Virginia Cooperative Extension is building a more resilient response to disaster around the commonwealth by taking part in National Preparedness Month, and challenging families to develop disaster plans on Sept. 30 during PerpareAthon Day.
The goals of both the initiatives are to increase the number of individuals who understand which disasters could happen in their community, know what to do to be safe and mitigate damage, take action to increase their preparedness, and participate in community resilience planning.
The theme for 2016 is “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”
"Disasters can strike anyone, anywhere, and sometimes without notice. Regardless of the type of disaster, it is wise for you and your family to be prepared," said Michael Martin, Virginia Cooperative Extension emergency response and preparedness coordinator.
Families can prepare for natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and weather-related power outages, by assembling an emergency kit to keep in their home, car, and on their person; developing a communication plan; and paying attention to local weather conditions and emergency alerts.
One of the first things that you can do is assemble several emergency kits: one for the home, one to leave in a primary mode of transportation, and one that is portable in case it is necessary to abandon your home quickly. An emergency kit should contain enough items to supply food and water for your family for at least three days. Examples of some items your home kit may contain include:
- one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days;
- nonperishable food for at least three days;
- a battery-powered or crank weather radio with extra batteries;
- a flashlight and extra batteries;
- a first-aid kit;
- prescription medications;
- nonelectric can opener;
- personal care products; and
- food and water for pets.
In addition to an emergency kit, Martin encourages every family to have a communication plan with phone numbers of individuals to contact in case of emergencies.
“Since it is possible that family members may get separated during a disaster and may not be able to get in touch with each other, you should identify a person in another locality or even in another state whom each person would contact,” said Martin. "You can also identify a common meeting place in your community should you not be able to access your home. A written plan should be given to each family member to keep with them at all times."
In an emergency, you may have to leave your home quickly. If evacuation is necessary, listen to the radio for more information and follow the guidance of emergency personnel. Also, make sure that all family members are familiar with:
- the best exits out of your home;
- a community meeting place;
- a local radio station;
- the location of an emergency kit;
- plans for care of pets and livestock; and
- plans for movement of family members with special needs, such as the elderly or disabled.
Martin also suggests that families keep cars at least half-full of fuel because in an emergency fuel may not be available.
For more information on making plans for disaster preparedness, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s Ready Virginia website or the Virginia Cooperative Extension storm and emergency preparedness website.
Written by Amy Loeffler