With the threat of the coronavirus looming large for every person on the planet, it's useful to take a step back and examine what we can all do to help create a plan in the event of a disaster.

Every summer, the eastern seaboard of the United States braces for the potentially devastating power of Atlantic hurricanes. In the West, it is only a matter of time before the next earthquake strikes. And across the globe, individuals, families, and businesses alike face their own natural threats.

But not all of Mother Nature’s powerful events are disasters. Only if these events cause great damage, injury, or loss of life do they become disasters.

Disasters are the potential result of natural and even human-made events. Although the collective result of an event may indeed be a disaster by definition, at an individual level, proactive steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood that an event is as severe for you as it may be for others.

Have a Team Meeting

Whether your team is made up of family members or employees, get together as a group and identify the types of emergencies which may occur. There are the most obvious scenarios, including building fires, flooding, and winter storms. Then there are more geographically specific events to consider. These include hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and even tsunamis. Often overlooked are human-made catastrophes. Consider situations that involve chemical spills or nearby explosions , health pandemics , or power outages.

As you add to your list, consider the probability of each and work through your preparedness in that order. In an ideal world, we would be prepared for every emergency. But that is nearly impossible, so preparing for the most likely threats is best.

Build a Disaster Supplies Kit

Search for the phrase “disaster supplies kit” on the internet and an endless list of items will appear. For the purposes of preparing a disaster kit, begin with the basics and work up from there.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are thirteen essential items to be included in a disaster supplies kit. In condensed form, these essentials include the following:

  • Food and water
  • Radio, flashlight, and batteries
  • First aid kit, a whistle, and dust mask
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties
  • Pliers and a can opener
  • Local maps, cell phone, and battery backup

Once the essential supply kit is complete, begin adding to it based on your local area and likelihood of potential events. Additions may include such items like water purifying straws, collapsible lamps, or even a tent.

Beyond supplies, it is important to keep copies of important documents on hand. With today’s technology, personal information may be carefully stored on portable flash drives. Consider making copies of driver’s licenses, passports, checking account information, and other personal and financial information. In the event of a total loss to personal property, having these documents on hand will let the recovery process begin much faster.

Make a Plan

Although some events such as hurricanes and blizzards can be planned for ahead of time, many catastrophes occur suddenly and without warning.

Create a plan which includes designated meeting places besides your primary residence for certain events. Review and update emergency contact information and store them in your cell phone and on paper in a safe, secure location.

Review escape routes, both in the home and on the road. Knowing where all possible exits are in your house can save lives. And knowing local evacuation routes will help when you are required to evacuate.

Identify Responsibilities

Preparing for a natural event and working to avoid your own personal disaster needs to be a joint effort. Delegate responsibilities of your disaster plan among each member of your team. Responsibilities may include the following:

  • Creating and resupplying the disaster supplies kit
  • Identifying and updating evacuation plans
  • Gathering and maintaining personal and financial information

Sharing responsibility will help ensure everyone is participating in each other’s safety.

Be Prepared

A disaster supplies kit and action plan are just the first steps in preparing for a catastrophic natural or human-made event. Often it is the overlooked items that make a bad situation even worse.

If you have pets, have a plan for them as well. Infants and babies carry their own set of challenges when planning for the unknown. Having medications, contact lenses, feminine products, or even a change of clothes at the ready can be just enough to make it through the next natural event.

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