Preparing for Disaster (A4600)(FEMA 475)
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in an Emergency
Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can
force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your
home. What would you do if basic services--water, gas,
electricity or telephones--were cut off? Local officials and
relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they
cannot reach everyone right away.
Four Steps to
1. Find Out What Could Happen to
- Contact your local Red Cross chapter or emergency
management office before a disaster occurs--be prepared to
- Ask what types of disasters are most likely to happen.
Request information on how to prepare for each.
- Learn about your community's warning signals: what they
sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
- Ask about animal
care after a disaster. Animals are not allowed inside
emergency shelters because of health regulations.
- Find out how
to help elderly or disabled persons, if needed.
- Find out about the disaster plans at your workplace,
your children's school or day care center, and other places
where your family spends time.
2. Create a Disaster Plan
- Meet with your family and discuss why you need to
prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe
weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share
responsibilities and work together as a team.
- Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to
happen. Explain what to do in each case.
- Pick two places to meet:
- Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency,
like a fire.
- Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return
home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
- Ask an out-of-state friend to be your "family contact."
After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance.
Other family members should call this person and tell them
where they are. Everyone must know your contact's phone
- Discuss what to do in an
evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.
3. Complete This Checklist
- In a disaster, ordinary items in the home can
cause injury and damage. Anything that can move, fall,
break, or cause a fire is a potential hazard.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas
- Fasten shelves securely.
- Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Hang pictures and mirrors away from beds.
- Brace overhead light fixtures.
- Secure water heater. Strap to wall studs.
- Repair cracks in ceilings or foundations.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable
products away from heat sources.
- Place oily polishing rags or waste in covered
- Clean and repair chimneys, flue pipes, vent
connectors, and gas vents.
- Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire,
police, ambulance, etc.).
- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local
Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
- Show each family member how and when to turn off the
utilities (water, gas, and electricity) at the main
- Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
- Get training from the fire department for each family
member on how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type), and
show them where it's kept.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home,
especially near bedrooms.
- Conduct a home hazard hunthome hazard hunt.
- Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster
- Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
- Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find
two ways out of each room.
- Find the safe places in your home for each type of
4. Practice and Maintain Your Plan
- Quiz your kids every six months or so.
- Conduct fire and emergency evacuations.
- Replace stored water and stored food every six months.
- Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to
- Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the
batteries at least once a year.
Working with neighbors can save lives
and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how the
neighborhood could work together after a disaster until help
arrives. If you're a member of a neighborhood organization,
such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce
disaster preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbors'
special skills (e.g., medical, technical) and consider how you
could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled
and elderly persons. Make plans for child care in case parents
can't get home.
Remain calm and patient. Put your plan
Give first aid and get help for
seriously injured people.
Listen to Your Battery-Powered Radio
for News and Instructions
Check for Damage in Your
- Use flashlights. Do not light matches or turn on
electrical switches, if you suspect damage.
- Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If
you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas
valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
- Shut off any other damaged utilities. (You will need a
professional to turn gas back on.)
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, and
other flammable liquids immediately.
- Confine or secure your pets.
- Call your family contact--do not use the telephone again
unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
- Check on your neighbors, especially elderly or disabled
- Make sure you have an adequate water supply in case
service is cut off.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
To get copies of American Red Cross community disaster
education materials, contact your local Red
The text on this page is in the public
domain. We request that attribution to this information be
given as follows: From "Family Disaster Plan." developed by
the Federal Emergency
Management Agency and the American Red