No matter where you live, an emergency can happen at any moment—but too many people fail to prepare for disaster scenarios. According to FEMA, sixty percent of Americans are not practicing disaster preparation, and even those that do often lack the basic supplies required for survival.
It can be easy to shrug off the threat of a major disaster and tell yourself, “That won’t happen where we live.” That type of thinking can lead to disastrous consequences. Nuclear strikes, chemical warfare, disease outbreak, and massive crop failures are just a few examples of devastating events that can affect your family no matter your location.
When it comes to staying prepared for a disaster or an emergency situation, you must be ready for anything comes your way.
Natural Disaster Types (and Ways to Prepare)
A natural disaster is a naturally occurring event such as a flood, earthquake, or hurricane that causes a great deal of damage or loss of life. In other words, a natural disaster is something that occurs without the intervention of man.
Here’s a list of the most common natural disasters you could face and key tips on disaster preparedness for each of these situations:
Coastal regions tend to experience flooding from hurricanes and monsoons, but even inland areas can be vulnerable to flooding if a damn breaks or abnormal rainfall occurs. Without the proper preparation and supplies in place, flooding can produce devastating consequences.
- Get to high ground: Don’t make the mistake of leaving your home or office building. The best thing to do is to stay put and get to higher ground or an established community center if you still have time.
- Water filter: Keep a water filter in your emergency kit. Though there may be water all around you, when flooding occurs, it’s often contaminated. A trusted water filter can ensure you create clean water while you wait for rescue or make your way to a safe area.
- Flashlight: One the first things to go in the event of a flood is power; having a flashlight will help you navigate the dark and signal for help. Make sure your flashlight is waterproof; a crank flashlight like the one included in the SEVENTY2 provides unlimited usage.
- Life jackets: If you or one of your loved ones gets swept away by a raging river, a life jacket could prevent drowning. The SEVENTY2 survival system has been designed to provide flotation abilities, and can be used as a flotation device in the event of a flooding emergency.
- Glow sticks: A great way to test the depths of water is to crack a glow stick and drop it in.
Massive drought is a terrifying prospect when you consider its implications. Crop failure, dehydration, and dust storms are just the tip of the iceberg—however, you can survive with appropriate disaster preparation tips.
- Water filter: With little to no access to water, you’re going to need to make the most of every bit of water you come across. A simple water filter is going to be your greatest asset in this situation.
- Breathing mask: Dust storms are often a severe byproduct of drought—failing to protect your lungs could slow you down as you make your way towards fresh bodies of water or streams.
- Goggles: Goggles will keep your eyes protected from the relentless heat and dry winds that usually come with drought.
- Sunscreen: If you’re in an environment that can sustain a drought, there will be high levels of UV radiation from the sun due to the lack of cloud coverage.
- Shovel: When you can’t find water above ground, you might be able to find it below. When preparing for a drought, a small portable shovel should be high on your list of essential items.
- Mylar blanket: You might not think of a blanket as first priority in the event of a drought, but a Mylar blanket can be used to reflect heat away; this can keep you cool and block any sand or debris flying around.
Earthquakes can cause devastating harm to structures and cities. When faults slip deep within the earth, the energy produced can be enough to topple a skyscraper.
- Find cover or run: If you’re in a building and an earthquake hits, get under a table—if you’re outside, run to an open space away from any buildings as fast as you can.
- Don’t move: Once you find a safe place, don’t move until the earth stops shaking—you can easily trip, fall and hurt yourself while trying to run during an earthquake. You should only run if you’re not in a safe location.
- First Aid: When the dust settles, you or the people around you may have suffered some serious injuries. Using the contents of first aid kit to patch up your coworkers before help arrives could mean the difference between life and death.
- Stay away from walls: Avoid walls and windows during even the mildest earthquakes. Windows can break, showering broken glass, and walls are prone to collapsing.
- Splint: Broken arms and legs are common injuries that result from rubble, and a splint could provide necessary support until professional medical care is available.
- Air mask: Earthquakes can kick concrete dust up into the air; having an air filtration device handy can keep you breathing easy.
