Topic updated: August 2012

Disaster & Emergency Preparedness

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Emergency Preparedness & You

The possibility of public health emergencies arising in the United States concerns many people in the wake of recent hurricanes, tsunamis, acts of terrorism, and the threat of pandemic influenza. Though some people feel it is impossible to be prepared for unexpected events, the truth is that taking preparedness actions helps people deal with disasters of all sorts much more effectively when they do occur.

To help, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Red Cross have teamed up to answer common questions and provide step by step guidance you can take now to protect you and your loved ones.

Get a kit

If disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water, or electricity for some time. By taking time now to prepare emergency water supplies, food supplies and disaster supplies kit, you can provide for your entire family.

Even though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supplies for two weeks, consider maintaining a supply that will last that long.

You may not need to go out and buy foods to prepare an emergency food supply. You can use the canned goods, dry mixes, and other staples on your cupboard shelves.

Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least 2 quarts (a half gallon) of water each day. You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene. Store at least an additional half-gallon per person, per day for this.

Store at least a 3-day supply and consider storing a two-week supply of water for each member of your family. If you are unable to store this much, store as much as you can. You can reduce the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.

And don't forget to take your pets and service animals into account!

Make a plan

Families can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Create a family disaster plan including a communication plan, disaster supplies kit, and an evacuation plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.

    • Find out what could happen to you
    • Make a disaster plan
    • Complete the checklist
    • Practice your plan

Find out what could happen to you

Contact your American Red Cross chapter or local emergency management office — be prepared to take notes:

    • Ask what types of disasters are most likely to happen. Request information on how to prepare for each.
    • Learn about your community’s warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
    • Ask about animal care after disaster. Animals other than service animals may not be allowed inside emergency shelters.
    • Find out how to help elderly or disabled persons, if needed.
    • Next, find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children’s school or daycare center, and other places where your family spends time.

Create a disaster plan

Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.

Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case.

Pick two places to meet:

  1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
  2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.

Safe and Well Website

Following the 2005 hurricane season, the Red Cross developed the Safe and Well website, which enables people within a disaster area to let their friends and loved ones outside of the affected region know of their well-being. By logging onto the Red Cross public website, a person affected by disaster may post messages indicating that they are safe and well at a shelter, hotel, or at home, and that they will contact their friends and family as soon as possible. During large-scale disasters, there will be telephone-based assistance via the 1-866-GET-INFO hotline for people who live within the affected areas and do not have Internet access, but wish to register on the Safe and Well website.

People who are concerned about family members in an affected area may also access the Safe and Well website to view these messages. They will be required to enter either the name and telephone number, or the name and complete address, of the person about whom they wish to get information. Red Cross chapters will provide telephone-based assistance to local callers who do not have Internet access and wish to search the Safe and Wellwebsite for information about a loved one.

Be assured that the information on the Safe and Well website is secure and that information about the locations where people are staying is not published. Privacy laws require the Red Cross to protect each person's right to determine how best to communicate their contact information and whereabouts to family members. The Red Cross does not actively trace or attempt to locate individuals registered on the Safe and Well website.

Ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact”. After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact’s phone number.

Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.

Families should develop different methods for communicating during emergency situations and share their plans beforehand with all those who would be worried about their welfare. Options for remaining in contact with family and friends if a disaster strikes include:

  • Phone contact with a designated family member or friend who is unlikely to be affected by the same disaster.
  • Email notification via a family distribution list.
  • Registration on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Website.
  • Use of the toll-free Contact Loved Ones voice messaging service (1-866-78-CONTACT).
  • Use of the US Postal Service change of address forms when it becomes necessary to leave home for an extended period of time, thus ensuring that mail will be redirected to a current address.

 

Read more about preparing for emergencies and disasters before they happen!

You may also wish to see the HealthyNJ pages for Floods, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Earthquakes and Blizzards & Winter Storms.

snowstorm in a forest

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