Disaster Preparedness Tips

During a single day in February 2008, an estimated 87 tornadoes touched down in the southeastern U.S. killing 57 people. In June, major flooding across the Midwest killed at least 24 people and injured another 148. More carnage came last September when Hurricanes Gustav and Ike killed at least 164 people from Texas to Florida.

Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes contributed to making 2008 one of the most devastating years for natural disasters on record and many climatologists predict a rise in such events in years to come.

While it is impossible to stop a natural disaster, it is possible to better prepare yourself and your family before disaster strikes.

"Planning and execution are key steps to keeping your family safe during a disaster,” said Georgia Eddleman, vice president of customer care for ADT Security Services. “By taking the time to put an emergency plan in place now, your family will be better prepared when every second counts."

To help families reduce their risk of injury or even death during or after a natural disaster, Eddleman and ADT recommend the following life-saving disaster preparedness tips:

  • Assemble a disaster supply kit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends filling a supply kit with at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, water, first aid supplies, a battery-powered radio or television, a flashlight, extra clothing and blankets, matches, photocopies of credit and ID cards, essential medications and any other items to meet your family's unique needs. Store supplies in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container, such as a plastic tub with handles.
  • Pick two safe meeting places. Choose a safe meeting place outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire. The Red Cross also recommends choosing a location outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate. Having predetermined meeting places will save time, reduce confusion and help you confirm everyone has safely evacuated.
  • Know how to shut off your home's natural gas, electricity and water supplies. Natural gas leaks and explosions are responsible for a significant number of fires following disasters; water also becomes a precious resource after many disasters. All adult and teenage household members should learn how to shut off the natural gas, electricity and water at main valves and circuit boxes.
  • Consider the use of a portable generator. Portable generators can be crucial when temporary power is needed, but they can also be hazardous. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, portable, gasoline-powered generators are a common source of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning after power outages associated with natural disasters such as hurricanes. Never operate portable generators indoors, in garages, or outside near doors, windows, or vents of a home. Consider installing a monitored carbon monoxide alarm, which can be crucial in monitoring for dangerous levels of CO and other harmful gasses. It is always best to choose an alarm provider that offers battery backup in case of power failure and one with fully redundant monitoring centers in case one center is affected by a disaster.
  • Choose an out-of-area contact for all members of the family to call in case of disaster. This contact can relay messages between family members should they become separated. The selected person should live far enough away that he or she would not likely be affected by the same event. Remember that during a disaster, local phone networks can overload and/or crash due to a large number of calls. It may be easier to make a long distance phone call than to call across town.

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