September is a time of transition. School is back in session. Temperature changes prepare us for autumn. It’s the calm before the storm of holidays begins. In getting ready for the busy fall and winter seasons, it’s also a convenient time to develop or ramp up emergency preparedness efforts.
National Preparedness Month is recognized each September and is a reminder of the importance of actively preparing for disasters. While some emergencies are associated with weather conditions and seasons like floods or wildfires, most disasters give little to no warning. In recent months, California has been plagued by ravaging wildfires. These devastating events are a painful reminder of the potential traumatic loss during an emergency. And although we have little control over when and where disasters happen, we can always improve our preparedness level.
You probably already know to start with the basics — pack an emergency kit. If your kit is nonexistent, get started the next time you’re at the grocery or department store. If you’re looking to beef it up, get recommendations on ready.gov. Remember to gather enough supplies to last at least three days. Don’t forget essential items for your pets.
A kit is half the work. When you’re done, you’ll want to devote time and attention to creating a family plan. To get you started, you’ll need to consider key factors and account for a variety of topics including:
- Number of individuals in a household – Consider how many members are in your family, their age and whether any have special needs or need assistance. Don’t forget your furry (and non-furry) friends.
- Notifications and contacts- Every member of the family should have a copy of important contact and address information; include an out-of-town contact. Make sure family members can receive notifications and warnings. In Santa Clara County, you can receive notifications by downloading the ReadySCC emergency preparedness app, or signing up for the county’s free emergency alert system, “Alert SCC.“
- Evacuation plan – Have more than one way of leaving your home in the event of an evacuation. Include scenarios where main doorways are inaccessible and identify two exits from each room, if possible.
- Meeting location – Set a meeting spot if a disaster strikes and family members are separated.
- Shelters and sheltering in place – Make sure you are signed up for notifications and warnings to receive the latest information on shelters and resources. Most shelters do not allow animals except service animals (so have a plan for your pets!). Sometimes it is necessary to remain where you are when a disaster strikes and “shelter in place.” Get tips for sheltering in place here.
- Write it down – After addressing these factors and determining details, write them down. Make sure everyone in the household has a copy of the family plan and deliver one to your children’s teachers or caretakers. Find emergency plan templates here.
- Rehearse! – Practice makes perfect. Encourage your family to memorize the details of the plan and practice your evacuation route at least once a year.
Emergency preparedness takes effort but is a smart use of your time. Most people don’t make a conscious attempt to create an emergency kit or have conversations with family. You won’t regret having supplies and food, or knowing where to get a hold of family members. But you’ll have much more to lose if you don’t.