surviving a disaster is predicated on its severity, these tips can help you stay ready, and give you a far better chance of getting through it.