Our world seems like it is upside down lately. Every time we turn on the news or social media, it seems like something new has happened to rock our comfortable world.
Hurricane Harvey in SW Texas
Fires in the NW
Floods in India
Earthquake in Mexico
Hurricane Irma in Florida
These are just a few of the natural disasters that have happened in the last few weeks. This doesn’t even include normal emergencies in our own lives: loss of a job, car accident, death of a loved one, etc. Emergencies, no matter the scope, can knock us off balance if we aren’t prepared.
So today I want to talk about what we can learn by watching these emergencies happen and how we can learn from them to help us be better prepared in our lives.
What can we learn from these recent calamities?
- Access/plan for emergencies in your area-Sit down in a family meeting and talk about the likelyhood of certain types of natural disasters. Here in Colorado, we are more prone to drought, fires and blizzards than we are to hurricanes and tornadoes. Take these things into account when you make your emergency plan and prepare accordingly. For fires we need to be able to take our things and evacuate quickly while if we had a blizzard we may be stuck in our homes for several days (without power). So in the summer time we need to have our 72 hour kits and valuables available to grab in a moments notice. In the winter we need to have food and water available at home as well as ways to heat our home without gas or electricity. Whatever your emergency may be in your area, think things through ahead of time so you can be prepared for those situations.
- Don’t count on forecast models-We learned from Hurricane Irma that you can’t always count on forecast models to be accurate. They said for several days before Irma that it was going to go on the east coast of Florida, but then it changed course and hit the west coast instead. If you live near the coast, you need to be ready just in case the storm doesn’t go the way the computer says it will.
- Get a 72 hour kit ready-A 72 hour kit is a 3 day supply of food, water, clothing and first aid supplies that you can easily take with you in an emergency. This is the MINIMUM you should have ready for an emergency. This is the first step in emergency preparedness. Get this together first, and then worry about more extensive preparations. Each person (and pet) needs to have their own 72 hour kit that they can carry in a backpack or bucket. Don’t forget about extra cash, medications, diapers or any other special needs your family members might have.
- Lives are more important than stuff-We felt this very deeply when we lost our home to a house fire 3 years ago. While we had lost almost everything we owned, our family and pets were okay. So while it is sad to have to leave our home and belongings behind, it is more important to get our families and pets to safety and worry about the material things later. It is hard to lose family heirlooms and priceless items. I know, I’ve been there. But don’t endanger your family or pets to protect your mother’s wedding dress or your scrapbooks. They can’t be replaced but neither can your loved ones.
- Open communication lines-Practice with your family on how to communicate if you are separated during an emergency. Where will you meet if you are at school or at work when an emergency hits? How will you communicate if cell phones don’t work? Do you have a list of phone numbers to contact relatives if your cell phone goes dead? These are things you can think about and plan for ahead of time to make the stressful emergency easier. Your extended family will be worried about you and you need to be able to tell them you are ok or what help you need.
- Heed evacuation warnings-Whether it is a wildfire or hurricane, if you are asked to evacuate your home by authorities, you should heed that warning. By leaving the situation, you keep your family safe and spare them from watching it all unfold. In the case of our house fire, I am so glad that we were out of town when it happened. My children don’t have nightmares of watching their home burn down. They were spared that trauma and I am so grateful for that. Sometimes it isn’t just about physical safety, but it is about the mental trauma as well.
- There are always people ready to help: be one-By being as prepared as you can be in an emergency situation, you are more able to help others. As in the case of Hurricane Harvey, there were so many stories of neighbors helping neighbors. Wouldn’t you rather be on the helping side if you are able? If you have your stuff together, you are able to tend to those that are less fortunate than you. This will help lift the stress on your shoulders and increase your gratitude even in a difficult situation.
- Get the proper insurance-No one wants to pay for insurance. Most of the time you just feel like you are throwing away money for no reason. Hopefully that is the case. But when you need it, insurance is a saving grace. We would have been financially devastated without home insurance in our fire. I don’t know what we would have done without it. So please, get insurance appropriate for where you live. There are many types of insurance-car, home, flood, medical, etc. Whatever you need, please find a way to get it. It will give you so much piece of mind in a horrible situation to know that you can rebuild your life again.
- Be organized and store items in the appropriate containers-Being organized and decluttering your life can be a huge benefit during an emergency. Being able to quickly arrange your house and protect your belongings and important items can be so important. A friend that recently lived through Hurricane Harvey gave this advice, “Being ready in the case of flooding means being able to comfortably leave your house knowing that you’ll be blessed to have your computer information, your family history and photos safe. Be able to come back in and not find out you left your lifetime of scripture study on a shelf that actually floats and it’s all lost. Being prepared is also backing up cyber information and maybe storing things in totes rather than boxes. My friend’s totes we’re safe. They float right side up.” So in case of flood, put important things that you can’t take with you in plastic totes. In case of a fire, you can store your valuables/guns/documents in a fire safe. By being organized you may be able to save some belongings even if you have to leave your home.
- Prepare to evacuate your animals too-During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many people lost their lives because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind and the shelters wouldn’t let them bring them with them. Since then, the government has made laws allowing pets to be rescued too. This was evident during Hurricane Harvey, when people were allowed to take their animals to shelters with them. Therefore, you need to have a carrier for your animals as well as a leash, food and water. If you have larger animals, you need to arrange ahead of time for their safety.
No matter where you live, you are susceptible to disasters/emergencies. Whether they are natural disasters, man made disasters or emergencies in your own families, you need to prepare now. By preparing ahead of time, you can protect your family and help your neighbors in distress. Let the recent outbreak of natural disasters around the world wake you up to the dangers in your own area. Anything you do now could help you better survive an emergency in the future. You can’t control what will come but you can control how you prepare for it now.