Posted on : Monday August 1, 2011

Earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and fires have become a natural way of life for many across our nation and world. If something like that were to affect you and your family, would you know how to respond?

Ellen Udovich, our Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware missionary who coordinates disaster relief ministries, suggests four practical steps to being prepared.

1. Find out what you need to know:
The first step is to take the time before a disaster strikes to answer simple questions: What types of disasters are most likely to happen here? How do I prepare for each of them? What type of community warning signals exists and what should I do if I hear them? What kinds of services are available to help elderly people or those with special needs if needed during a disaster?

It is important to learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. Also, find out if your workplace, children’s school or daycare center has emergency plans.

2. Make a plan:

Get your family together to discuss what to do in the event of a disaster (or an unexpected event such as a power outage). Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team. Pick two places to meet: right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire; and outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.

Ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance than locally. If separated, family members should call this person and let them know where they are.

Consider what you will need in order to stay inside your house for 3-5 days and what you will need to take with you if you have to evacuate for 3-5 days.

Next, broaden your plan. How can you help your neighbors? Which of your neighbors might need special help? In fact, meet with your neighbors to talk about developing a neighborhood disaster plan.

3. Implement your plan:

Disaster preparedness is a lifestyle choice. Udovich suggests that families ensure adequate insurance for the disasters possible in their area.

She also urges families to post emergency numbers by the phone and to teach children how and when to dial 911. Also, locate the main electrical cut-off, water service main and natural gas main. Learn how and when to turn these utilities off and teach all responsible family members. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.

Furthermore, install smoke detectors on every level of your home and get a fire extinguisher and make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it.She also advises that family members take a first-aid and CPR class.

Udovich suggests putting together an Emergency Supply Kit (at least 3-5 days) with items, such as: nonperishable food, water (typically one gallon per person per day), battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, moist towelettes, manual can opener, local maps, necessary prescription medicine and eyeglasses, copies of important family documents, cash, as well as pet food and baby items (diapers, etc.).

4. Practice and update your plan:

To ensure everyone is prepared, quiz the kids every few months so they remember what to do. Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.

Also, test smoke detectors monthly and replace batteries twice a year (daylight savings time changes are the perfect time to do this.)
In addition, test and recharge your fire extinguisher according to manufacturer’s instructions and replace stored food and water every six months. (Bottled water keeps a long time.)

Udovich also advises that you create a “to go” emergency kit to keep in your car.

She also suggests that you consider volunteering with the Red Cross, SBC Disaster Relief, Citizen Corps/CERT, etc.

As always, get to know your neighbors and their special skills. Consider how you can help neighbors with special needs, child care concerns, and vice versa. Who is your “special neighbor”? Stay in touch with them.

5. Resources with checklists:

Need a checklist to get you going? The following websites offer them and much more: