September is National Preparedness Month and the time to get prepared is now! Disasters can strike anywhere at any time. In recent years across the United States and the world, disasters have increased in size and extent of devastation. Being prepared can reduce your family’s anxiety over what to do during a disaster and will increase your resiliency following a disaster.
Even though getting prepared can seem overwhelming, it is relatively easy to do once you break it down into smaller, more manageable activities. If you tackle one task each day throughout the month, you'll be prepared before you know it. Weekday activities will take you as little as a few minutes and weekend activities may take a little longer, but investing the time now is well worth being prepared when needed.
Sunday, September 1 – We are starting you off with a big one – build your emergency kit today! You may have many of the items already in your home, but collecting them in an easy-to-grab backpack or bag is a more efficient way to find items when they may be needed. Download an emergency kit checklist from PrepareSanDiego.org and make a list of the items you are missing to pick up on your next errand run – or make it easy on yourself and buy a disaster kit at redcrossstore.org.
Monday, September 2 – Make your communication plan. Know how local authorities will contact you in case of a disaster, whether that is through local radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio stations. You can buy radios at redcrossstore.org. Our usual technology access can be interrupted in a disaster – email or text messages may be more reliable than calling cell phones and it may be easier to reach someone out of the area. Pick a friend or family member outside of the area who each family member can call to check in and let them know you’re safe.
Tuesday, September 3 – Know your risks. Do some research on what disasters occur most commonly in your area. Learn what to do before, during and after each type of disaster and share the information with everyone in your home. Those who live near canyons will want to be prepared for wildfires, coastal residents may want to learn about tsunamis and those who live near rivers should read up on floods. Everyone in our region should know what to do during an earthquake, home fire and more. To learn how to prepare for different emergencies, visit redcross.org.
Wednesday, September 4 – Sign up to receive emergency notifications on your cell phone. Both San Diego & Imperial Counties use regional notification systems that send telephone notifications to residents and businesses in areas impacted by, or in danger of being impacted by, an emergency or disaster. Landlines are automatically registered through the 9-1-1 database, but you must opt-in to receive notifications on your cell phone. If you live in San Diego County, visit ReadySanDiego.org to sign up today. If you live in Imperial Valley, visit ImperialValleyReverse911.com to register your cell phone with the Imperial County Reverse 9-1-1 system.
Thursday, September 5 – Make sure that every family member knows how to dial 9-1-1 in case of an emergency, especially kids. Find out the non-emergency phone number for your local law enforcement office and familiarize yourself with 2-1-1 San Diego – the region’s trusted source for access to community, health, social and disaster services. Visit 211sandiego.org for more information and remember to call this number for non-emergency inquiries during a disaster to relieve the stress on 9-1-1 for actual emergencies. 2-1-1 San Diego also serves Imperial County.
Friday, September 6 – Create emergency contact cards for each member of your family. Make sure it includes: name, cell phone number, place of work or school, and any other important information. Take a photo of the card to keep in your cell phone and print wallet-sized cards to carry with you or put in kids’ backpacks.
Saturday, September 7 – Clear your property of wildfire risk. This means clearing the area of dead or dry vegetation and creating a separation between trees and plants and items that could catch on fire such as the patio. Be sure to cut your grass regularly – or start the switch to drought-friendly landscaping. For more tips visit http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/.
Sunday, September 8 – At least one person in your family should be CPR certified and know how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Register for a class by visiting redcross.org/takeaclass. Some classes are blended with online and in-person to reduce the amount of time away from home. Get started now – register for an upcoming class and do your online portion of the class today!
Monday, September 9 – Put flashlights and batteries in several places around your home. If the power goes out after an earthquake or any other disaster, you’ll be able to grab a handy flashlight to safely make your way through your home.
Tuesday, September 10 – Fill your gas tank AND commit to always keeping it at least half full. You never know when a disaster will strike and if it may inhibit your ability to refill your gas tank – long lines, lack of fuel or structural damage could all be obstacles. Don’t get stranded away from your family or have trouble evacuating just because you don’t have enough gas to get you where you need to be!
