Make and Complete a checklist for your Family Disaster Plan. Be sure to include the following:
  • Post emergency numbers (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) by telephones. You may not have time in an emergency to look up critical numbers.
  • Teach all responsible members of the household how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches or valves. Turn off utilities only if you suspect a leak or damaged lines, or if you are instructed to do so by authorities. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on. Become familiar with the location and operation of shut-off valves. Do not actually turn any valve unless it is a real emergency. Place a tag on shut-off valves to make them easier to identify.
  • Attach a shut-off valve wrench or other special tool in a conspicuous place close to the gas and water shut-off valves.
  • Check if you have adequate insurance coverage. Homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood losses. Ask your insurance agent to review your current policies to ensure that they will cover your home and belongings adequately. If you are a renter, your landlord's insurance does not protect your personal property; it protects only the building. Renters' insurance pays if a renter's property is damaged or stolen. Renters' flood insurance costs less than $15 a month in most areas of the country. Contact your insurance agent for more information.If you are especially vulnerable to floods, consider relocating.
  • Be sure to have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 1999-2001, an average of 70% of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with either no smoke alarms or in which none of the smoke alarms sounded. If every home had working smoke alarms, U.S. home fire deaths would decrease by an estimated 36%, resulting in an estimated 1,120 lives saved per year, based on 1999-2001 averages, NFPA says. For new homes, interconnected smoke alarms are required on every level of the home, outside each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom. Although this approach is ideal for all homes, as a minimum, existing homes should have smoke alarms on every level and outside each sleeping area. Install CO alarms following the manufacturer’s instructions. It is especially important to have a CO alarm near sleeping areas. CO alarms with labels showing they meet the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01). Test and maintain the smoke and CO alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (See Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms.)
  • Consider equipping your home with alternative heating sources, such as fireplaces, wood- or coal-burning stoves, or space heaters. Be sure all heating sources are installed according to local codes and permit requirements and are clean and in working order. (See “Smoke Alarms” and “Carbon Monoxide Alarms”)
  • Get training from the fire department in how to use your fire extinguisher (A-B-C type), and show household members where extinguishers are kept. Different extinguishers operate in different ways. Make sure that responsible members of the household know how to use your particular model. There is no time to read directions during an emergency. Only adults should handle and use extinguishers. (See “Fire Extinguishers”)
  • Conduct a home hazard hunt. During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. Anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire is a home hazard. For example, during an earthquake or a tornado, a hot water heater or a bookshelf could turn over or pictures hanging over a couch could fall and hurt someone. Look for electrical, chemical, and fire hazards. Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards. Inspect your home at least once a year and fix potential hazards. In your hazard hunt, include your barns, outbuildings, or any other structures that house animals. Be aware of hazards at nose and paw or hoof level, particularly debris, spilled chemicals, fertilizers, and other substances that may not seem to be dangerous to humans. Make sure your fences are sound and positioned to allow grazing animals to move to high ground in the event of flooding.
  • Consider your need to add physical protection measures to your home. Add a “wind safe” room (see “Wind Safe Room”) and tie your roof to the main frame of your house securely with metal straps for protection in case of hurricanes or tornadoes; bolt your house to the foundation to reduce earthquake damage; or take other measures you may find on (click on Preparation and Prevention). Ensure that access and evacuation are manageable for elderly members of your household or those with disabilities.
  • Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit and stock emergency supplies. Keep readily accessible in a portable container supplies that would meet your needs for at least three days. You can use these if you shelter at home or if you evacuate. Also, stock enough food and water for up to two weeks in your home. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. (See “Disaster Supplies Kit”, Stocking and Storing Food and Water”, and “Emergency Supplies for Your Vehicle”)
  • Keep a portable, battery-operated radio or television and extra batteries in your Disaster Supplies Kit. Maintaining a communication link with the outside is a step that can mean the difference between life and death. Make sure that everyone knows where the portable, battery-operated radio or television is located, and always keep a supply of extra, fresh batteries.
  • Consider buying a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone-alert feature. NOAA Weather Radio is the best way to receive warnings from the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service recommends a NOAA Weather Radio that has both a battery backup and a Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME) feature, which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued for your county.
  • Take an American Red Cross first aid and CPR class and have other household members take one too. You will learn basic safety measures and skills that can be indispensable in an emergency. These classes can be fun for older children.
  • Plan home escape routes. Determine the best escape routes from inside your home in case a fire or other emergency requires you to leave the house quickly. Find two ways out of each room.
  • Find the safe places in your home for shelter during different types of disaster. Certain disasters require specific types of safe places. While basements are appropriate for tornadoes, they could be deadly in a hazardous materials emergency.
  • Make a complete inventory of your home, garage, and surrounding property. The inventory can be written or videotaped. Include information such as serial numbers, make and model numbers, physical descriptions, and what you paid (receipts, if possible). This inventory could help you prove the value of what you owned if your possessions are damaged or destroyed and can help you claim deductions on taxes. Do this for all items in your home, on all levels.
  • Keep the originals of important documents in a safe deposit box, if possible, and make two copies of each document. Keep one set of copies in a waterproof, fireresistant, portable container in your home and give the other set of copies to an out-oftown relative or friend. Important documents include:
-Wills, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, vehicle titles, stocks and bonds
-Passports, driver’s licenses, work identification badges, social security cards, immunization records
-List of bank account names and numbers and credit card names and numbers
-Inventory of valuable household goods
-Important telephone and cell phone numbers
-Family records (birth, marriage, adoption, and death certificates)
-For your pets, vaccination and veterinary records, photographs showing your pet clearly (best with you in the photos), and any other special records.

Adapted from: Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Washington, DC. 2006
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