When a major disaster occurs, your community and your family's lives can change in an instant. When natural disasters, such as floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and nuclear power plant explosions strike, they affect thousands of people every year. Equally as dangerous and unexpected are man-made threats: bombs, terrorist attacks and chemical warfare.
Here are some precautions to take to prepare your family, including elderly loved ones, for a disaster.
Learn what disasters or emergencies may occur in your area. These events can range from those affecting only your family, like a home fire or medical emergency, to those affecting your entire community, such as an earthquake or hurricane, depending on your geographical location.
Identify how local authorities will notify you during a disaster, whether through local radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio stations. Learn about community response plans, evacuation plans, and designated emergency shelters. Familiarize yourself with NOAA weather alerts such as watches and warnings and what actions to take in each.
Identify two ways to escape from every room. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team. Select a safe location away from the home where your family can meet after escaping.
Purchase escape ladders for rooms above ground level. If you see smoke or fire in your first escape route, use your second way out.
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another. Think about how you will communicate in different situations.
You may need to survive on your own after a disaster. You can purchase a Red Cross emergency preparedness kit online or build your own. Assemble a disaster recovery kit and make sure everyone in the home knows where it is.
Just as important as putting your supplies together is maintaining them so they are safe to use when needed. Here are some tips to keep your supplies in good condition:
Complete an emergency contact and health card for each family member and keep the cards handy in a wallet, purse, backpack, etc. Include information about medications, adaptive equipment, blood type, allergies, immunizations, and communication difficulties, as well as emergency contact information.
Make sure that at least one member of your household is trained in first aid and CPR and knows how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Keep fire extinguishers in many rooms and mark your calendar with their expiration dates so you can recharge or replace them as needed.
Duplicate important documents -- such as passport, drivers license, social security card, wills, deeds, financial statements, insurance information, marriage license and prescriptions -- and keep copies off-site, either in a safety deposit box or with someone you trust.
Elders and people with disabilities must take additional precautions.
Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels, veterinarians and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes.