As we head into the “roaring twenties,” it is the perfect time to dust off your emergency plan, check your supplies, and complete those nagging tasks you’ve been meaning to do all year. Maybe you’re starting your preparedness journey for the first time but aren’t sure where to start. No matter if you’re reading this on the first of January, just before your annual spring cleaning, or on the first day of school - new beginnings are a great time to restock, revise, and reflect on what to do in case the unexpected happens.
Here are 5 Simple Steps to be Ready for Any Emergency:
Step 1: Build Your Emergency Kit and Supplies
Keeping yourself and your family fed, warm, and safe.
The first thing that often comes to people’s minds when they think about an emergency is “what do I have on hand right now that might be helpful?” If you’re like a lot of people, you might have, band-aids, some canned food, a few old candles. Maybe you have a lot of things that would be useful, like a first aid kit, matches, and extra blankets. But I’m willing to bet, that if you’re like me, those items are stored in several different areas of your home. The first aid kit is in the bathroom, blankets in the linen closet, old candles or matches are in the kitchen junk drawer...and when was the last time you looked at the expiration date on those old cans of beans?
Having a ready-made emergency kit, with all the items you might need, stored in a single place, in a portable bag, is ideal - especially if you need to leave your home quickly. That’s where Redfora comes in, with our thoughtfully packed, easily transported Emergency Bags, you can rest assured that there will be warmth, food, and water wherever an emergency might take you. They come in a full range of sizes depending on the size of your family, and their needs. Redfora even makes kits for on-the-go emergencies in the car, and for your four legged family members, too. And our mini-kits are perfect for tucking into a child’s backpack or into a desk drawer at work, because emergencies don’t always occur when everyone is at home and together.
You can also build your own kit if you own something sturdy to carry your supplies in, and the items you might need most. If DIY is more your thing, check out this guide on how to build your own kit.
Main Takeaway: Have your emergency kit/supplies ready before disaster strikes - whether you build your own emergency kit or customize one of ours it’s only helpful if you have it before you need it.
Step 2: Keeping In Contact
Who to contact, and how, in the case of an emergency.
Often times in a large scale crisis, normal cell phone carriers get inundated with calls, and that can sometimes lead to lines staying busy and calls not going through, or calls getting dropped. There are a few things you can do to remain informed and connected during an emergency.
If a large scale disaster has hit your town, do not bog down internet services that emergency workers need to perform their duties. It's helpful to post on social media that you are safe, but afterwards, hold off on live-streaming to Youtube and reduce your internet usage. Briefly post where you are, if you’re safe or plan to evacuate, and how else your loved ones might contact you.
Set up a group text ahead of time with your local loved ones and agree to only use it for emergencies. Then every member of the family is getting updated at the same time without having to play text/telephone “tag." If you have a smartphone, download the FEMA app, which works on all smartphones. It will give you live updates on the situation happening in your area, and has useful alerts such as which buildings have shelters set up during a disaster. A lower-tech option is to also have a hand-crank or solar radio on hand, as broadcasts often have emergency instructions on repeat.
Keep any calls you make brief, and have an out-of-area (long distance) emergency contact you can call in case local lines are jammed. They can then call your local family one by one to let them know the plan. Be sure your long distance contact has the phone numbers of each member of your family before hand, so you don’t need to try to dictate numbers to them during a crisis.
Label each person who should be contacted in an emergency: a spouse, children, your best friend, mother, or out-of-area as an “emergency contact” in your phone. This is most often and easily done by adding ICE after the person’s name in the contact info. ICE stands for “in case of emergency” and first responders like EMTs often know to look for those contacts in people’s phones if they’re found unconscious.
None of this helps if your phone was at 10% when the power cut out. Keep a backup power source charged at home and on the go. Redfora carries several power sources utilizing solar cells or lithium batteries, ranging in size from charging a couple cell phones to powering large appliances.
Main Takeaway: Be aware local phone lines may not be reliable during a large scale emergency. Keep in contact with the outside world and with family by setting up other means of communication now.
Step 3: The Family That Shelters Together Stays Together
Drawing up a reunification plan.
