When disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. Prepare now for a sudden emergency. By taking simple steps to prepare your family for natural or other disasters, you can help protect your loved ones and you will be able to cope better if a disaster does occur.
There are three basic steps for disaster or emergency preparedness:
- 1. KNOW - what natural or other disasters could occur in your area and how to prepare for them. Know what your local evacuation routes are so that you know how to leave an area quickly. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has lots of information on preparedness. For information on pandemic flu and avian influenza, see www.pandemicflu.gov.
- 2. PLAN - make an emergency plan - and give family members a copy of it. Talk with your family members so they know the potential disasters or emergencies that could happen in your area and explain how to respond to each of them. Select a meeting place, other than your home, for your loved ones to meet in case it's unsafe to return to home or you are unable to. Make sure you designate an "emergency check-in" contact and teach your children the phone number for this contact. This is important in case you get separated during a disaster! Download a ready-made checklist (PDF file).
- 3. PACK - emergency supplies in your home to meet your needs for three days. Always keep all of your important documentation together, in one place, in case you have to "grab and go" during an evacuation.
Evacuation Disaster Kit
Identification for yourself and your children
- birth certificates
- social security cards (or numbers written on paper if you can't find the cards)
- driver's license
- photo identification or passports
- welfare identification
- green card
Important personal papers
- marriage certificate or divorce papers and custody orders
- health insurance papers and medical cards
- medical records for all family members
- children's school records
- investment papers/records and account numbers
- work permits, immigration papers
- rental agreement/lease or house deed
- car title, registration, and insurance information
- cash or small denomination traveler's checks that can be cashed easily
- credit, debit and ATM cards
- checkbook and bankbook (with deposit slips)
- safety deposit box or post office box
A way to communicate
- phone calling card or cell phone (if possible, always have an extra, charged cell phone battery)
- emergency check-in number for all family members in case you get separated
- list of important phone numbers
Medications and supplies
- all medicines you and your children are taking, as well as a copy of the prescriptions (if possible)
- extra eye glasses or contact lens and supplies
- feminine hygiene products
Things to help you cope - if you have extra room
- pictures and small keepsakes
- children's small toys or books
Below are essential items to get together when preparing for evacuation or disaster. Keep these items together in one safe place that you can get to if you must evacuate.
- Keep at least a 3-day supply of water stored in plastic containers per person. Each person needs 1 gallon of water each day. Four family members = 4x3 = 12 gallons of stored water.
- Store at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food such as: canned meat, beans and vegetables, peanut butter or other high energy food, canned fruit and juices, unsalted crackers, etc. Be sure to include a non-electric can opener.
- Canned pet food
- Baby formula if child is not breastfed
- If you have a baby or toddler and need to evacuate - don't waste precious space by trying to carry a stroller. Shirts, towels, small blankets and sheets can be used to carry a baby. The Mamatoto Project has a quick video of how to make safe baby carriers out of household items or clothing.
- Large, sealing plastic bags (for waterproofing important papers)
- Battery-powered flashlight and radio w/extra batteries
- First Aid Kit
You may need to survive on your own after a disaster. This means having water and food sufficient to last three days. Relief workers will most likely be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. Put together supplies disaster kit to carry with you if you evacuate or in case you need to "stay in place" and are not able to evacuate.
Breastfeeding During an Emergency
When an emergency occurs breastfeeding saves lives:
- Breastfeeding protects babies from the risks of a contaminated water supply.
- It provides protection against respiratory illnesses and diarrhea --diseases that can be fatal in populations displaced by disaster.
The basics of breastfeeding during an emergency are much the same as they are in normal times. Continuing to breastfeed whenever the baby seems hungry maintains a mother's milk supply and provides familiar comfort. The release of hormones while a mother is breastfeeding relieves stress and anxiety and is calming to both mother and baby. Learn more from LaLeche League, including how you can breastfeed in an emergency even if you have been giving your baby formula.
Food and Water Safety During an Emergency
Food may not be safe to eat during and after an emergency. Water may not be safe to drink, clean with, or bathe in after an emergency such as a hurricane or flood because it can become contaminated with bacteria, sewage, agricultural or industrial waste, chemicals, and other substances that can cause illness or death . The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information about keeping your food and water safe.
Staying Safe from Violence During an Emergency
In the aftermath of disasters, women are at an increased risk for being sexually assaulted or attacked. And, although the data is limited, domestic violence has also been reported as problems for women during these times. Go to womenshealth.gov's Violence Against Women section for more information and resources on how to protect yourself from violence and assault.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health, www.4woman.gov