Four Ways to Prepare for a Disaster Before It Strikes

Disasters happen all of the time. Right now as I type this, the Southern California Whole Champion Foundation offices and Barbara’s home are under evacuation orders due to the potential for flooding and mudslides due to the severe rainfall and bomb cyclone of the past few days.

When disasters or potential disasters are eminent, people often have very little time to grab what they can and escape to safer grounds. That is why having a disaster plan is important—even if you never have to use it. Disaster planning has four parts: identifying hazards, preparing, making sure everyone in your household or business knows what to do, and then practicing what you have planned. Let’s look at them more in-depth.

Four Part of Disaster Planning


Identify Hazards: This is quite literally what it sounds like, naming what potential disasters could happen in your area. Fires in homes and businesses are always a possibility. But some people live and work in towns or areas that are prone to the outbreak of wildfires and have “fire seasons”. Other areas undergoing tropical storms and hurricanes of varying degrees every year or two.

Identifying hazards means knowing what is most common where you are and understanding how best to prepare for each disaster. This also means knowing what kinds of warning systems your area has (sirens, texts, phone calls, etc.) and signing up the service. And what local organizations perform emergency management or disaster recovery in your area. This may be a government-related entity like FEMA or a nonprofit like the American Red Cross or Team Rubicon.

Preparing: The first step in preparing is identifying the safest place in your home for each type of disaster. For example, if you live in earthquake country, find the best doorframe away from windows or glass to brace yourself in. If you live in tornado country and have a basement, choose that. If you live in tornado country without a basement, consider something heavy and stationary, like a bathtub and something to put overtop of you to shield you from falling debris, like a mattress.

Know your options inside your structure and around your property. And then understand the best evacuation route from your home and a couple alternative routes in case the best becomes an impossibility.

disaster, wildfire with firefighters in a field

Assemble a disaster supply kit. FEMA offers a downloadable list at https://www.ready.gov/kit but a kit be in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or duffel bags. The kit needs to contain water (one gallon per day per person for several days), nonperishable food with a manual can opener, battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, whistle, dust mask (yes, the N-95 masks will work), plastic sheeting and duct tape, moist towelettes, garbage bags and ties, wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities), cell phone chargers with a battery backup, and cash. If you have a pet, you should include extra water and food for your pet.

You will also need a go-bag with extra toiletries, underwear and socks, changes of clothes, and sturdy shoes. You may need a sleeping bag and copies of your insurance paperwork and other important paperwork.

As part of your preparation, you may consider getting CPR certified, teach yourself how to shut off utilities to your property, and post emergency contacts somewhere where everyone knows where they are.

Hold a Meeting: Then, you’ll want to hold a meeting so that everyone in your household or your business knows what to do and how to work together as a team. Assign tasks so that one person is in charge of grabbing the kit, one person is in charge of corralling the pets, etc. And if evacuation is necessary, have everyone agree beforehand where you will meet outside your neighborhood or town or city, if you cannot return.

Also determine how communication will happen in case of emergency. Will a primary point of contact be a person who lives away from the area? Does everyone have that person’s number? Texts often go through when networks are disrupted so make sure everyone has access to a mobile phone and has the important contact numbers in their phones.

disaster, earthquake destroyed building

Practice: Remember those fire drills you endured or looked forward to in school as a child? Those were teaching you what to do in times of disaster, and that is what you need in your adult life. You—your household or your business—need to practice what to do and where to go when disaster strikes. That way there is no guesswork.

No one ever wants to live through a disaster, but with some planning, you can make knowing what to do and executing that second nature as opposed to panicking and floundering. As the author Robert Fulghum writes, “Through every kind of disaster and setback and catastrophe. We are survivors. And we teach our kids about that.”

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