Emergency Preparedness: Plan Ahead For Disasters

In life, emergencies happen, but if you plan ahead and know what to expect, you can handle them with confidence.

Be Informed About the Risk

The more you know ahead of time, the easier it will be handle emergencies and keep you and your family safe.

Winter Emergency

Winter Weather

Extreme winter weather can present a whole host of dangerous conditions like car accidents, frostbite, hypothermia, heart attacks, ice injuries and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Winter weather often includes snow, ice, freezing rain, high winds, and freezing temperatures. Generally, winter storms and blizzards last at least a few hours and often several days. Accompanying high winds can also knock out electricity. Older and very young people are at the most risk.

To combat winter dangers:

  • Stay inside and dress warmly.
  • Stay off the roads during storms.
  • Stock up on food, water, and blankets for power and heat outages.
  • Position generators far away from windows and doors.
  • Check the radio for emergency alerts.
  • Help others in need when you can safely.
  • Prepare your home for winter weather.


In the U.S., the most common natural disaster is flooding. Not evacuating a flooded area could result in injury or death. Floods occur when water overruns into areas of land that are normally dry. They are a result of storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, and overflows of dams. Floods can result in severe damage to land, property and cause power and communication outages.

Experts suggest when you are in a flood zone, get to safety quickly. Do not try to walk or swim through the water. You can get carried away in as little as a foot of water. Stay away from bridges and find shelter on high ground.

Some ways to prepare ahead for floods are:

  • Check FEMA’s flood map to see if your area is at risk.
  • Sign up to receive emergency broadcast alerts.
  • Before you are in a flood, find out where the evacuation routes are and practice them.
  • Obtain flood insurance.
  • Keep supplies on hand if you need to evacuate quickly.

Flooding emergency


Earthquakes are very dangerous and can cause structures to collapse and heavy objects to fall. Along with property damage, people can easily be injured in an earthquake. Earthquakes are caused by shifting of the underground rocks, and they are more common in certain parts of the country.

To prepare for an earthquake:

FEMA recommends to “drop and stay” where you are. If you are driving, stop the car. If you are in or outdoors, stay where you are and wait until it is over.

If you live in an area where earthquakes are common secure your belongs, so they don’t fall, break or hurt someone. Practice the drop, cover and hold procedure. Drop to the ground, cover your head and neck with your arms and hold onto something sturdy until the shaking stops.

Landslides & Debris Flow

Landslides can occur without notice due to fire, storms, earthquakes, and volcanoes. The danger stems from large amounts of dirt, mud, rocks, and debris flowing downhill. If you are below this mountain of movement, you could be buried alive or hurt badly.

To avoid landslides educate yourself on the area, always follow proper land-use guidelines and have a plan for your family during an emergency.

Power Outages

Power outages are a common occurrence but they can also be dangerous if prolonged during the winter months when they disrupt heat or communications. Other concerns are spoiled food and the inability to use necessary medical devices.

Consider a whole house generator to power your home when the power goes out. Do not use generator or gas heaters indoors. Throw away spoiled food and keep freezer doors closed.


Hurricanes are enormous storms that usually include strong winds, heavy rain and sometimes tornadoes, hail and even landslides. They happen most often in September and can occur in any U.S. state.

Hurricane Emergency

The first thing you need to do is secure your family from the high winds and possible flooding. Keep your radio on for emergency alerts like evacuation notices. Keep supplies on hand and know the location of a shelter.

Active shootings

Law enforcement strongly recommends the RUN, HIDE, FIGHT method for dealing with an active shooter incident. In that order, first, run to get away. If you cannot, then hide. If you are forced to, fight. Local authorities in most cities offer active shooter training so you can be well prepared.

Make and Practice your Emergency Plan

As a family, sit down and create a written emergency plan. It’s not enough to talk it over; you will want to practice it too so young children, teens and adults all know what to do in the event of a real emergency. The more you know the plan, the less stressful it will be when you need to use it.

Create a Family Emergency Plan

The things you should focus on in your family plan are communication, how to receive notices and alerts, evacuation and shelter. If you have these items already set, you don’t need to worry, just execute the plan when needed. Be sure to consider medical issues, people with disabilities and dietary needs when preparing.

Financial Preparedness

Planning can help avoid a lot of headaches later. Be sure to invest in the proper insurance to protect your family and your assets should an emergency arise. Keep a special emergency fund and store all vital documents and medical information in a bank security lock box for safekeeping. It doesn’t hurt to keep copies of photo ID’s, passports and birth certificates in there too.

Get Involved in Your Community

Working together as a community can help everyone stay safe. FEMA and local emergency services offer training for first aid, CPR, and other emergency readiness classes. You cannot be too prepared. Neighbors can form an emergency plan together, just like the neighborhood watch program, to expand their network of shelters and safe options.

Youth Preparedness

The earlier kids learn about emergencies and how to handle them, the less scared they will be when they occur. FEMA offers helpful resources to form youth preparedness programs in your community.

Wireless Emergency Alerts

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are another way that the government ensures public safety by alerting residents to emergencies. Some of the alerts you might receive on your mobile device are AMBER alerts, alerts from the president and weather alerts.

No matter what type of emergency arises, as long as you are prepared, your chances of success and survival are much higher.