Basic kit : NWS radio, First Aid Kit, Lanterns, Water & Food & cash
While the residents of Dallas and the Midwest continue to dig out from last week's tornado outbreak, and as the flood waters continue to rise in and along the Mississippi and its tributaries, most of us will end 2015 thankful that disasters like these did not affect our communities, and families.
None of which is to say that everyone got lucky.
FEMA has declared 43 Major Disasters across the country so far in 2015 (see LIST), along with a couple of Emergency Declarations, and more than 30 Fire Management Assistance Declarations. And there were hundreds more, smaller, localized incidents that caused serious impact for some people, but did not rise to the level of a Federal Declaration.
But Americans avoided truly destructive earthquakes, major land falling hurricanes, disruptive solar storms, and other `big ticket' disasters.
Other places around the world weren't as fortunate, of course. Nepal was devastated by a series of huge earthquakes, India suffered both massive floods and heat waves, drought savaged parts of Africa, while the Pacific reeled under the onslaught of 28 typhoons.
There are certainly no guarantees our luck will hold in the new year. Disasters, large and small, are inevitable, even if where and when they will occur is unknowable. Whether they will directly affect you and your family, is largely a matter of luck.
How you and your loved ones fare during these disasters, however, should never be left solely up to luck.
Ready.gov, FEMA, along with many other agencies continually promote better preparedness for disasters because they know that local, state, and Federal Emergency Services - at least in the opening days of a major event - won't be able to provide assistance to everyone.
Which is why they promote National Preparedness Month each September, and coalition members like AFD promote preparedness year round. You can search for earlier AFD posts on preparedness using this search link.
Some threats are seasonal, and right now FEMA and READY.GOV are promoting El Nino awareness, along with winter weather hazards. In the spring, torando season will take center stage, followed by hurricane season.
But is is always earthquake season, and space weather, cyber attacks on the grid, and pandemics can happen anytime of the year.
Over the past couple of years we've looked at some of the government's biggest disaster concerns. Some are, admittedly, low probability events - but should they occur - they'd have a very high impact.
USGS: Preparing The Nation For Severe Space Weather
OSU: Pragmatic Action - Not Fatalism - In Order To Survive The `Big One’
USGS/OGS Joint Statement On Increased Earthquake Threat To Oklahoma
None of this is to suggest you should be preparing specifically for any one of these scenarios (although depending where you live, you certainly need to consider some disasters more likely than others). Instead, most experts promote an `all hazards' preparedness plan.
The one common denominator in most disasters, however, is that local utilities may be disrupted - perhaps for days or even weeks.
If a disaster struck your region today, and the power went out, stores closed their doors, and water stopped flowing from your kitchen tap for the next 7 days . . . do you have:
- An emergency plan, including meeting places, emergency out-of-state contact numbers, and in case you must evacuate, a bug-out bag?
- A battery operated NWS Emergency Radio to find out what was going on, and to get vital instructions from emergency officials?
- A decent first-aid kit, so that you can treat injuries?
- Enough non-perishable food and water on hand to feed and hydrate your family (including pets) for the duration?
- A way to provide light (and in cold climates, heat) for your family without electricity? And a way to cook? And to do this safely?
- A small supply of cash to use in case credit/debit machines are not working?
- Spare supply of essential prescription medicines that you or your family may need?
Unfortunately, a lot of people make the wrong choices when they do prepare. They buy candles instead of battery operated lights, they use generators inside their house or garage, or resort to dangerous methods to cook or to heat their homes.As a result, when the power goes out, house fires and carbon monoxide poisonings go up. Each year hundreds of Americans are killed, and thousands affected, by CO poisoning (see In Carbon Monoxide: A Stealthy Killer).
Food safety after a power outage is another concern, and is something I covered a couple of years ago in USDA: Food Safety When The Power Goes Out.
While preparedness may seem like a lot of work, it really isn’t.
You don’t need an underground bunker, an armory, or 2 years worth of dehydrated food. But you do need the basics to carry on for a week or two, and a workable family (or business) emergency/disaster plan.
For more information on how to prepare, I would invite you to visit:
AMERICAN RED CROSS http://www.redcross.org/