Follow these steps to prepare for a natural disaster this National Preparedness Month

Special to the Empire-Tribune

September is recognized as National Preparedness Month, a time for Texans to take stock, replenish and review their emergency plans in case of a manufactured or natural disaster. After the disruption to the electrical grid brought about by February’s winter storm, BBB serving the Heart of Texas encourages Texas residents to take disaster preparation seriously and recommends including winter storm preparation in their standard emergency plan.

Texans are encouraged to prepare for disasters and other unforeseen events during National Preparedness Month.

First established in 2004 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month encourages everyone to prepare for all emergencies. According to a 2017 report by the California Institute of Technology sponsored by NASA, Texas ranked first in the U.S. in the variety and frequency of natural disasters. Numerous natural disasters frequently occur within Texas, including flooding, wildfires, tornados, hurricanes, hail storms, sinkholes, erosion and drought.

To properly prepare for a wide range of possible scenarios, the Texas Department of State Health Services recommends Texas residents follow a three-step approach when developing an emergency plan for a natural disaster or unintentional incident:

Be Informed

Take the time to consider the types of disasters you may face based on your geographic location or other nearby risks of an unpredictable incident occurring. 

Review the recommended steps to prepare for natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, winter storms or extreme heat on TexasReady.gov.

Unpredictable incidents may also occur in your area, which originates from manufactured catastrophes. Be sure to consider your risk of being exposed to a chemical, radiation, biological or explosive incident and develop an emergency plan for your household if such an incident occurs. 

By spending the time to research and form an educated risk assessment of possible emergencies in your area, it will make it much easier to plan how to address the immediate needs of each scenario. For instance, an understanding that power outages are more likely to occur in your geographic area in the aftermath of a tornado will help you plan to address the expected needs during a prolonged period without electricity.

Make a Plan

Sit down with your household and think through different emergency or disaster situations and what would be the best response. Consider possible scenarios, such as a loss of cellphone connectivity, the age and level of understanding of your children, possible shelters in case your home is destroyed or a meeting area in case you are separated.

An emergency plan includes immediate actions and expected actions during the preparation of a disaster and dealing with the stress, emotions, and mental health in the aftermath.

Establishing and maintaining a line of communication with local authorities is vital to receive direction on the need to shelter in place, evacuate or receive the “all-clear” message. Think about establishing this communication if the disaster has shut down cellphone networks, internet or electricity. If it is recommended to shelter in place, do you have what you need to survive for at least 72 hours?

Some family members, such as children, the elderly, pets or those with functional and access needs, may require additional considerations when forming an emergency plan.

Build a Kit

No matter the type of disaster, there are a few items that you will need to have in your emergency kits, such as food, water and essential supplies for your family and pets. Depending on whether local authorities recommend sheltering in place or evacuating, you may want to create a smaller kit of basic supplies in a backpack that you can carry with you if roads are shut down and traveling by foot is the only way to reach an evacuation zone.

Chances are, most of the essential items for your emergency kit are already located in your home. Keep a list of things that need to be added to the kit at the last minute, such as medications or important documents. Make sure to pack a basic first-aid kit as well, preferably in a waterproof container.

Take into consideration what type of extra supplies members of your household may require to evacuate safely. Elderly members may need a wheelchair, walker or cane, hearing aids, or medications that must remain cold.

For a list of recommended basic supplies, visit TexasReady.gov.

“Prepare to Protect”

To promote National Preparedness Month, FEMA is focusing on four different aspects of preparedness for individuals, families and communities throughout September.

• Sept. 1-4: Make a Plan

• Sept. 5-11: Build A Kit

• Sept. 12-18: Low-Cost, No-Cost Preparedness

• Sept. 19-25: Teach Youth About Preparedness

Visit Ready.gov/September for more information about these aspects of National Preparedness Month.

For a list of more available resources to help you develop an emergency plan, visit BBB.org.