Brothers Amier and Nazier play at a Red Cross shelter in Washington, N.C. (Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross)

3 Steps to Make a Disaster Plan for National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month comes around every year to nudge us to prepare ourselves and our families for all kinds of disasters. As we all really do know, disasters can happen anytime, anyplace, and can impact any one of us. So, it really is important for each of us to be ready. How many times have we heard this? And, yet, to what degree have any of us done something to prepare? This month reminds us – yet again – to do it, to have a plan in place and to refresh the resources we need when something bad happens.

With this month also comes reminders directly from Mother Nature. From the historic, relentless, unprecedented fall of 2017, which included Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria, and Nate, followed by the California wildfires and Las Vegas shooting, all within weeks and even days of one other. And now, Hurricane Lane and Florence from this season. Yes, catastrophic disasters of all shapes and sizes can happen at any time, with some or no notice. The trends are clear. Being prepared is essential.

While Hurricane Florence hit weeks ago, we are still feeling its effects. We will be supporting the relief efforts there for months to come. Once again, thousands have lost their homes, belongings and even loved ones. The inevitability of disasters must be taken seriously. Preparedness is the first step.

So, what are we learning from all of these large-scale disasters? The trends are pretty clear. Disasters are going to happen. They are getting bigger and bigger. One way we can better prepare and respond is with the use of technology. We are leveraging new and existing technologies and using data to drive innovation here at the Red Cross.

Technology is helping us in many ways make decisions about how to help thousands of people under extraordinarily difficult conditions. One incredibly useful tool we are utilizing internally is our Red Cross Visual Interactive Event Wizard (RC View). This new disaster event management system enables the Red Cross and our partners to share visual situational awareness and draw on near-real-time data to better manage disaster operations. Technology is helping us more than ever fulfill our mission of alleviating human suffering.

In addition to technology, creative brainpower, personal preparedness, community partnerships and people helping people are fundamental in making the difference – in our own and others’ lives. We work closely with our partners, such as FEMA, local governments and other nonprofits, to be sure we are helping those affected by disaster and preparing them for life-threatening situations. Preparedness, response and building resilience is a team sport.

So, how do we prepare? The mantra hasn’t really changed. Many voices, common messages about preparedness. It still makes a difference if people and families will do this:

Get a Kit: Being prepared means being equipped with the proper supplies you may need in the event of an emergency or disaster. Keep your supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate.

Assemble emergency supplies and make them readily available and transportable in case you need to take them with you – at least 3-5 days’ worth of supplies. The impacts of disasters can last quite a while, so anticipate and prepare for this. Thousands of people have needed to take supplies with them to help sustain and comfort them for days. In many cases, they didn’t have much time to pull these together.

Click here for the details on what to include in your emergency preparedness kit.

Make a Plan: Create and practice an emergency plan so your family will know what to do in a crisis. You can create your emergency plan in just three steps:

  • With your family or household members, discuss how to prepare and respond to the types of emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.
  • Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and how you will work together as a team.
  • Practice as many elements of your plan as possible.

Click here for more details on how to make your emergency plan and view our templates.

Get informed: Learn the types of disasters or emergencies that may likely occur in your area. These events can range from those affecting only you and your family, like a home fire or medical emergency, to those affecting your entire community, like an earthquake or flood.

  • Identify how local authorities will notify you during a disaster and how you will get information, whether through local radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio stations or channels. (Visit the Red Cross Store to shop for NOAA Weather Radios)
  • Know the difference between different weather alerts, such as watches and warnings, and what actions to take in each.
  • Know what actions to take to protect yourself during disasters that may occur in areas where you travel or have moved recently. For example, if you travel to a place where earthquakes are common and you are not familiar with them, make sure you know what to do to protect yourself should one occur.
  • When a major disaster occurs, your community can change in an instant. Loved ones may be hurt and emergency response is likely to be delayed. Make sure that at least one member of your household is trained in first aid and CPR and knows how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). This training is useful in many emergency situations.

Click here for more details on how you can stay informed.

It sounds so simple, so basic, yet many don’t take the time to do this. But it is really important. Getting prepared may sound time consuming, but – with a little help from the Red Cross – it’s actually very doable.

Download our FREE Red Cross Mobile Apps today, in the Apple App Store or Google Play. We have an app for every disaster, including an emergency preparedness app that provides tools and preparedness information. Our disaster apps deliver expert resources, when and where you need it most.

And, then, there’s Ready Rating – a great free online resource for making and keeping preparedness plans fresh and robust.

So, what else? Get involved. There is much to do and many ways in which individuals and groups can pitch in to help ready ourselves and our loved ones. Opportunities are available for people to make a difference as we help people prepare, respond, recover from all kinds of emergencies.

Your support – whether in the form of blood, money or time – is what makes it possible for the American Red Cross to serve those in our community who need it most. Everyone who supports the Red Cross matters. Whether it is through your contributions of volunteering, financial or through blood donations, you can have an impact. Thank you for helping us help you and others. Now, go freshen up your emergency plans!

For more information, www.redcross.org.

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Linda Mathes is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, charged with responsibility to carry out the mission of the American Red Cross throughout this regional community and to support other communities across the country and around the world. Mathes was recently named in Washingtonian Magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women.” She serves as Chair for ESF-6 Committee and Member, Emergency Preparedness Council, MWCOG; member, Northern VA Chamber of Commerce Board; Member, International Women's Forum; graduate Leadership Washington. Mathes was named 2016 "Woman of Vision" by Junior League of Northern Virginia, 2014 Influential Women of Virginia Award, Women Who Mean Business Award 2013, a Most Admired CEO Award, and Readers’ Choice Award for Most Admired CEO of Nonprofit Organizations sponsored by Washington Business Journal. She was selected as a Project Inspiration Honoree 2012, a 2008 Washingtonian of the Year and 1998 D.C. Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year Award. Mathes began her career with Red Cross in 1973 at Dallas County Chapter/Northeast Texas Division. She served in several leadership positions at American Red Cross National Headquarters, 1978-1986; Executive Director, Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Red Cross Chapter, Pennsylvania, 1986-1991; was selected CEO of American Red Cross of the National Capital Area in 1991. Mathes received her Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) from Vanderbilt University and received her Master’s in Public Administration from University of Southern California, school of Public Administration. She is a graduate of FBI Citizen’s Academy and Partners in Organization Leadership at John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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