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September is National Preparedness Month

Young man stands in the wreckage of a house destroyed by a tornado

Disasters can strike at any time, and the American Red Cross encourages Mainers to mark National Preparedness Month by creating a household disaster plan to keep you and your family safe in an emergency.

“Every household should have working smoke alarms, as well as an emergency escape plan,” says Larry French, Disaster Program Manager for the American Red Cross of Maine. “The plan ensures that family members know where to go if something happens so that everyone is safe and accounted for.”

MAKE A PLAN

Everyone in the household should participate in creation of your emergency plan, says French. “This helps ensure they know what to do should something occur.”

Because some family members may be away from home when a disaster happens,  the plan should include ways to contact one another, and two places to meet — one near the home in case of a fire or other sudden emergency and one outside the neighborhood, should circumstances prevent you 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.

Your emergency plan should also include where to go if ordered to evacuate and which route to take. It’s a good idea to include alternate routes in case roads are closed.

Finally, include plans for family pets, with information such as pet-friendly hotels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.

HOME FIRES

The most common threat people face is a fire in their home. National Preparedness Month is a good time to develop and practice a fire escape plan. Walk through your home, looking at all exits and possible escape routes, including windows. Identify two ways to get out of every room in case fire blocks one of your paths. Pick a place to meet outside, a safe distance away where you’ll stay until fire officials say it is okay to go back inside. Practice your plan at least twice a year.

Each level of your home should have working smoke alarms, including inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Test the alarms monthly, change the batteries at least once a year, and replace the alarm every 10 years.

RED CROSS APPS

Red Cross mobile apps provide information on what to do before, during, and after emergencies. The “Make a Plan” feature helps you develop an emergency plan. The free 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 all types of emergencies, visit redcross.org/maine.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters, supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood, teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid, and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. Learn more at redcross.org/maine, on Twitter (ARC_Maine), or Facebook (American Red Cross of Maine).