The perfect emergency kit might be sitting in your garage or car, but it’s not going to do you any good if you’re unable to reach your family or friends. That’s why it is important to create an emergency plan that includes not just what to do if everyone happens to be home, but should also include what is more likely, what to do if everyone is out at work, at a social event, or at school. Should kids at school stay there and wait for parents? Which parent is picking them up? What should the kids do if the school is evacuated? Who is in charge of driving to grandma’s to check on her? Does the nanny or regular sitter know what to do if an emergency strikes and she’s watching the kids?
Planning for these variables now keeps family from panicking or going to the wrong location if something happens. If your home is the meeting place where everyone who is independent should make their way back to, make sure you have a plan for getting everyone there safely. Create a second meeting place in case your home is in an evacuation zone. And if you have pets, don’t forget to keep any microchip records up to date, phone numbers on collars current, and take a snapshot of you with your pet in case you get separated.
Main Takeaway: Make sure you discuss with your family what would happen if you were separated when disaster happened. Come up with alternate ways to get to the same location, what are the quickest ways to reunite with your loved ones?
Step 4: Common Tools and Hazards in Your Home
What you already have, and how it might help or hurt your preparedness plan.
Important to your preparedness is also being aware of how the common items found in your home might be useful in an emergency, or create an even worse hazard than the emergency by itself.
Several items you have around the house increase your safety if they’re maintained properly. Do you know the last time you tested the batteries in your smoke or carbon monoxide detectors? How about the last time you had that little fire extinguisher serviced? Things like ladders might be helpful in getting in or out of a home that’s been damaged or is even on fire, but those same items might pose a trip-and-fall risk if they’re stored near areas of egress or are leaned against a wall, unsecured. You might know where your gas line or furnace are, but do you know how to turn the gas off safely? How about turning off the water and flushing the lines to protect from bursting frozen pipes? That gas can you have stored in the shed for running the generator can be valuable fuel, or a deadly fire hazard. Do you *really* know how to run that gas generator safely so you don’t create toxic fumes or a fire hazard in the name of keeping the lights on?
If you’re like me, there were a lot of things I didn’t think about when it came to these types of home maintenance items because I rent. But you should still know where the smoke detectors and any other safety devices are and remind your landlord when it’s time to have them serviced. We also stock a lot of nifty tools to keep you safe, like a gas shut off tool and earthquake putty. Redfora also has some great tips on what tools to add to your Emergency Bag to take it to the next level.
Main Takeaway: You might be surprised what can help or hurt you that you already have around the house. Check out this chapter of Redfora’s Disaster Plan guide to identify how to utilize these tools properly.
Step 5 : Irreplaceable Items and Insurance
Things are just things, it’s people that are irreplaceable.
Like the tagline states, things are just that. Things. It’s the people in your life that are irreplaceable. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to make sure you don’t lose everything, and take extra measures to ensure those irreplaceable people you love so much are safe.
If you live in a place prone to a specific kind of weather or natural disaster, look into adding an insurance rider for that type of occurrence. In Northern California, where we are, that might mean wildfire insurance. In Kansas, tornado insurance. Down in Florida, perhaps hurricane or flood insurance would be prudent.
It’d be wise to keep two kinds of paper in your emergency kit. The first kind is paper money. That’s right, CASH. It’s a good idea to keep a bit of cash in small bill format in your kit, in case your debit or credit cards don’t work - since you never know what the scope of a disaster might be. Being able to fuel up the car or purchase some warm food or a night in a motel after evacuating is made easier if you have $1’s and $5’s, so break those larger bills ahead of time.
The second kind of paper you should have in your kit are photocopies. Of everything you consider important information. That’s your home and car insurance papers, bank statements, your marriage license, copies of ID’s, passports, and health insurance cards, your pet’s vet or service animal training papers, children’s vaccination records and birth certificates, if you have them, it’s nice to also have physical medical records for everyone. I have my doctor’s office print one out each year after my annual check up. I got in the habit while I lived for a few years on the road, since I was in different locations every month, and needed access to care; having my physical records on me made access to treatment far easier - the same would apply during an emergency.
Main Takeaway: Be sure to keep your home or renter’s insurance up to date. Make photocopies of all your important legal papers, IDs, and records and store them in a waterproof protector along with a bit of cash in small bills in the event bank cards do not work.
With these five tips, you can make sure that your family goes into the next year, semester, or chapter of your lives safer and more secure in the event of a disaster, and you can breathe a little easier, and sleep a bit better knowing you took the steps to improve your emergency plan.