September is National Preparedness Month. And with the recent disasters such as the Ridgecrest and Trona earthquakes, and Hurricane Dorian’s recent devastating landfall in the Bahamas, it begs one question: how prepared are you and your family? Your neighborhood? National Preparedness Month focuses on educating and empowering neighbors to prepare for emergencies that may take place in our homes, workplaces, schools, and communities.
From wildfires and adverse weather, to mudslides triggered by flooding, or worse, tsunamis and earthquakes – disasters and major emergencies can strike quickly and without warning. Here are five tips on how you, your loved ones and neighbors, can be ready for the next emergency or disaster.
Tip 1: Prepare Supplies Well Before Disaster Strikes
Preparing yourself, your family, and your home reduces the serious impacts of a disaster. Build an emergency “Go Bag” for each person that lives with you. A “Go Bag” should be easy to carry (e.g. backpack or duffle), that contains important and personal items such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, glow sticks, hand-crank radio, clothing, battery charger, wrench, and prescription medication. Include copies of your ID, passport, list of medications, insurance papers, and other vital documents. Do not forget to make “Go Bags” for children and pets, including items such as diapers or leashes! Find a helpful checklist here from Ready.Gov. Also, ATMs and credit card readers will not always be available, so have some cash on hand to pay for immediate expenses like lodging, food and gas. Include bills in small denominations of $1, $5 and $10.
Tip 2: Make a Disaster Preparedness Plan
Have the “disaster” conversation at home and talk about what your emergency plan is. Discuss how to evacuate and where you will meet. It is important to create, practice, and maintain your plan. Your plan should include people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, such as children, elderly individuals, and pets. Pick an “out-of-state” contact for family members to call if separated by disaster. Do a home-hazard hunt. Check for anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire. Secure all home hazards and prepare a disaster supply kit. Have enough food, water, and medical supplies for at least 7 days. The suggested amount of water is one gallon per day, per person (this includes children and pets).
Tip 3: Organize Your Neighborhood
Disasters can overwhelm 9-1-1 emergency responders like medics, fire, and police. In case of emergency, your best source of help may be your neighbors. This is particularly true during “The Golden Hour.” The first 60 minutes following a disaster are golden – for saving lives and reducing the severity of injuries and decreasing property damage. In the City of Los Angeles, the Ready Your Los Angeles Neighborhood (RYLAN) is designed to help your neighborhood prepare for a disaster by creating a neighborhood disaster response plan. Check with your local city or county offices to learn about disaster plans. Mapping your neighborhood, knowing your neighbors, and having a neighborhood disaster response plan are crucial for communities to be resilient after a disastrous event.
Tip 4: Connect & Communicate
Log in to your Nextdoor neighborhood and sign up to receive Urgent Alerts on your Mobile Alerts Settings. Signing up for Nextdoor’s Urgent Alerts gives you up-to-date information and specific instructions on what to do during a disaster from your police, fire, and/or emergency service departments. Some cities may not have Nextdoor alerts, but do have an emergency notification alert system, such as Los Angeles’ www.notifyla.org. Contact your local agencies to learn more. Additional resources include your regional FEMA department, the State Office of Emergency Services, your County’s Office of Emergency Management, and the American Red Cross, amongst others. Communicate with your neighbors! Both you and your neighbors will want to communicate with each other and the city responders during a disaster. Walkie-talkies, crank radios, and communication apps are great tools to stay connected.
Tip 5: Practice and Train
Practice your family and community disaster plans. Your confidence as responders will increase the more you practice. Enroll in preparedness training classes such as level 1 CERT, First Aid & CPR, Amateur Radio, Active Shooter, Stop the Bleed, and other classes to enhance your readiness skills. The more you practice and train, the better prepared you will become! FEMA and Ready.Gov make it easy to create a plan. Your local city, county, and state websites, such as emergency.lacity.org/rylan, have tips on making a plan for you, your family, and community.
The City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department (EMD) recommends that neighbors everywhere prepare, organize, practice, connect, communicate, and train. Hopefully these five tips will help prepare you, your family, and neighbors be more prepared should an emergency or natural disaster occur in your community. You can never be too prepared, so take the initiative during National Preparedness Month and start communicating with your neighbors about how to prepare for both everyday emergencies as well as the unexpected in your community.
Special thanks to Jackie Koci Tamayo from the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department for contributing these potentially life-saving tips.