- Goggles: It’s also important to protect your eyes from concrete dust; a simple pair of goggles will make it easier for you to see clearly and help prevent any damage to your eyes.
When opposing winds and drafts meet in a storm it can result in a tornado vortex. If your house doesn’t have a cellar you can hide in; you can get swept away.
- Get underground: If you live in a state that frequently experiences tornados, chances are your home has a cellar, or there may be bunkers near your home that you can access. If not, get below in a neighbor’s cellar.
- Stay away from windows: If you can’t get underground, stay away from windows and get under a table.
- Non-perishable foods: Disaster preparation calls for stockpiling of non-perishable foods that you can keep where you hide—you don’t want to get trapped underground with no food or water.
Landslides and Debris Flow
Debris and mudflows are rivers of rocks, earth, and other debris saturated with water. They develop when water rapidly accumulates in the ground, during heavy rainfall or snowmelt.
- Stay Alert: If you’re in an area that’s prone to landslides or you’ve seen warning signs, try to listen for unusual sounds like tree branches cracking.
- Look for signs: Soil moving away from foundations, cracking concrete floors, and leaning telephone poles are all signs of a potential landslide.
- Find shelter: Landslides aren’t likely to happen in densely populated areas, but if they do, find refuge in a large building like a gymnasium or a retail store.
This kind of storm is only likely to happen in areas with extremely cold weather. Caused by rising moist air within an extratropical cyclone, snowstorms lead to extremely cold temperatures and inhospitable conditions.
- Stay warm: Do anything and everything you can to stay as warm as possible—the first goal should be to retain heat. Keeping a space blanket in your emergency supplies can increase your chances of surviving. A Mylar blanket can reflect heat back towards your body.
|Pro Tip: You can’t ever get warm if you are wet, so make sure you’re taking measures to keep as dry as possible.|
- Find or create shelter: If you’re caught in a snowstorm with no way to get to shelter, you’re as good as gone. Even if all you can come up with is a tent, it could be the difference between life and death. With no supplies, try to build a small tunnel in the snow to protect yourself from the winds. Once your shelter is built or found, don’t wander away. The storm could easily cover your tracks and leave you lost in the wilderness. If you find you MUST leave your shelter, leave markers to guide your way back.
- Snowshoes: A good pair of snowshoes helps provide flotation, allowing you to move faster across the top of the snow while saving energy.
- Watch your fingers and toes: If you don’t have access to shelter, be wary of frost bight. Supplying yourself with chemical heating pouches beforehand is one way to avoid losing your pinky finger.
- Stay sharp: When your body gets extremely cold you can start to lose control over basic functions. Try to keep yourself entertained anyway you can so that your mind stays sharp and take note of warning signs, including a slower pulse, slurred speech, and loss of bladder control.
Tsunamis are series of large waves generated by an abrupt movement of the ocean floor as the result of an earthquake, underwater landslide, and in some rare cases—a meteor. In most situations, tsunamis will only come from earthquakes—typically occurring in tropical areas.
- Move inland: The first step when you hear those sirens is to get as far away from the coast or bodies of water as fast as possible. Chances are that the road will get completely blocked up with abandoned cars so try to get a bike or run.
- Emergency supplies: Once the damage has been done, there are going to be a number of injured people and a lack of basic necessities. If you live in or you’re visiting an area that’s prone to tsunamis, keep a bug out bag handy so you can pick up and take off when the tsunami warning comes.
- Stay away from the disaster areas: It can be tempting to look for someone you lost or a beloved pet, but you need to stay away from the disaster area until its deemed safe. Harmful debris in the water could cut you or pull you under.
- Find a public shelter: Community centers, school gymnasiums, and buildings of a similar nature make for the best locations to wait and stay safe. Make sure you get at least 2 miles inland or 100 feet above sea level if you can’t find somewhere to stay safe.
Volcanic eruptions are rare, and fortunately, fairly easy to predict with modern technology. When magma rises through the earth’s crust and the pressure is released, the result is a volcanic eruption. While you’re likely to be informed of an eruption well before it happens, there are still a few tips you should know about to stay prepared.
