Disaster Can Strike Without Warning

he most important step that you can take to increase your preparedness for any disaster is to prepare a disaster plan. This means that you and all the members of your household should address the topics listed below. Once all of the components are dealt with—you will have a disaster plan. It is very important that everyone in your home, including children, understand your plan.

Basic Research

Investigate the types of hazards present in your community. Contact your local Office of Emergency Management for this information. These hazards can include hurricanes, floods, high winds, tornadoes, wildfires, acts of terrorism, hazardous materials disasters and others.

Disaster Readiness
Residents need to know where to get updated, accurate information before, during and after storms. Please follow the guidelines below to ensure you are prepared.

  • Make sure you have a battery-operated radio with fresh batteries and tune in to your local radio station for updates during a disaster situation.
  • Begin to purchase supplies for your family disaster supplies kit.
  • Find out where your evacuation routs are and have a plan if you decide to evacuate.
  • Make sure that you check with your doctor and/or pharmacy to determine how best to assure your prescriptions will last through a storm of any length, i.e., hurricanes.
  • Assess your landscaping to determine if trees need to be trimmed or ornaments removed before a storm.
  • Make arrangements in advance for your pets; contact your veterinarian for sheltering during a lengthy storm or know your pet friendly shelters and/or motels. Make sure to take your pet with you if you do evacuate; do not leave them at home during a storm. Make sure vaccinations are up-to-date; vaccination proof is required at shelters and with your veterinarian, boarding facility or kennel.
  • Review your family plan with your family and establish who will be your out-of-town contact, if needed.
  • Double check your shelter information and confirm shelter locations; do not wait until you need to go to the shelter.
  • Make sure you have a to-go bag if you decided to evacuate or go to a shelter; know the shelter rules and regulations.
  • Make sure you have shutters or pre-cut plywood for your windows.
  • Have a first aid kit readily available.
  • Have extra cash on hand. ATMs may be down and stores may not accept credit cards for some time after an emergency.

Disaster Supply Kit

Preparing your disaster supply kit now will make your life much easier when an emergency, any emergency, occurs. You want to plan on supplies for 3-14 days and keep your supplies in a backpack, duffel bag, suitcase or other easy to carry storage device. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Water—this is a top priority. Store at least one gallon per person per day. Remember, in addition to drinking, you’ll need to brush your teeth, wash your hands and perform other hygiene activities—and it can get pretty hot in some areas of the country—so make sure you store enough water.
  • Canned Foods—meats, soups, juices, fruits, vegetables, etc. Purchase and store items such as boxed drinks, instant coffee and tea, peanut butter, jelly, crackers, cookies, candy, energy and granola bars and bread in a moisture proof container. Don’t forget to include a manual can opener.
  • Battery-powered Flashlights
  • Battery-powered Radio
  • Extra Batteries
  • First Aid Kit-First Aid Manual, Sterile bandages in assorted sizes, Antiseptics-such as hand cleaners, Antibiotic ointment-products similar to Neosporin, Tweezers, Scissors, Needle, Latex gloves, Sterile gauze pads, Roller bandages-assorted sizes, Safety pins, Triangular bandages, Thermometer, Sunscreen, Hypoallergenic adhesive tape, Non-prescription pain relievers-such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, Advil or Tylenol, Non-prescription antihistamine-such as diphenhydramine, Prescription medicines, Eye glasses or contact lenses-If you use contact lenses, remember that they’re not much use without the solution and the storage case!

Miscellaneous Items to Have Ready

  • Tools
  • Important papers, including proof of residence (in water-tight containers)
  • Complete change of clothing
  • Entertainment items, especially if you have children
  • Pet supplies (remember water, food and medicine for your pets, too!)
  • Duct tape and scissors
  • Plastic sheeting
  • A-B-C rated fire extinguisher
  • Cooking supplies
  • Personally hygiene items
  • Bedding
  • Stationery items (pens, markers, paper)
  • Baby items


Review your insurance policies, make sure that you understand them and that you have sufficient coverage. You should do this now and not wait until the disaster is imminent—you may not be able to make changes at that time. Some specifics:

  • Windstorm—Make sure that your policy covers windstorms. Some homeowners and renters policies many not.
  • Flood Insurance—The National Flood Insurance Program is the only underwriter for flood damage to real property or personal effects. You will need to have a separate flood insurance policy written in addition to your homeowners or renters policy. Be advised that there is a 30-day waiting period to get flood insurance, so you’ll have to secure the policy in advance of the hurricane season. Your insurance carrier can do this for you, or you can call the National Flood Insurance Program directly at (800) 638-6620.
  • Replacement Coverage—As soon as you purchase something and take it home, it begins to depreciate including appliances, computers, sound equipment and other major purchases. When you make an insurance claim, your adjuster will count the depreciation on the item and you may not get the amount you need to replace the item completely. Make sure that your personal belongings have replacement coverage that will pay a market price for the item in order to replace it in full.
  • Deductibles—Review your policy for deductibles, and other exclusions so you know what you can expect to have to pay for out of pocket. Some Federal disaster loan programs may be available to cover those deductibles.
  • Temporary Living Expenses—Renters and homeowners should take out policies that will provide them funds for temporary living expenses (or loss of use), which you may need if your residence becomes inhabitable.
  • Before and After Photos—Take photos of your residence both inside and out. Make sure you get clear photos of each room of the house that show the appliances and furniture in each. Take photos of your personal belongings that may require special insurance coverage. Make two copies of the pictures, one for you and one for the insurance adjuster. Once the storm has passed, take the same series of pictures.
  • Communications Plan
    • Talk with your employer and your children’s school or daycare facility about their disaster plans.
    • Identify two different places for your family to meet in case you are separated during an emergency. One should be right outside of your house, like a tree, and the other should be outside of your immediate neighborhood, such as a store or place of worship.
    • Local telephone lines may be down or overwhelmed, so choose a contact that lives out of the area for you to call and report that you are okay. Out-of-area friends and relatives should also call this person to find out how you are doing.
  • Evacuation Plan
    • If you need help with your day-to-day activities, call your County Emergency Management or the Health Department to apply for the special needs registry. It is very important that you register now and not wait until a disaster is imminent.
    • Identify two different escape routes out of each room of your house. Make sure everyone, including children, is familiar with these routes.
    • Identify your evacuation route. Look at a map and identify two different routes out of your neighborhood.
    • Make sure that your disaster kit has already been assembled and don’t forget to bring it with you.
    • Remember that most hotels and evacuation shelters do not permit pets (except for pets assisting people with special needs, such as Seeing Eye Dogs), so be sure to have a place where your pets can evacuate as well.
    • If you evacuate, be ready to leave as soon as the evacuation order is given. If you wait too long, not only are you putting yourself and your family at risk, but you are more likely to encounter traffic and other obstructions.

The article “Battening Down the Hatches” ran in FLCAJ written by Ozzie Dalama. All rights reserved to Dalama and FLCAJ.