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4 Steps To Prepare For A Natural Disaster

Man viewing flood damage

No one is immune to the impacts of mother nature. While it may feel like it will never happen to you, severe weather – including tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, high winds, wildfires, hail, snow and rain – can happen nearly anytime, anywhere.  

Data from U.S. government agencies has shown that natural disasters are becoming more prevalent, with 2020 and 2021 being the worst years on record for the most natural disasters.2 In fact, between 1980 and 2021, the annual average of weather/climate disaster events was 7.7 events while the annual average for the most recent five years (2017–2021) grew to 17.8 events.3

It’s hard to find the time to stop and plan ahead, but taking a few minutes to understand your risks and prepare now can provide peace of mind later. These four important steps can help ensure you are prepared if disaster strikes.

1. Know Your Risks

The first, and most important, thing to understand is the weather hazards in your area. Do you live in a tornado zone? If so, when is your tornado season? Do you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires? Do you live in a flood zone? It’s essential to do your research so you know how best to prepare.

In addition, keep in mind the domino effect that can happen with extreme weather. For example, while you may not live in an area prone to wildfires, high winds could cause downed lines that lead to fires. Even everyday things like cooking, candles and fireplaces can be of concern. So, it’s important to be prepared for anything.

2. Have a Family Emergency Plan

Once you understand your risks, it’s time to make a plan. When you’re under the stress of an emergency, it’s hard to think clearly or rationally. An emergency plan helps to ensure that everyone in your family knows what to do when the time comes. It may include things such as:

  • A communication plan
  • Your meeting place
  • How to care for your pets 
  • Evacuation routes – both out of your house and your local area.  

Be sure to think through different scenarios, like during work or school hours, and have a plan for those, too. Practicing with the whole family can make it easier when the time comes. Visit Ready.gov and take the first step in "creating a disaster plan."

3. Safeguard Documents

Another important part of emergency preparation is making sure key documents, like insurance policies and personal documents, are up to date and secure. Be sure to understand your coverage and adjust it if it does not match what you learned in your risk assessment. Many people assume that insurance covers everything in a catastrophic event. But, all too often, they are surprised to learn that a critical component, like flooding, is not covered until it is too late.

Make copies of your documents, including digital copies, and keep your originals in a secure location, like a safe. Choosing a highly-rated fireproof and waterproof safe is critical to protecting your documents in a natural disaster.

4. Gather Essential Supplies

When a natural disaster hits, you never know how long you will be displaced or when you will be able to return to your home for necessary items. So, it’s a good idea to build an emergency kit with essential items such as:

  • Medications
  • Water and food
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Power cords and charger
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle
  • Manual can opener
  • Duct tape
  • Moist towelettes
  • Garbage bags
  • Wrench or pliers.

Put these items near the door or in your car for easy access when you are in a hurry. Try to keep your phone charged when possible as it will be a valuable tool to help you stay connected with family and to understand instructions from local authorities.

We can’t control when severe weather comes our way. But, we can make sure we are better prepared to deal with it when it does. Take the time to plan ahead now to provide peace of mind when the time comes. It can make all the difference. To learn more, visit Ready.gov.

You hear about people having fires, but you just don’t understand what it’s like to really lose everything that you have.
Rosemary M.

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