September is National Preparedness Month

While every family would like to think they’re prepared for a disaster, the truth is that many aren’t. Luckily, September is National Preparedness Month. It’s the perfect time of year to ensure that you have a game plan in place if disaster strikes. While no one wants to be the victim of a disaster, it’s better to be prepared for an unusual event than to try to react to it. That’s why this September the theme of National Preparedness Month is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”

Emergencies can happen anywhere. Whether you’re at work, home, or while you’re on vacation, you should be prepared to handle an emergency. This begins with having a safety plan in place for you and your family. What does a safety plan look like? It’s best to start by listing all the members of your household, their ages, and where they work or attend school. Add a list of allergies and dietary restrictions. Any special medical needs should be included, along with languages spoken. You can also include helpful information like your insurance company and their phone number. Keep digital copies of important documents like photo IDs, passports, and birth certificates. Create an evacuation plan for your family and make sure everyone understands where their exits are and where the family meeting point is. Your safety plan should be kept somewhere that you can access in the event of an emergency. Many people carry a copy around with them in their purse or wallet. Others keep a copy stored in the cloud. Everyone in your family should know how to access this information in the event your family is separated.

After you’ve made a plan for yourself and your family it’s important to prepare to help others. How will you be able to assist in the event of an emergency before or as help arrives? Skills like CPR and knowing how to use a defibrillator are valuable skills for every person to have. It’s simple to sign up for courses through the Red Cross—you can even find classes online. Another way you can be prepared to help is by knowing the rules of your local utility companies. Identify where your gas, electrical, and water shut-offs are so that you’re prepared to shut them off should a disaster strike. Know how to do this in your own home and, if possible, learn where these shut-offs are in your office.

Finally, it’s best to practice your emergency evacuation plan with your family and, if possible, with your neighbors. Learn what local alerts and warnings may sound in the event of potential disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other emergencies. Participate in drills held at your office or school so that, should disaster happen, you already know what to do and where to go. Always set aside an emergency fund that you can access in case you need food or shelter for a few days.

We’re often tempted to react to a disaster instead of prepare for it. While that might seem like the easier course of action, you’re much better off being prepared.