What is Emergency Preparedness All About?
While there is no way to predict what will happen, or what your personal circumstances will be, there are simple things you can do now to prepare yourself and your loved ones for emergencies.

Follow these simple steps to help provide for the safety and security of ourselves and our loved ones in the time of an emergency.

Step 1: Get a Kit of Emergency Supplies

When disaster strikes, be prepared to survive on your own for at least three days, maybe longer. You should prepare a kit of emergency supplies now to help you survive until help arrives or until it is safe to go outside.

Start now by gathering basic emergency supplies – fresh water, food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, a NOAA Weather radio with tone alert, extra batteries, a first aid kit, toilet articles, prescription medicines and other special things your family may need.

Step 2: Make a Plan for What You Will Do in an Emergency

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the disaster, the first important decision is deciding whether to stay where you are or to evacuate to a safer area. You should understand and plan for both possibilities.

Staying Put: There are circumstances when staying put and creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside, a process known as "shelter-in-place," can be a matter of survival. Choose an interior room or one with as few windows and doors as possible. Consider precutting plastic sheeting to seal windows, doors and air vents. Each piece should be several inches larger than the space you want to cover so that you can duct tape it flat against the wall. Label each piece with the location of where it fits.

Getting Away: Plan in advance how you will assemble your family and anticipate where you will go. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency. If you have a car, keep at least a half tank of gas in it at all times. Become familiar with alternate routes as well as other means of transportation out of your area. If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Take your emergency supply kit and lock the door behind you. If you believe the air may be contaminated, drive with your windows and vents closed and keep the air conditioning and heater turned off. Listen to the radio for instructions.

Develop a Family Communications Plan: Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. Consider a plan where each family member calls, or e-mails, the same friend or relative in the event of an emergency. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-state contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. You may have trouble getting through, or the phone system may be down altogether, but be patient.

Click here to see the Family Communication Plan guide to help you develop a plan for your family.

Step 3: Be Informed about what might happen

You may be aware of some of your community's risks: others may surprise you. Historically, flooding is the nation's single most common natural disaster. Flooding can happen in every U.S. state and territory. Earthquakes are often thought of as a West Coast phenomenon, yet 45 states and territories in the United States are at moderate to high risk from earthquakes and are located in every region of the country. Tornados are nature's most violent storms and can happen anywhere.

Talk to your children openly about being prepared for emergencies and staying calm during times of crisis. Include your children in all of your family communication plans and practice home-escape drills. Your children can also visit the Department of Homeland Security's "Ready Kids" website where they can learn more about disasters and play interactive emergency preparedness games online. Visit ready.gov/kids

Above all, stay calm, be patient and think before you act. With some simple preparations, you can be ready for the unexpected.

Emergency Preparedness for pet owners

If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household.

If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.

Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can't care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.

Click here to see a Pet Owners Preparedness guide to help you get ready.

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