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Prepare NOW for a Disaster

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An emergency plan is something every family should have, say experts.

After the horrific earthquake in Chile, we wanted to make sure our families would be safe from natural disasters. If and when catastrophe hits, would you know what to do?

preparing for a disaster

Making your home disaster-ready is far easier than it sounds. With a little planning and packing, you can prepare your family for the unexpected. "It doesn't take as much time as you think," said Becky Marquis, deputy director of the Ready Campaign at the Department of Homeland Security. "When I made my kit, I didn't run out and buy everything at once. Every pay period I would go out and buy a few things on the checklist."

Know where to go
If you need to get out of the house fast, you'll need a place to meet outside. Sit down with your kids and pick a spot nearby that's easy to get to and simple to remember. Also, choose a place to meet if you're away from home when disaster strikes. Your kids' school, for example. "As a family, we chose three separate locations where we'd meet if we couldn't get to our house," said mom Jackie. "We also have important phone numbers of family and friends printed on cards and put in each of our cars."

Know who to call
Choose a contact person, preferably an out-of-state family member, to call. Often, it is easier to make long-distance calls than local ones in an emergency. Make sure everyone in your family has the phone number. Make a list of other important numbers for everyone: the pediatrician, Poison Control, work and school numbers.

Get ready to eat
Next time you go grocery shopping, have the kids pick out dry and canned foods they'd want to munch on in an emergency. You'll need enough food for three days. Granola bars and soup store well. Also, have a gallon of water per person.

Get packing
Make a "getaway bag" for everyone in the family. Have the kids pack their own bag, picking out the clothes and toys they want to take with them. Make sure copies of prescriptions for medicine and glasses are in the bag. Have a first-aid kit, flashlight, battery-operated radio, extra batteries, and sleeping bags ready, too. The Red Cross sells several different kinds of emergency preparedness kits.

Get organized

Keep cash on hand in case you can't get to an ATM. Make photocopies of important documents like birth certificates, drivers' licenses, passports, and marriage certificates. Also, have a recent photo of everyone in the family handy.

Involve everyone
Make sure your kids' school and daycare have emergency plans and you understand them. Talk to your kids about being prepared. Make it fun. "Knowledge is power. Enabling children to know what is going on and know what to do makes them more comfortable," said Marquis.

It doesn't take much to be prepared, but it can make a world of difference in an emergency. "If a disaster were to happen, it could take emergency responders 72 hours to reach you," said Marquis. "So it's really important for all families to have an emergency plan."

To prepare your family for a disaster, go to:

U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security: Create an Emergency Supply Kit
U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security: Make a Family Plan
Red Cross: Preparedness at Home

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