The Essentials: Things to Have on Hand for a Natural Disaster

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The Essentials: Things to Have on Hand for a Natural Disaster
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Natural disasters can bring out both the best and the worst in people, but you can reduce the panic and anxiety of adverse weather conditions by being prepared with tools and resources that can secure your safety. Balancing safety with being human is key, says Scot Conway, leadership trainer at Guardian Quest Martial Arts in Spring Valley, Calif. “Disaster preparedness includes getting back to your life and work as quickly as possible after the disaster,” he says. Protect and prepare your home and your family by having the essentials on hand.

Emergency Contact Information
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Emergency Contact Information

When a natural disaster occurs, keep your family together as best you can, recommends Conway. “Put contact information and medical information on every member of your family,” he says. “In case you get separated, make sure a note with each person identifies any information a first responder might need to know.” It’s also crucial to have a list of emergency numbers for local family members, neighbors and close friends. Teach your children how to use 911 and create a plan for emergencies that includes specific procedures and tasks for each family member.

Bandages and Medical Supplies
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Bandages and Medical Supplies

A first-aid kit is a must-have for your home. You need bandages, disinfectant and triple antibiotic ointments for treating minor cuts, scrapes and wounds, says Brandon Maye, founder of Practical Applications, an independent security consulting firm in Jacksonville, Ala. “Small cuts and wounds can become debilitating if infected and must be treated properly if in a survival situation,” says Maye. Pack up a variety of bandage sizes, travel-size disinfectant wipes and ointments in a waterproof bag to have handy.

Flashlights
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Flashlights

If a blackout occurs, a flashlight is essential, says Maye. “There is nothing worse than being caught in the dark without a flashlight except being caught in the dark with a flashlight that doesn’t work,” he says. Stock up on batteries and keep them near the flashlights in your home. If your house is multistory, keep a working flashlight on each level to avoid falling up or down stairs in the dark. Rechargeable flashlights are a handy tool, but always keep a battery-operated as a backup when the power is out.

Socks, Gloves and Hats
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Socks, Gloves and Hats

Regardless of the time of year, a warm, dry pair of socks can increase your comfort level during a natural disaster, says Maye. Pack a pair for each member of the family in case rain, snow or soot dampens their socks. In cooler weather, a poncho, hat and pair of gloves are also essential to keep the elements off your skin and avoid the risk of frostbite when temps are freezing. If you have room in your disaster-preparedness bag, toss in a pair of rain boots as an extra precaution from flooding areas.

Food
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Food

Ensure that you have the energy needed to survive a natural disaster. Lorraine Holmes Milton, Houston-based author of “Disaster Master Plan,” suggests gathering enough nonperishable food to feed your family for 72 hours. Holmes Milton recommends ready-to-eat meals, protein bars, fruit cups, peanut butter and jelly with crackers and canned meat. Juice boxes and bottled water are also essential to pack. “These nonperishable foods can be very beneficial during any emergency situation,” she says. Check your food stash monthly to ensure it has not expired and to swap out with fresh nonperishables.

Water and Purifying Tablets
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Water and Purifying Tablets

Since you can’t predict the amount of time your family may be under distress during a natural disaster, be prepared with at least 1 gallon of water for each person for seven days, recommends Holmes Milton. Store additional water for bathing during a disaster. Just in case you don’t have enough bottled water packed, purchase water-purifying tablets to disinfect polluted or suspended water so it is safe for drinking.

Emergency Radio
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Emergency Radio

When power is lost and cell phones are out of range, an emergency radio can provide you with life-saving instructions. An emergency radio tuned to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is what the American Red Cross recommends, says Holmes Milton. This radio receiver runs on minimal or no power and is designed to function even when you are isolated or affected by a power outage. The receiver broadcasts emergency information for your area. “Adhere to the disaster information on the emergency radio, especially the mandatory evacuations,” says Holmes Milton. “If the authority tells you to evacuate -- evacuate.”

Power Inverters
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Power Inverters

Whether your area is affected by a tornado, hurricane, flood or blackout, having a backup power source during a disaster can help you communicate with others and power up medical machines and devices necessary to keep your family safe. Holmes Milton points out that power inverters can be used to charge your cell phones, laptops, oxygen machine or even a nebulizer for asthma patients. A power inverter converts DC power to AC, so you can use batteries or a car charger to restore power to appliances, electronics and medical machines during an emergency.

Fire-Starting Materials
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Fire-Starting Materials

In cold temperatures, you will need an alternative source of heat to stay warm and cook meals until the disaster abates. Fire-starting materials are essential tools you need in case of a natural disaster. Have dry wood stored near your home and a few newspapers, matches or lighters. In extreme cases, you may even have to get creative, says Maye. “Whether you use a steel wool and a 9-volt battery or a magnesium stick, the ability to start a fire in a survival situation can mean the difference in life and death,” he says.

Mobile Technology
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Mobile Technology

A charged cell phone or electronic device with wireless access can help you communicate with family, friends and first responders; get critical instructions and information from emergency personnel and government officials; and "warn other individuals that there may be danger approaching," says engineering professor Pamela McCauley Bush, leader of University of Central Florida’s Human Factors in Disaster Management Research Team. “Mobile technology has been critical in supporting ‘information seeking’ in crisis events, facilitating public action, and serving as a source of functional and emotional support.”

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