The coronavirus pandemic has taught us a valuable lesson: we must be prepared. The scarcity of basic items like toilet paper, disinfectants, and other essential needs illuminates the importance of never taking our safety and welfare — and that of our loved ones — for granted.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) less than half of us have a plan in place to deal with a crisis, be it a viral pandemic, or an earthquake or flood. Less than 30 percent of us have emergency kits ready for action and a cache of food that will sustain us for an indefinite period of time.
The idea of creating an emergency plan can be overwhelming, however. Here are 5 tips to guide you:
- Keep “ICE” numbers in your phone or wallet. According to SafeBee nearly one million Americans arrive in emergency rooms unconscious or unable to communicate each year. That’s why it’s critical to keep “In Case of Emergency” (“ICE”) information with the names and phone numbers of contacts handy. Since phones are usually locked, one technique is to place the ICE numbers in the background image of the cell phone. But according to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, the most reliable place for this information is in your wallet.
- Develop an escape plan. The National Fire Protection Association says that only one-third of American households has a fire escape plan, according to SafeBee. Thousands of people are killed each year as a result of over 366,000 home fires. Make sure your home has fire and smoke alarms that work. The American Red Cross advises us to do a walk through in case of an emergency noting that 82 % of households have never practiced a fire drill. Here’s how to prepare in 7 simple steps.
- Make a survival kit. According to the Red Cross, at a minimum you should include one gallon of water per person, non-perishable food for three days if you have to evacuate and enough for two weeks if you are quarantined at home. Other items include a battery-operated or hand-crank radio, preferably a NOAA Weather Radio, flashlight, deluxe family first aid kit, copies of personal documents and seven days of medications. Here is a link to the complete guide for the Red Cross Survival Kit.
- Have a “go bag” ready for travel. According to Jeff Rossen, author of Major Catastrophes, in an article for AARP, you should have a bag ready for each member of the family. “Think small and portable,” says Rossen, “A backpack is ideal but a lightweight suitcase with wheels is fine. Remember, you may be literally running with it.” Along with items mentioned for your survival kit, include travel sized bottles of toiletries and enough layers of clothing for a few days. Bring small bills of cash and a roll of quarters in case you need to rely on vending machines.
- Put together an emergency financial first aid kit (EFFAK). According to FEMA, 99 percent of Americans don’t think about financial and health records when planning for an emergency. “Access to you family’s financial, medical, insurance and identity documents is crucial in times of disaster,” says Sari Harrar, an award-winning health journalist, writing for SafeBee. “Seventy-one percent of us keep this information in a safe place, but are yours ready to grab in an emergency?” To put together your EFFAK, follow these checklists and step-by-step instructions from FEMA.
The Red Cross has compiled specific action plans for a wide range of natural disasters and emergencies, from flus to floods, that will help you navigate the most turbulent waters and guide you to safety.
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