Courtesy of the Division of Homeland Security

1. Have an emergency plan. Develop, maintain and practice a written, comprehensive plan detailing how an emergency will be handled, prepared for, responded to and recovered from. Ask yourself the question: “What would we do if an emergency situation occurred?

2. Get an emergency kit. Assemble and maintain a portable 72-hour emergency kit. Keep your personal kit simple, lightweight and easy to update according to seasonal and other variables. Position your kit(s) with quick access in mind.

3. Have emergency food supplies. Fortify your home with food, water and other provisions designed to care for the regular daily needs of your household members. Begin with an inventory of what you already have, then set some practical, reasonable and achievable goals for adding the things in form and quantities that make sense for you.

4. Prepare to shelter-in-place. Identify, outfit and prepare an area of your home suitable for a “shelter-in-place” emergency, such as might arise from a hazardous material release. Select a room or space which is easy to isolate from outside air intake and which promises a degree of comfort for a short period of time. A shelter-in-place kit should include a battery-powered radio and flashlight, along with pre-cut sheets of plastic and tape for helping to further proof the area against outside contamination.

5. Know your home. Make it your business to become familiar with the critical infrastructure of your home and learn how to operate electric circuits, natural gas service controls, culinary water main valves, outside air vents, etc. Locate necessary tools and store them where they are handy for use in an emergency.

6. Take inventory. Take inventory items of special value and importance and their location in the home base, assigning a priority to each. In the event of an evacuation order, there may be only minutes to take property with you.

7. Equip your vehicle. Outfit family vehicle(s) with items, to add safety and security in various emergency and everyday situations, with consideration for changing seasons and circumstances. Make it a matter of habit to keep vehicle fuel level above the halfway mark. Start with these items: a blanket, heavy-duty flashlight, container of drinking water, collapsible shovel, first-aid kit and jumper cables. Some high-energy snack bars and weather-conscious clothing items are good additions.

8. Prepare to go powerless. Prepare your home to remain secure and reasonably comfortable during short or extended periods of electrical power failure. Alternate lighting, communication, heating and food preparation resources should be part of the basic emergency response plan.

9. Plan for pets. Create a plan for the care and disposition of pets and domestic livestock in the event of an emergency. Almost without exception, emergency shelters managed by the Red Cross do not welcome pets.

10. Prepare your finances.  Develop a comprehensive “Financial Contingency Plan” geared to your particular set of economic circumstances and designed to respond to the possible interruption of normal cash flow and debt retirement obligations. Among those “emergencies” most likely to occur at some point, but least anticipated and planned for is the interruption of income occasioned by loss of employment, illness or even the unexpected death of a breadwinner.

11. Remember your health. Make a plan for the continuation of health and medical needs during a time of extended emergencies and special circumstances. With an emphasis on critical, life-supporting medications and supplies, and with the consultation of the prescribing physician where indicated, maintain a supply of such items sufficient to bridge an emergency response.

12. Remember those with special needs. Include someone with special needs in your planning. Somewhere, probably nearby, is a neighbor or acquaintance that is handicapped, elderly, homebound or medically dependent and alone. Be prepared to share your resources and the security of your home with that person and to check on their well-being during an emergency.

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