Every region of our country is vulnerable to disasters of some type like flooding, severe storms, high winds, power outages, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or wildfires. Disaster can strike quickly and without warning – such as the recent Peru earthquake - serving as a reminder for all Americans to prepare now before emergencies happen.
Preparing for disasters and every day emergencies can give families a great deal of confidence and peace of mind should the unexpected happen. While most people agree that it is important to prepare for a disaster, research indicates that at most, 20% are Red Cross Ready.
Preparing for an emergency need not be overwhelming, time consuming or expensive. To help Americans prepare, the Red Cross launched the Be Red Cross Ready campaign, an initiative to promote personal and community preparedness by taking three steps.
In cooperation with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the goal of the program is to make preparedness a simple and easy task for everyone, no matter where you live.
"We want everyone to have the confidence and peace of mind that comes with being prepared," says Darlene Sparks Washington, American Red Cross Director of National Preparedness. "Anyone can Be Red Cross Ready by taking three simple actions: 1) get a kit, 2) make a plan and 3) be informed."
Step 1: Get a Kit
A recent poll by the American Red Cross and Harris Interactive shows that 90% of Americans who have a disaster supplies kit feel prepared. The only problem is that a mere 28% of the population actually has one.
Making a kit is easy and can be made from items already found in your home. Your kit should contain supplies so you can provide first aid and comfort for the everyday scrapes, as well as personal supplies for life-threatening emergencies or a disaster that may impact the entire community. Even if you don't have every item recommended on hand, put aside what you can now. A little preparedness is better than none at all.
Build your disaster supplies kit today to prepare for what may come tomorrow. Getting the whole family involved is a great way to educate children about being prepared for the unexpected.
(Photo Credit: Stock Photo/American Red Cross)
The best thing about a disaster supplies kit is that it is unique to every individual or family. As it should be considered a household item, customize your kit to meet your personal needs such as pet supplies, maps or personal documents.
During a typical emergency, two things might happen; you might be confined to your home for a long period of time, such as during a winter storm, or you might be asked to leave your home or evacuate on short notice. In either situation, you'll need supplies on hand to help you cope and respond.
These supplies are things we all need every day – even if there isn't a disaster – like food, water and clothing. Other items may only be used in times of disaster like a flashlight and first aid kit.
The Red Cross recommends storing enough items for each member of your household for three days. You never know how long you may be stranded or unable to obtain the things you need. Families who have a kit will not only feel empowered to help themselves, but are also in a position to help a friend, family member or neighbor in need.
Store these items in a sturdy, easy to carry container or large backpack and keep your kit in an easy to reach location. Don't throw it in the back of your closet where even you may forget about it.
There are several basic items to begin with when building your disaster preparedness kit. These are the absolute necessities you would need in the event of any type of emergency. When compiling yours, start with these seven essential items:
- Water – Keep at least one gallon of water per person, per day. If you have a pet, be sure to set aside a gallon per day for your furry friend too.
- Food – Store nonperishable, high protein foods such as energy bars, canned fish or meat or peanut butter. Be sure these items do not require refrigeration, cooking and little to no water. Don't forget your manual can opener too!
- Flashlight – If the lights go out, you won't be in the dark.
- Radio – Make sure you have either a battery operated or hand cranked radio. In the event of an emergency, you'll need to keep up with weather and emergency reports.
- Batteries – Your flashlight and radio will do you no good if they don't have any power. Remember to pack a few extra sets of batteries for both.
- First Aid Kit – Pack a few items that could be used to perform very basic first aid.
- Medication – Make sure you have all prescription and non-prescription medications you would need in times of disaster.
It is also a good idea to keep a smaller version of this kit in your car, school, place of work or anywhere you spend a lot of time and could become stranded. Remember to take inventory of all your kits every six months and update it as needed. Check to see if medications have expired and replace them as need be. To purchase a pre-made, Red Cross preparedness kit, visit the online store.
"September is a great time for people to get prepared," Sparks Washington reminds us. "Many things can change over the course of a year, and it is imperative that the family has adequate disaster supplies in their kit, and the most up-to-date emergency contact information and family emergency plan as they head back to school and work."
For more information on the Be Red Cross Ready campaign visit www.redcross.org/BeRedCrossready to take the free, online tutorial and find out more about what it takes to be prepared.
**This is part one of a three part series on Redcross.org.**
The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.