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Helping Families Prepare for Disasters Large and Small

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Now is the time to start thinking about what you can do to be better prepared for disasters.

The town of Belvidere and Mayor Linda Stettler hosted an American Red Cross Be Red Cross Ready disaster preparedness presentation on Dec. 4. Thirty-five people came out to town hall to learn how to better prepare themselves and their family for disasters. 

Paul Gass, regional preparedness manager, American Red Cross North Jersey Region, walked people through building an emergency kit, developing a family emergency plan and showcased the suite of Red Cross free mobile apps. 

“The time to prepare is now,” Gass told the Warren County residents. “It’s time to start thinking about what you can do to be better prepared for disasters both large and small.”

In addition to being prepared for large-scale disasters, like hurricanes and tornadoes, it is vital that families prepare for and know how to respond during home fires. 

“The Red Cross sees home fires in North Jersey every day,” said Gass. “It is important to ensure that you check the batteries in your smoke alarms monthly and replace them if needed. Families should also review and practice their fire escape plan regularly so all members of the household know what to do should a fire occur.”

Home fires represent the majority of the 70,000 disasters the American Red Cross responds to each year. Last month, Red Cross North Jersey Region Disaster Action Team volunteers responded to 38 home fires in the northern half of the state and have helped at least 124 displaced families – more than 400 people – with shelter, food, clothing and emotional support as needed.

The Red Cross encourages everyone to make preparedness a priority and take the following steps to ensure their family can sustain themselves for three to five days following any type of disaster. 

GET A KIT Being prepared means being equipped with the proper supplies you may need in the event of an emergency or disaster including a three-day supply of food and water, a week’s worth of medications, copies of personal documents and other essential items. Consider the needs of all members of the household, including pets, and customize your kit accordingly. Keep your supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate.

MAKE A PLAN Everyone in the household should help put the emergency plan together so they know what they should do if something occurs. Because everyone may not be together at 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 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.

Any emergency plan should also include decisions about where to go if ordered to evacuate and what route to take to get there. It’s a good idea to include alternate routes in case roads are closed. Don’t forget family pets. Make sure to include plans for them such as pet-friendly hotels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.

BE INFORMED Learn about local hazards and how to prepare for and what to do in the event of different types of disasters

DOWNLOAD MOBILE APPS The Red Cross has developed mobile apps that provide information on what to do before, during and after emergencies, including a “Make a Plan” feature on how to develop an emergency plan. Another important feature in the disaster apps allows users to let family and friends quickly know they are safe with a customizable “I’m Safe” alert for Facebook, Twitter, email and text. The free apps are available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.

For additional emergency preparedness information, including free tools available for individuals and families to help better prepare for disasters and emergencies, visit

RED CROSS PREPAREDNESS PRESENTATIONS To request a Red Cross speaker to come to your business, organization, school or other group to receive free Community Disaster Education or for Red Cross to participate in a community event contact Paul Gass at