By Katta Hules
September is National Preparedness Month. Accordingly, this is a great time to make or update disaster plans and preparations. There are several ways to prepare yourself and your loved ones for an emergency situation.
First off, the most important thing for every household to have in case of an emergency is a disaster kit. “When you’re looking at preparedness, the best thing is to treat all possible events the same: by building a disaster kit,” says Arcadia Fire Battalion Chief and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Barry Spriggs.
Spriggs recommends having multiple kits, one for the home, the car, and the workplace. Kits should include essentials such as food, water, necessary medications, a flashlight, and a multi-tool or Swiss Army knife. If you or a member of your family is trained in how to shut off utilities like gas and water, a wrench is a good addition to any home kit. “The key is if you can have those items there, you can be ready to respond and recover from whatever nature … throws your way.”
READ MORE: In-Depth Kit List
Building a kit and getting prepared helps the fire department, Spriggs says, because “we know in the event of an emergency, [residents with kits] can be self-sufficient while we help others that may not have had a chance to build a kit.”
Next, in addition to the kit, have a family emergency plan. Ready OC, an emergency education campaign funded by the Department of Homeland Security, suggests the plan should include an out-of-town contact programmed into everyone’s cellphones as “[p]hone lines are often busy or out of service during major disasters, and it may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town.” It recommends texting instead of calling during an emergency as well, as faulty network connections could prevent phone calls from going through.
If you have children, Ready OC emphasizes empowering them to be part of the plan. To bring children in to the process, try quizzing them on the plan at dinner, explaining where the family will regroup after an emergency, shopping for kit supplies with them and making sure they know where the kit is stored.
READ MORE: Emergency Plan Templates
If you have pets, it is safest to include them in both your family plan and your disaster kit. “Leaving pets out of evacuation plans can put pets, pet owners, and first responders in danger,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) emergency preparedness page.
To prevent this, be sure your pets have microchips, up-to-date tags, and carriers or leashes are kept near the exit. The CDC suggests familiarizing your pet with the carriers and practice catching them if necessary. It is also best to know where you can shelter with your pets and make arrangements for transportation if you do not have a car.
READ MORE: Pets and Disasters
If you want to be prepared to help with disaster preparedness and relief beyond your own home, consider joining the Citizen Corps. The Corps is a civilian network of state, local, and tribal councils administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Their mission is to “harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds,” according to their website.
Another route is to learn first aid and CPR. Spriggs suggests taking classes from the Red Cross.
READ MORE: Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Classes
Want a chance to test your emergency preparedness? On Oct. 20, the City of Arcadia will take part in the Great California ShakeOut, a worldwide disaster preparedness event. At 10:20 a.m., people all over the globe will practice their emergency plans.
“It could be as simple as duck, cover, and hold on in your workplace,” says Spriggs, adding that every city department will be practicing evacuation and accounting for personnel. Additionally, the fire department will practice their after-earthquake windshield survey where they drive around and check on their districts. Learn more about the ShakeOut at www.shakeout.org/california/howtoparticipate.
To be kept up-to-date on local emergencies and disaster warnings, sign up for emergency alerts through the city’s Alert Arcadia Program. The program will contact you through your preferred method of communication: text message, phone call, or email.