By Adrian Sparrow
NeuLine Health

Fires, floods, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards- No matter where you live, disaster can strike any time without warning. Here are some steps to take to protect your household from any natural emergency.

What to Expect
Check to see what natural disasters are likely to affect you. Montana might not get many hurricanes, and Florida has minimal risk of a blizzard, but both states can experience tornados, and every home has a fire risk. Learn about your community’s warning systems, including sirens, local TV and radio, and text messages.

 If you’re new to the area, talk to your neighbors and coworkers for advice on handling a natural disaster. Local residents know the nuances of their community in a severe event, such as stores that may have more supplies or how quickly services might return. 

Planning and Preparation
Discuss the different disasters and plans for each one with your household. Locate safe areas inside and outside your home for each disaster, and identify the best escape routes. Show each member how to shut off water, gas, and electricity. Practice these plans so you’re more likely to remember them in an emergency.

Take note of anyone who will need extra attention in an emergency. Children, people with disabilities, pets, and elders may require unique supplies and mobility aids you might not otherwise need.  

Have an emergency kit ready for any disaster. Pack a first aid kit, several gallons of water (1 gallon per person per day), nonperishable and canned food, pet food and supplies, blankets/sleeping bags and towels, prescriptions, batteries, flashlights, and a hand-crank or battery-powered radio. 

Pack some extra cash. ATMs and banks might not be in service following a disaster, and card machines often require the internet to work. 

In a portable, waterproof container, pack copies of important documents. Include copies of insurance, a list of healthcare providers, allergies, and medical histories for every household member, along with IDs and bank records.

Make a list of important contacts, including family, neighbors, healthcare provider(s), local hospitals, utility companies, veterinarians, schools, non-emergency police, poison control, and 911. Store the list on your cellphone but have a hard copy easily accessible. When disaster strikes, it can take out power or cell service. 

During and after the disaster, stay calm, and listen carefully to local authorities for instruction. Continue to practice safety measures- Some disasters can recur in the form of aftershocks or additional storms. 

Make sure every member of your household is safe and accounted for. If there are injuries, apply first aid until you can reach a medical professional. 

Keep the roads clear for rescue vehicles. Similarly, keep the phone lines open unless you’re reporting a life-threatening condition or for out-of-town emergency contacts. Don’t drive through water or debris.

No matter what disaster hits, the event and its aftermath can be especially traumatic for children and first responders. Seek counseling if you experience nightmares, low mood, anxiety, or any new or worsening cognitive symptoms that linger following the events.