- Stay inside: As long as you’re far away enough from the eruption, you won’t have to worry about lava reaching your doorstep; however, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet.
- Home disaster prep: The fumes and gasses from a volcano can be hazardous. Close and tape all of your windows, doors and openings in your home. Turn off all appliances and put on a gas mask or use a damp cloth to breathe through.
- Battery-powered radio: If you live close to a volcano keep a battery-powered radio handy to listen for when authorities tell you it’s safe to come out.
- Food and water: Tips on emergency preparedness almost always include the suggestion that you keep a stockpile of food and water in the garage for anything that happens—the same goes for volcanos.
Extreme dry heat or lightning are what usually catalyze wildfires in a heavily wooded landscape. Wildfires are some of the most terrifying and devastating natural disasters you can go up against—they will test your survival skills like no other disaster.
- Stay calm: In order to prevent heavy breathing and find a way out of danger, you need to reduce your heart rate.
- Keep goggles on hand: Wildfires result in unbelievable amounts of smoke and ash. Goggles can keep your eyes protected from these dangerous particulates while you make your way to safety.
- Protect your airways: If you aren’t careful, you can breathe in too much smoke and not get enough oxygen to your brain—causing you to pass out. Stay low as you move and most importantly cover your mouth with a mask or a cloth.
- Analyze your escape routes: Remember the most dangerous place to be is downwind or uphill from the fire. Run towards the wind if it isn’t in the same direction of the fire.
- Find non-flammable terrain: When caught in a forest fire, get to non-flammable terrain as fast as possible. Gravel or dirt roads, grassland with very few trees, and large bodies of water are the some of the safest places to be during a forest fire.
- Stay in your car: If you’re on the road, chances are the flames won’t reach you but you still need to keep your lungs safe. Roll all of your windows up, turn your lights on, and wait it out.
There are certain threats that not even our government or the Red Cross can save us from. Because diseases are living organisms that can adapt and evolve, it’s much harder to defend against them.
- Water: Access to clean water is going to be the most difficult aspect of disaster preparedness in regards to a pandemic. Bacteria and viruses thrive in water, so make sure you have sealed water and a high-quality water filter.
- Sanitizer and bleach: Excessive amounts of sanitizer and bleach need to be as high on your priority list as water and food.
- Gloves and suits: When attempting to care for and treat someone infected it’s crucial that you protect yourself and prevent any further spread of infection.
- Duct tape and plastic sheeting: You may need to create an isolated quarantined room using plastic sheeting and duct tape.
|According to Dr. Irwin Redlener of Columbia University, we are experiencing a continuous increase in the number of extreme weather events. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, the vast majority of Americans remain unprepared for major disasters—make sure you’re ready for anything that may come your way.|
Non-Natural Disaster Related Emergencies
Natural disasters aren’t the only concern when it comes to preparing for serious emergencies. If history has proven anything, it’s that man is capable of massive destruction. With just the right amount of geopolitical instability, a nuclear strike or the use chemical weapons can become a horrifying reality.
When handling disaster prep for yourself and your family, prepare for the following:
While the use of chemical weapons is banned by the UN, you can find stockpiles of them in many countries. A chemical weapons strike could be just as if not more devastating than a nuclear weapons strike. Chemicals like Sarin are potent enough to kill with just a drop.
- Breathing mask: The number one thing you need for chemical disaster preparation is a gas mask. Your mouth, nose, eyes, and ears are the most vulnerable parts of your body during a chemical attack—do everything you can to protect them.
- Find higher ground: Some of the more dangerous chemicals, like Sarin, are denser than air—if you can get above them you might be safe.
- Get rid of your clothes: Chemicals can stick to your clothes; cut them off while wearing gloves and seal them in plastic if you can.
- Suit up: If you really want to be prepared, have a hazmat suit ready. However, you can make one out of household items if you don’t have one. A shower curtain, rubber gloves, and some duct tape will get you started.
