The Importance of Disaster Preparedness
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Ike and the second anniversary of the Bastrop, Texas wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes in a weekend. Texans live in a state with the potential for many types of natural disasters—flash floods, hurricanes, windstorms, tornadoes and wildfires. While we may never know for sure when a natural disaster is going to strike, it is the responsibility of every family to be prepared. The following tips can help ensure the safety of you and your loved ones during a natural disaster.
Have the Basics Easily Available
Every household should have several items easily available in case of a disaster. These items include a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, a crank or battery-operated radio with NOAA weather radio capabilities, prescription medications, an emergency whistle to signal for help, a gallon of water per person for at least three days and non-perishable food. Other items to consider storing in the same place are local maps, pet food, emergency telephone numbers and a cell phone with an inverter or other means to charge.
Know Your Resources
A complete list of the basic disaster necessities can be found on the FEMA website at www.ready.gov. The American Red Cross website (www.redcross.org/prepare) is another resource for disaster preparedness. It has helpful information on being "Red Cross Ready" in the event of an emergency, including tips for caring for seniors and people with disabilities. Of particular importance—and growing interest—is the “Get Tech Ready" module. Recent surveys have found that the Internet is the third most popular way to stay in touch and reconnect during an emergency.
Family Emergency Plan
You and your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, and this can cause increased panic if you haven’t prepared for this situation. A family disaster plan that includes how you will contact each other, where will you meet and identifies a safe place to gather as an alternative to your home is extremely important. This plan will ensure your children know what to do, where they can go and who they can stay with in the event of an emergency.
The FEMA website includes a family emergency plan that can be printed to help develop a family plan. If you have young children, involve them in the planning process. Experts agree that discussing a disaster ahead of time reduces fear and anxiety in children, which means they have a better chance of being able to keep safe until help arrives.
Don’t Forget the Financial Plan
If you have access to the Internet, think about scanning and storing important documents in a 'cloud'-based application. You may lose access to the location in your home where your passwords, logins, account numbers and policies are stored. Having this information available electronically could be a big step in the recovery process. If you don't want electronic records of this information, visit with your local banker about a safe deposit box for storage of this information. But keep in mind that a local community bank is subject to the same potential disasters.
Try to have three to five days worth of cash available. That means keeping it on hand or in a secure place. In the event you can't get to your local bank or the power is out and ATMs are not available, having that cash on hand can reduce your worries significantly. Online banking is another way to manage your finances and pay your bills during unsettled times. Often those online banking systems are hosted away from your local community and will remain operational during a disaster, provided you can obtain online access.
Being prepared for a disaster will help you and your family remain calm and rational when a tragedy strikes. Hopefully no major natural disasters will hit your local community soon but if one does, being prepared will help keep your family safe and put you on the path to recovery as quickly as possible.
This information is provided with the understanding that the association is not engaged in rendering specific legal, accounting, or other professional services. If specific expert assistance is required, the services of a competent, professional person should be sought.
Provided as a public service by the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers.
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