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Home Emergency Preparedness

Many of us in the U.S. might be conscious of natural disasters happening, but we might not realize that they can happen to us. Depending on where you live in the U.S., the risk of a natural disaster occurring is fairly slim. Whether it's a flood, blizzard, wildfire, tornado, tsunami, hurricane or earthquake, owning a home or property (or even being a renter) should prompt you to have an emergency preparedness plan, first aid kit and survival kit readily available in your home or vehicle in case of a natural disaster or unforeseen emergency.

Be Informed

As a property owner or renter the first thing you should do is be informed about the type of disasters or emergencies that have occurred in your area. If you live on the west coast, there is an active threat of earthquake and perhaps a volcanic eruption if you're in the Pacific Northwest. If you live on the southern east coast, the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms is yearly. Certain parts of the Midwest and south are prone to tornadoes. Knowing the type of disaster that could strike your area is important as it can dictate how you and your family react.

Another important part of being informed is knowing how you'll be notified by local authorities if disaster hits. For your own benefit, having a radio (battery operated) on hand may be very useful. Many agencies will communicate via local radio, local television channels and NOAA Weather Radio stations. While many of us depend on our computers or mobile devices for our news and information, electricity cannot be guaranteed when disaster hits, so having battery operated electronics can help keep you and your family up to date on what's happening around you.

It's also important to be informed about your community - are there certain protocols in place in case of disasters? If you live in an area prone to tornadoes, does the community have an alert system for residents? If you live in a coastal town, are there evacuation routes in place in case of a tsunami? When you move to a new area, become acquainted with the community's disaster response protocols and inform anyone else in your household of what to do if disaster strikes.

Be Prepared

If you live in a household with other adults or children, an important part of being prepared for an emergency is having emergency contact cards available to those you live with. These cards have contact information for all members of the household (such as home, work, school and cell phone numbers) and they can list pertinent health information for certain people (such as drug or food allergies) that may be needed in an emergency situation. It is also important to make sure all occupants old enough know how to contact 911 as well as the Fire Department, the Police or Sheriff's Department, immediate utilities, and poison control. As a homeowner or renter, ensure everyone who is able knows how to turn on and off any gas lines, electricity, water, irrigation water and propane tanks in or outside the home/property.

Another important aspect of being prepared is having supplies on hand in the event of an emergency. An emergency preparedness kit can take many shapes, but the most important items are basic supplies: water: one gallon per person, per day (for a home it's suggested to have a 2-week supply on hand); food: non-perishable and easy-to-prepare (again, for a home a 2-week supply is suggested); a flashlight and battery-powered or hand-crank radio (with extra batteries); a first aid kit; a 7-day supply of any medications; and any other supplies that might be deemed essential to one's household. It's also a great idea to make sure all of your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order on a regular basis.

More often than not, disaster doesn't strike an entire community or city, and many times the threats are predictable (a home fire, gas leak, etc.). Because of this, being prepared for all emergencies might not be a top priority within a household. As homeowners, renters or property owners, the last thing we want to happen is to be caught off guard by something that could have been prepared for. In the case of natural disasters or home emergencies, this means being prepared in advance. Should disaster strike, it's very unlikely help will immediately appear. Do yourself a favor and have an emergency plan in place. Disaster may not strike, but if it does, you'll certainly be ready to react to whatever comes your way.

The Watsons are active in local communities and have lived in the Northwest Suburbs for over 40 years. Their knowledge and experience will get you the results you want! ~ Jayne Smith, Palatine, IL