September is “National Preparedness Month,1” a time when the U.S. federal government encourages all citizens to be ready for a variety of disasters. Consider the following guidelines when getting yourself and your family ready, taking into account special precautions due to COVID-19.
Know the risk of disasters in your area:
Be aware of the most common disasters that may affect your area, and check with your independent insurance agent before disaster strikes so you know what is covered by your insurance and how much coverage you have.
Make a plan:
Discuss with your loved ones how you’ll stay in touch during a disaster, and what needs to be done by each family member. Don’t wait to make a plan, as your family may be separated when disaster strikes. Discuss the ways you’ll contact each other, and set up a family meeting place.
Talk to your children about being prepared:
Let your kids know what they need to do and how they can respond to an emergency, and share information on what your plans are to reassure them.
Consider your specific household:
Your plan should be tailored to the needs of people in your home, including how children and pets will be cared for, special considerations for dietary restrictions or non-English speakers, and medical needs.
Practice your plan with your family/household:
Don’t wait until the last minute to put your plan into action, and make sure all family members know what to do and how to do it.
Gather safety supplies:
Make sure you have enough supplies for everyone in your household for several days. Don’t forget about the special needs of elderly family members, those with disabilities, and pets.
How to build a kit:
Since spring of 2020, the CDC has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus or other viruses and the flu, so make sure to include cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes to disinfect surface2.
Make your kit specific to your household, but you should have at least the following:
- Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, and a manual can opener). Include food such as3:
- Peanut butter
- Whole wheat crackers
- Nuts and trail mix
- Power bars and granola bars
- Dried fruit
- Canned meat such as tuna, salmon, chicken and turkey
- Canned vegetables such as beans, carrots and peas
- Canned soups and chili
- Sports drinks
- Health care needs, including prescription medications, prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution, feminine hygiene supplies and personal hygiene items, and hearing aids with extra batteries4
- Baby formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water, as well as collar, leash, ID, carrier and bowl5
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to protect your home if ordered to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
Depending on the needs of your family, consider including the following6:
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate, and sturdy shoes
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Games and activities for children7
For further suggestions, download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF)8.
No one knows when or where disaster may strike, so keep a kit at home as well as in the following9:
- Work: Be prepared to stay at work for at least 24 hours; include food, water and medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes.
- Car: In case you are stranded, keep emergency supplies in your car.
After assembling your kits, store them in airtight plastic bags and then put them in plastic bins or other heavy duty bag(s) with a handle.
With a little advance preparation, these tips can help keep you and your family safe and secure in the event of a disaster.