Recent weather events such as Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast, wildfires in the West, snowstorms, tornados and earthquakes have certainly created a reminder that Mother Nature can wreak some havoc. After major storms, your power may go out for days or weeks, food may be hard to find in supermarkets, and you may wonder how -- when roads are impassable -- you'll be able to get your medications from the pharmacy.
The Red Cross advises creating a very detailed emergency preparedness plan before those tornado sirens go off, when all is calm and quiet in your world, and when you can think clearly, planning for the worst but hoping for the best.
Here are some steps to take, but consult with your township's official website to get information that's specific to your area, e.g., the locations of shelters and warming stations. Bookmark that site now on your computer and smartphone so you can easily access it when the lights go out.
*Step 1: Know What Can Happen
But don't make assumptions that certain weather disasters couldn't happen in your area. A tornado can happen anywhere. As we're seeing in weather reports, that creek a half-mile from your house can rise higher than you expect, causing flooding that not only fills roads but can affect power stations in your region. Dramatic weather, facility incidents and regional power outages caused by a car hitting a power pole miles away could cause emergencies.
*Step 2: Know How You'll Get Your Information
Again, look to your township website to find out about and sign up for emergency notification texts so you'll be in the know in case your landline phone and power go out. You also need to be aware of outdoor warning sirens and understand what they mean. And tune a battery-operated radio to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio station to give you access to essential information about evacuations and recovery plans. Again, on your smartphone, bookmark your weather website for easy access to disaster information.
*Step 3: Create Your Emergency Plan
If you have mobility issues and know you'll need assistance during an emergency, identify three local people you can call upon and with whom you've prediscussed your emergency plan. Provide a spare key to ideally two neighbors so they can check on you. Also, designate an out-of-town relative whom you will contact to let know you are OK. Then he or she can call your other kids and grandkids with an update. During storms, communications systems may be spotty.
Next, familiarize yourself with the emergency exits in your building. Post emergency phone numbers by your phone and emergency emails by your computer.
Make sure you have your ID and health insurance information in your wallet or handbag as well.
And one often-forgotten detail is to arrange for direct deposit of your checks into your bank account so your money is accessible. After emergencies, ATM machines often get tapped out of cash, so it's a good idea to have emergency funds safely stored in your home.
Select two accessible locations as a meeting place for you and the members of your household to cut down on chaos and stress after the disaster is over and recovery begins.
It's a good idea to have a tote bag packed with a few changes of clothing, clean socks and underwear, some of your unexpired medications and other essentials in case you will need to hurry off to a shelter or be evacuated. Stow this in a closet by your exit for a grab-and-go that can make you more comfortable during your stay in a safety zone.
Know where to go in your home for any emergency. For a tornado warning, into the basement would be best, and for a windstorm, an interior room away from windows.
Know how you'll protect and care for your pets, as well as where your township will keep pets if you're in a shelter.
Check your insurance coverage now to be sure you understand what is covered and what is not in case of an emergency. You may have -- or be able to get -- flood insurance, so ask your adult child to help you review the details of the best insurance coverage if you're unclear about your plan.
Help prevent disasters by changing the batteries on your fire and carbon monoxide detectors annually and having your furnace inspected and serviced on a regular basis.
*Step 4: Create Emergency Kits
The Red Cross suggests preparing separate emergency kits for your home, car and office, and it's smart to create kits for each member of your household, including pets, so you can personalize health supplies and medications. Be sure to have enough emergency supplies in your kits for at least three days' use. Give yourself plenty of space for your emergency supplies. A wheeled suitcase is a great carrier that adds easy mobility. Include in your kit clothing, a battery-powered radio, a one-week supply of medicine, cash, nonperishable food, water, a flashlight, copies of your insurance and credit card information, cash, and your contact information as well as that of your loved ones. Also include cellphone chargers.
*Step 5: Practice Your Emergency Plan
Emergencies are scary and stressful, and without practice, you may forget an essential. So while life is calm, review your plans and refresh your emergency kits to serve you best in the event of an actual emergency.