Wednesday, September 11 – Load up your smart phones with plenty of useful apps. The Red Cross offers a First Aid App, an Emergency App, Pet First Aid App and more. You can find them all by searching for “Red Cross” in your phone's app store or by visiting redcross.org/apps. If you have kids, download the Red Cross Monster Guard App to help children prepare for real life emergencies inside and outside of the home, while also keeping them entertained. Download the SDEmergency and CalFire apps to get additional useful information at your fingertips.
Thursday, September 12 – Create an emergency escape plan with your family so everyone knows where to go during and after an emergency like a home fire or an earthquake. Download family disaster plan templates from PrepareSanDiego.org (available in English or Spanish). Make sure that each family member knows two ways out of each room (usually through a door and an accessible window) and practice evacuating with you children, pets and your emergency kit. Figure out where you can safely reconvene (i.e. a neighbor’s driveway or other landmark). Escape plans should be able to be executed in two minutes or less, so take 10-15 minutes to walk through your home with your family and talk about the plan – then take two minutes to practice!
Friday, September 13 – Keep food from spoiling in case of a power outage by leaving the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. Throw away any food (particularly meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that has been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
Saturday, September 14 – Create mini-disaster kits for your car and workplace. Stock each kit with a flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit and cell phone charger (with car adapter for your car kit). Have some bottled water handy and keep some non-perishable food such as granola bars within reach. For your car, make sure you have maps, a tire repair kit, jumper cables, flares and a white distress flag.
Sunday, September 15 – Check for earthquake safety within your home. Have a professional make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation and provide recommendations for strengthening exterior features, like porches, decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports and garage doors. Anchor items in your home, such as lighting fixtures, to make sure that nothing breaks during an earthquake. Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs. Do not hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, near beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit. Anchor top-heavy, tall and freestanding furniture such as bookcases and china cabinets to wall studs to keep these from toppling over. Click here to learn more about what you can do to prepare yourself and your home before an earthquake.
Monday, September 16 – Commit to fire safety habits in your home. A recent Red Cross study found that people have a false sense of security about home fires – 40 percent of people believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. Practicing fire safety habits make a home fire less likely so be sure to never leave candles unattended, always stay near the stove/oven when cooking and make sure that appliances are plugged directly into wall outlets. Visit the Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness website for additional fire safety tips.
Tuesday, September 17 – Walk through your house and push the TEST button on each of your smoke alarms. Make sure there is a working smoke alarm in each bedroom and in any living areas or hallways, away from kitchens and bathrooms that can set it off by steam from showers or cooking. Replace old or dead batteries – or better yet, buy new smoke alarms that have built-in batteries that last for 10 years. If there are kids in your home, involve them in testing the smoke alarms, teach them what a smoke alarm sounds like and what they should do if they hear it (reinforce that emergency escape plan you made on September 12). If you need smoke alarms, you can request a free smoke alarm installation from the Red Cross by submitting a request at soundthealarm.org/sandiego.
Wednesday, September 18 – Practice what to do during an earthquake – DROP, COVER and HOLD ON! Practice looking for places to seek cover under during an earthquake when you are at any location, including work or at your child’s school. Doorways are not the most reliable so make sure that you take shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture or another reliable area. Move as little as possible and try to protect your head and torso. If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold on, and cover your head. If you're in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses and power lines, if possible. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Mark your calendar to take part in next month’s 2019 Great California ShakeOut at 10:17 a.m. on October 17.
Thursday, September 19 – Request a disaster preparedness presentation for your community, school or business group. The Red Cross offers several preparedness presentations including “Red Cross Ready” presentations, Ready Rating for businesses and Hands-Only CPR demos as well as The Pillowcase Project for youth grades 3-5. Find more information or request a presentation by visiting the Community Preparedness page at redcross.org/sandiego.
Friday, September 20 – Purchase a fire extinguisher for your home and know how to use it. An extinguisher rated “A-B-C” is recommended for home use. Many fire extinguisher models are designed for one-time use and cannot be recharged. Get training from the fire department or a fire extinguisher manufacturer. Fire extinguishers from various manufacturers operate in different ways and there is no time to read directions during an emergency. Only adults should handle and use extinguishers. Click here for more fire safety equipment.
