5 Ways to Prepare Your Family for a Natural Disaster

How prepared are you for a natural disaster?How prepared are you for a natural disaster?Hurricane Issac may have been downgraded to a Tropicl Storm, but it still unleashed a wave of devastation along the Gulf Coast. This raises a question for us all: are you ready for a disaster if it strikes? The problem with natural disasters from hurricanes to tornadoes to earthquakes is that you often don't know when they are going to hit. That is why we should practice disaster preparedness, but really how many of us do?

Jim McKay of Emergency Management Magazine (yes, there is a publication dedicated to dealing with emergency management) said, "People don't pay attention until a disaster hits. They don't think it's going to happen to them. It's like telling people to put a smoke detector in their home. They might do it but then forget about the batteries."

Related: 10 rainy day activities the whole family can enjoy

When thinking about if my family was prepared, which we should be since we live in earthquake country, I realized the canned foods and water I have stored are probably about three or four years old and items like our emergency flashlight have been taken out of our survival kit for a different sort of emergency: finding a My Little Pony that was stuck under the couch.

While we go on with our busy daily lives it's hard for many of us to be prepared for dinner, let alone a disaster that may or may not happen. So as a public service for you and me, here is a friendly reminder of what we need to do to be prepared and a helpful list of 5 things your family can do to be ready when disaster strikes.

1. Make a Plan
Make sure your kids, caregivers, spouses and immediate family know where to meet in case the phones are down and you can't get in touch with each other. Have a plan B in place in case you are not able to meet at your home due to the disaster at hand. The government also suggests that in your plan should include "the care of pets, aiding family members with access and functional needs, and safely shutting off utilities." The government's Ready.gov website has a useful Family Emergency Plan PDF that you can download and print out to assist you in your planning.

Related: What every family should pack in case of an emergency evacuation

2. Stock Up on Food
One of the most important things you should have in your preparedness kit is enough food to last three days (as the government advises). When selecting foods, make sure they are non-perishable and items that you family actually would like to eat. It is also advised that you do not include foods that will cause you to be thirsty since that will mean you'll need more water than usual, so keep those potato chips out of your stash. Try to select foods that do not require cooking or that need to be refrigerated since you may have no access to power. Canned foods are a great option, especially since you can choose nutritious options like vegetables. Also, make sure not to forget a can opener and utensils. Another great resource, if you have the budget, is to stock up on a variety of freeze-dried foods (which can get pricey) from a place like REI. You can get such items as Beef Stroganoff, Red Beans and Rice, and Fettuccini Alfredo that can be stored away and can be easily prepared when needed.

3. Water, Water and More Water
One of the other most important things to have in your survival kit is water and plenty of it. The government's recommendation is to have one gallon of water per person per day, and they suggest that you have enough water for three days. So for a family of four, you should have twelve gallons stored away. If it happens to be very hot where you are, then your water needs can double. You should store your water in a cool, dark place and it is recommended that you purchase commercial water, not bottle it yourself and keep it sealed until you need it.

Related: 25 clever ideas to fight cabin fever

4. First Aid Kit
Hopefully no one in your family will be harmed during the disaster, but just in case, you should have a fully stocked first aid kit ready. This should include items like band-aids, antiseptic wipes or ointment, extra doses of family medicines, cotton balls, gauze, adhesive tape, soap, elastic bandages and acetaminophen/ibuprofen. You can find more recommendations of what to put in a first aid kit at Kidshealth.org.

5. All The Rest
There are a number of assorted items you should have packed and ready, many of which you may not think of. It's helpful to keep these all in one place, like a backpack, so they're handy. The pack should include: a radio (either a hand crank version or one with extra batteries), a flashlight (plus extra batteries), dust masks in case the air is icky, plastic sheeting and duct tape in case you need to make a shelter or seal a door or window, a wrench to turn off the gas, matches (in a waterproof package), paper plates and paper towels, and it is a good idea to pack away some emergency money. You can get suggestions for other items to include from Ready.gov.

- By Sunny Chanel
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