Disasters happen quickly, changing the lives of people in one household or an entire community forever. During National Preparedness Month, the American Red Cross wants everyone to come up with a game plan to make sure their household is ready for the next emergency or disaster.
70,000 DISASTERS EVERY YEAR The Red Cross responds to about 70,000 disasters every year, ranging from a single-family fire to a hurricane which destroys entire communities. These disasters change lives quickly. People the Red Cross has assisted over the years submitted these stories about how disaster changed their lives:
In August of 2011, Hurricane Irene flooded Peter Kaurup’s neighborhood. The family had no power for more than a week. They couldn’t cook meals, turn on lights and air conditioning, even put gas in their car. The Red Cross was there in less than 24 hours, distributing meals and water to everyone twice a day.
When flooding hit Lewiston, Maine, Robin Lynn’s ambulance business was left under four feet of water. This business was her livelihood and she had an infant at home. The Red Cross showed up and simply asked “how are you?” and “what do you need?” She says it was very uplifting to see someone who cared. The Red Cross provided them with a voucher to cover some expenses and it was enough for them to get back in business.
Brooklyn, New York resident Bernadette Jackson lost her home and everything she owned to fire. By the time she arrived on the scene, the house was gone. The Red Cross showed up very quickly and provided her family of 11 with warm clothes, food and vouchers. Red Cross workers found a hotel that could accommodate the large household and even found a shelter they could stay in until they could find a new home.
GET PREPARED Planning ahead can help keep everyone safe. During National Preparedness Month, families can take some steps to be ready should disaster strike. Each household should make a plan, build a kit and be informed.
MAKE A PLAN Planning together is important. Everyone in the household should help develop the emergency plan and know what they should do if something occurs. The plan should include ways to contact and find one another. Include two places to meet – one near the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and one outside the neighborhood in case circumstances prevent people from returning home. The plan should also identify an emergency contact person from outside the area in case local telephone lines are overloaded or out of service.
Often people are not at home when a disaster occurs and they may not be able to get back into their neighborhood. Plans should include decisions about where everyone will go if ordered to evacuate and what route they will take to get there. When discussing evacuation, everyone should include several different routes in case roads are closed. If pets are part of the household, they should be considered, including where they could be safe if the family has to evacuate such as pet-friendly motels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.
GET A KIT Another step to get ready is to build an emergency kit. Use an easy-to-carry container so the family can use it at home or take it with them if asked to evacuate. It should contain a three-day supply of water (one gallon, per person, per day), nonperishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a 7-day supply of medications, a multi-purpose tool, sanitation and personal hygiene items and copies of important personal documents. The Red Cross also recommends having at least two weeks worth of supplies at home.
BE INFORMED Everyone also needs to stay informed about what types of disasters are most likely to occur where they live or where they plan to visit, and how officials will communicate with you during an emergency. It is also important to take a first aid and CPR/AED course—a vital component of disaster preparedness in case emergency help is delayed.
RED CROSS APPS People can be ready for whatever comes their way by downloading the free Red Cross apps for mobile devices which not only help people during emergencies, but offer help creating their emergency plan. The apps give people vital information to use during emergencies, even if they can’t connect to the internet. The apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.
For more information on how to prepare for emergencies, people can visit www.redcross.org.