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Family preparedness: How to help keep your loved ones safe if disaster strikes

Posted September 04, 2020

Planning ahead of time for disaster—whether it’s natural or manmade—is the best protection for you and your family. From house fires to infectious disease outbreaks to tornadoes, disasters unfortunately can and do happen—striking at any time, with little to no notice. 

Unfortunately, only about 39 percent of people have developed an emergency plan on what to do as a family if something goes wrong, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Disasters can cause widespread destruction, long-lasting power outages, disrupt supply chains and put strain on healthcare systems, in some instances. 

As we celebrate National Preparedness Month in September, Summa Health wants to help prepare your family for any disaster to help keep you and your loved ones safe from harm. Follow these tips to make sure your family is ready before, during and after an emergency so you can weather the storm together. 

Family Preparedness

Staying healthy
Families that practice good health behaviors are more likely to remain healthy during a disaster and disaster recovery.

Keep up on your vaccinations to protect your family from illness.
Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. If a sink is not available, hand sanitizer is the next best thing. It’s important to wash your hands before preparing or eating food.
Ensure you have access to all of your family members’ medical records. It’s a good idea to have printed copies in a secure location in case of a loss of Internet connectivity.
Take training classes in first aid and CPR so you know how to spot symptoms and perform emergency aid. It could save a life.

Make a plan
Do a bit of research to identify which disasters are most likely to strike in your area and how to prepare your home and family for each. In addition, learn about your community’s warning signals and what the different alerts mean, as well as any local organizations that offer emergency management (i.e. local chapter of American Red Cross).

Know when you should shelter in place for various disasters and which locations in your home are the safest.
Plan escape routes in your home, as well as evacuation routes in your community. Assign responsibilities to each family member and decide on a location where you can meet if disaster strikes.
Teach your kids how and when to dial 9-1-1.
In case of an emergency, carry an emergency contact card on you at all times so first responders know how to get in touch with your loved ones. Many smartphones also allow you to set up a digital emergency contact card. Be sure to include your name, birthdate, home phone number and at least two emergency contacts. In addition, include medical conditions, special needs, allergies and other important information. 
Keep important personal documents, such as insurance cards, identification cards and medical records, in a safe, fireproof box that might help you after an emergency. 

Be sure to meet with your family to discuss why it’s important to be prepared and discuss your emergency plans. Then once a year, be sure to practice these plans with your family.

Emergency supplies
More than half of Americans do not keep emergency supplies on hand in case of a disaster, according to the CDC. Food, water and other emergency supplies are crucial to keep on hand in the event a disaster strikes.

Families should have enough food on hand to feed the entire family for two weeks. Choose foods that you eat regularly and that don’t require refrigeration, preparation or cooking. In addition, have at least a three-day water supply (or one gallon per day) for every family member. Don’t forget about your pets. 
Assemble an emergency kit that includes: batteries, a flashlight, extra cellphone charger and first aid kit. In addition, be sure to include items that are specific to your family’s needs, such as medication, asthma inhalers, eyeglasses, or baby formula and diapers.
In case of a long-term loss of power, make sure you have alternatives for heating and lighting, and backup power sources for your cell phone, appliances and medical devices. Power outages that last more than four hours can become life-threatening for people who rely on power for medical equipment and devices.

Check your emergency supply kit a few times a year, and replace your stored food and water every three months.

Because you may not have much time when a disaster strikes, it is imperative to have a plan in place to be able to act quickly and safely.

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