Though natural disasters are not uncommon – especially in certain parts of the world – it does seem as if we’ve recently experienced a rash of hurricanes and earthquakes that have caused so much devastation and hardship. It’s impossible to predict if, when, where and how a natural disaster might affect you but it is still a very good idea to have a disaster plan in place, in case the unthinkable should happen to you and your family.
Valuable and Important vs. Important but Not Valuable
One of the first steps in constructing a disaster plan is to determine what’s absolutely essential in your life and home – what is valuable and important versus what is important but not valuable. For instance, some examples of essential items might be:
- Back up food and water supplies
- Backup generator
- First aid kit
- Necessary medical supplies and pharmaceutical prescriptions
- Irreplaceable family heirlooms, keepsakes and photographs
- Sufficient cash on hand
- Business and personal documents (passport, birth certificate, social security cards, credit cards, insurance policies, wills and estate plans, mortgage documents, etc)
Examples of items that might not be as essential are furniture, clothing, appliances, etc. They are important but not valuable and, in most cases, can be easily replaced.
When I was a boy, my family actually had a fire drill which we practiced from time-to-time. We were taught what to do if smoke was detected, how to exit the house safely, and where to gather once outside. I don’t know if families still do that kind of thing but it’s a good idea.
It’s also a good idea to have collapsible ladders on upper floors in case they are needed for escape. And there are flame-proof stickers that can be affixed to a child’s bedroom window which make firemen aware once they are on scene.
In addition to preparing for a house fire, different kinds of plans are required for tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, or flooding. Where are the nearest emergency shelters? Where will you evacuate to, if necessary, and how will you get there? How will you survive a week (or longer) without food, water, power or shelter? These questions must be asked and the answers become part of your plan.
Sometimes Cash is King
In the event of a major natural disaster, it’s possible that your bank also suffered significant damage and is not open for business. It’s also possible that even if their ATMs are working, they’ve been completely drained of cash by other worried or distraught customers.
Therefore, it is wise to have some emergency backup cash on hand so that you can purchase needed food, services and supplies for you and your family until things return to normal.
A Plan for Pets
When constructing a plan about what to do in the event of a natural disaster, you must also consider a plan for your pets. How do they figure into your plan – where and how will they go with you, if necessary?
For instance, if they are evacuating with you, will you have sufficient food and water for them as well? Or, if you need to seek refuge in an emergency shelter, will they accept animals? That’s something you would want to know before a disaster strikes.
Or, what if your pet should run away or disappear in all the confusion, do you know where the nearest animal shelters are so you can attempt to find them later?
Growing up, my Dad would often say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” and now that I’m older and have a child of my own, I realize the wisdom of his words.
Constructing a proper disaster plan is a big subject and we’ve only touched on a few topics here. But the most important thing you can do now is to realize the value of having a plan and begin to do what’s necessary to put a comprehensive plan in place.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that in an emergency, a well-thought-out plan could possibly save your life and the lives of the ones you love.