Saturday, September 21 – Meet your neighbors! Connect with people in your immediate neighborhood and community to discuss what everyone can and should do in case of an emergency. Find out if any of your neighbors may need assistance evacuating in the case of an emergency, especially if they have mobility challenges or do not have their own transportation.
Sunday, September 22 – Find a safe place to keep insurance policies, documents and other valuables so they will not get damaged. Buy a fireproof and waterproof safe to keep these documents protected in your home. While you’re at it, create a “Digital Disaster Kit” – scan all your important documents onto a USB drive that you can tuck into your emergency kit. You may need quick, easy access to these documents in the event of an emergency.
Monday, September 23 – Volunteer with the American Red Cross. Whether helping one displaced family or thousands, providing care and comfort to an ill or injured service member or veteran, or teaching others how to respond in emergencies, it’s through the efforts of ordinary people that we can do extraordinary things. Sign up to become a volunteer and help your community. Plus, you’ll learn even more about how to be prepared yourself as you’re helping others prepare, respond or recover.
Tuesday, September 24 – Make social media work for you. Social media is a quick source for information in the event of a disaster. Follow reputable accounts like local news stations, law enforcement and fire departments (including Cal Fire) and official government channels for San Diego County and Imperial County. You can find us at @SDICRedCross on both Facebook and Twitter.
Wednesday, September 25 – Make your evacuation plan. Do you know two ways out of your neighborhood? What would you do in the event of a road closure? Do you know where you will go if you have to evacuate? It could be a to a friend or family member’s house, but also make sure you know how to find an open shelter. You can locate open Red Cross shelters by visiting redcross.org/shelter and by looking for official announcements on the news and social media. While service animals are welcome, pets are not allowed inside of Red Cross shelters. We are fortunate to usually co-locate pet shelters on the same premises as people shelters, thanks to San Diego Humane Society. Make sure to evacuate with your pets and make plans for any livestock as well.
Thursday, September 26 – Familiarize your family with the Red Cross Safe & Well website in case any family member gets separated during evacuation. Safe & Well can let loved ones know you are okay after a local disaster, or you can find someone you love who may have experienced a recent disaster in the U.S. Safe & Well provides a central location for people in disaster areas to register their current status, and for their loved ones to access that information.
Friday, September 27 – If you’ve made it this far, you’re close to prepared by now, so it is time to share your knowledge. Talk to at least one other person today and tell them how they can get prepared. Guide them on what steps to take and what resources they can use to be safe.
Saturday, September 28 – Help your community be prepared by donating blood. Every day, blood donors help patients of all ages: accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer. In fact, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood – and in the event of a disaster or emergency, it is the blood currently on the shelves that helps save lives immediately. Become a blood donor today and mark your calendar to donate every six weeks. Visit redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment today!
Sunday, September 29 – Make sure you have adequate insurance. Check whether you live in a floodplain and whether you need flood insurance. Make sure you have renter’s insurance for personal property or home insurance for your belongings and your home’s structure. Visit the California Earthquake Authority for information on earthquake insurance.
Monday, September 30 – End National Preparedness Month the same way you started it – with your emergency kit! Take a second look through your kit and see what you’re missing. Do you have items for your kids and/or pets? Do you have an extra set of clothes and maybe a few towels? Did you make your digital disaster kit? Do you have some cash tucked in your kit in case access to ATMs is limited? Do you have an extra cell phone charger stashed in with your gear? Take this last day of National Preparedness Month to go through the “Red Cross Ready” handout and booklet that can be downloaded from PrepareSanDiego.org.
Prepare San Diego is a regional resiliency initiative through which the Red Cross encourages preparedness, carries out response and recovery plans, and strives for resiliency in the face of disaster. Prepare San Diego is generously supported by San Diego Gas & Electric.
How did you do? Were you able to celebrate National Preparedness Month with us and keep up each day? Share you story with us on social media using #PrepareSD and tag us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.