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Disaster Preparedness

Disasters and emergencies can happen quickly and without warning. They can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. Knowing what to do is the best protection for you and your family. Follow these steps to make sure your family is prepared:

Step One: Be Informed

  • Contact your local American Red Cross Chapter or local emergency management office to gather information you will need to create your family’s disaster plan.
  • Learn which specific hazards threaten your community (e.g. hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes).
  • Learn your community’s response plans, evacuation plans, and designated emergency shelters.
  • Find out how local authorities will alert you and keep you informed before, during, and after a disaster. 

Step Two: Make a Plan

  • Review the information you gathered with your family members.
  • Choose an “Out-of-Town” contact person for all family members to call immediately following a disaster. Family members should call this person after a disaster to let them know where they are.
  • Choose a meeting place for family members to meet at if they become separated.
  • Create a family communication plan. Be sure to include contact information for family members (both work and school), your out-of-town contact person’s information, meeting locations, emergency services, and the National Poison Control Center (1.800.222.1222). Sample forms can be found at or at
  • Know the best escape routes and safe places for each type of disaster.
  • Plan for those with disabilities and other special needs. Keep support items in a designated place, so they can be found quickly.
  • Plan for your pets. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians, and pet-friendly hotels that can shelter your pets, if necessary.

Step Three: Assemble a Disaster Kit

Items to store in your kit include:

  • Three-day supply of nonperishable food and manual can opener
  • Three-day supply of water (one gallon of water per person, per day)
  • Portable, battery powered radio or television and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Sanitation and hygiene items (hand sanitizer, moist towelettes, and toilet paper)
  • Matches in waterproof container
  • Whistle
  • Extra clothing and blanket
  • Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils
  • Photocopies of identification and credit cards
  • Cash and coins
  • Prescription medications and over the counter medications
  • Special needs items such as eye glasses, contact lens solution, and hearing aid batteries
  • Items for infants such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers
  • Tools, pet supplies, a map of the local area, and any other item to meet your family’s needs

Step Four: Maintain Your Plan

  • Review your plan every six months and quiz your family on what to do.
  • Conduct routine fire and emergency evacuation drills.
  • Check food supplies for expiration dates and replace when necessary.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace smoke alarms every ten years. Read the indicator on your fire extinguisher(s) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to recharge.

Medication Management in Disaster Preparedness

  1. Know what type of disasters are most likely to happen in your community and how these disasters may impact you and your family.
  2. Keep an emergency list of physicians and special medications or supplies needed in your disaster kit. This information can help physicians or other emergency personnel respond more effectively when providing medical care to you and your family.
  3. If you or one of your family members have a communication barrier, be sure to include this information in your disaster kit. Physicians and disaster workers will need to know this information immediately if a medical emergency arises.
  4. Provide exact names, dosages, and other important information on all medications that you and your family members are currently taking. This information will make it easier for you and your family to obtain emergency supplies of medication if you run out of medication or are unable to take your medication with you.
  5. Be sure to list all drug allergies, food allergies, drug interactions, drug reactions, and diet restrictions in your disaster kit.
  6. If you or one of your family members require any special adaptive equipment, be sure to list this in your disaster kit. If possible, purchase additional equipment that is easy to pack and take with you.
  7. Make sure you have everything you will need for a three to five day stay in one location if you have to shelter in place. If possible, keep an extra supply of medication and supplies.
  8. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the shelf life of prescription and over the counter medications. This information will be helpful to you if you are planning to store extra medication for a long period of time.
  9. Keep disability supplies in your disaster kit. These supplies may include hearing aid batteries, patches for wheelchair tires, an extra walking cane, incontinence supplies, service animal supplies, magnifying glass, and any other needed supplies.
  10. If you are immunocompromised, add these additional supplies to your disaster kit: hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes.
  11. If your community has a list of persons who need special attention during an evacuation, make sure your household is listed, if necessary. Your local emergency management service would be able to direct you to the agency that is in charge of this service.