Your fear of a nuclear strike may have died with the end of the cold war, but the reality of the threat hasn’t. There is nothing outlandish or paranoid about being prepared for a nuclear bomb. Granted, if you are close enough to the blast your chances of survival are zero. However, if you’re far enough away you’re going to thank yourself for knowing these helpful tips:
- Stock up: The best way to survive is to stock up on non-perishable foods and plenty of water. Even if you make it below ground, you won’t survive the recommended 2 weeks inside without water (1 gallon a day per person is recommended).
- Get underground: If you know of any bunkers or shelters in your town, get to them as soon as possible—even if you escape the blast radius, the nuclear fallout can still kill you.
- Survival kit: While you wait for the authorities to let you know that the levels of radiation are safe, you’re going to need first aid, blankets, and other emergency survival equipment.
- Wash: If you’ve been exposed to radiation or fallout, clean yourself as soon as possible. Use regular soap and shampoo and keep open wounds covered as you wash as well.
- Find a brick building: Get to the center of a large brick building as soon as possible—and stay there. The longer you stay indoors (in a safe area), the more likely you are to avoid radiation poisoning.
|Learn more about how to survive a nuclear strike.|
Evacuation Plans and Meet-up Locations
If there is one universal truth about natural disasters and emergencies, it’s that you need an evacuation plan and meet up locations. A crucial aspect of disaster preparation is an evacuation plan as well as knowing every exit and safe place to hide.
Panic and chaos are quick to erupt during a crisis—do you have a plan to meet somewhere if you get separated? It’s important to establish multiple meet up locations in the event of a separation.
Set meet up points for you and your family that are based off of the proximity of the locations you spend the most time at. For example, your child’s school, your home, and your place of work should all be factors when determining meet up locations.
Depending on the disaster or emergency you’re dealing with, your meet up location may be destroyed or become inaccessible. Choose at least one alternative location that is far from town or a populated area. A favorite camping spot or a trail off the beaten path is ideal.
Pro tips on disaster preparedness in relation to evacuation plans:
- Place a long distance hand radio with plenty of fresh batteries at all of your meeting places. If something happens to your regular systems of communication or your cell phone dies, this is one way you can stay in contact.
- Run drills of your escape routes and evacuation plans—this is an essential part of your disaster preparation. If you grow complacent, it could compromise the level of disaster preparedness you and your family have in the event of a catastrophe.
- Don’t forget to replenish and restock all of your evacuation locations at least once every 6 months (an important aspect of disaster prep).
Preparation for Those Who Cannot Prepare Themselves
Sometimes disaster preparedness doesn’t just mean having everything you need for yourself, but for everyone else in your family. Disaster preparation for the elderly, disabled, and children, presents its own unique challenges and additional efforts.
It’s important to prepare for any special needs and amenities you might need to keep those who can’t prepare themselves safe. Here are some tips on disaster preparedness for those who can’t prepare themselves.
Disaster Preparedness for Children
Depending on their age, your children might need a lot of help with disaster prep. Pack a backpack with emergency supplies that are small enough for them to carry.
The most important thing to remember when preparing your children for a disaster is making sure they understand the severity of the situation. It can be difficult for younger children to comprehend a disaster situation so, make sure to drill situations as often as possible.
Disaster Preparedness for Elderly
Elderly people tend to be less mobile which can hinder an escape or other problematic situations. Make sure you have things like wheelchairs and a car with disability features.
It might not be possible to get a surplus of medications like painkillers, but you may be able to get a surplus of things like insulin and IV bags.
Pack a separate bag that you can carry for the elderly person in your family that will fit on their wheelchair or mode of transportation. One of our pro tips on emergency preparedness is to include spare parts for wheelchairs and gurneys in case something breaks.
Disaster Preparedness for the Disabled
Disaster preparation is going to vary from disability to disability.
In order to prepare, you must first assess and make a list of everything your handicapped loved one is going to need to survive. Getting an individual with disabilities to shelter where the Red Cross might supply medical staff will give you the best chance of keeping them alive and safe.
With these tips in your arsenal, you’ll be better prepared to take on any type of disaster situation that befalls you. Print the below PDF and make sure you and your loved ones are ready for anything.