On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and wreaked such massive damage, the Federal Emergency Management Agency called it “the single most catastrophic natural disaster and costliest hurricane in U.S. history.” In the storm’s aftermath, rising floodwaters left thousands of New Orleans residents stranded, and those who managed to find shelter often lacked basic necessities, such as baby food and blankets. In 2013, the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center reported the storm caused $135 billion in damages, and estimated that over one million Gulf Coast residents had been displaced from their homes.
It’s been nine years, but Katrina’s widespread damage continues to demonstrate our need to be as prepared as possible for any future emergencies. In recognition of National Preparedness Month, VetTalk is featuring this article on disaster preparedness to help you develop an emergency plan and kit for your family. Especially for our military families, who may face separation due to a member’s deployment, or live abroad because of a PCS move, it’s necessary to decide in advance what you will do if disaster strikes.
1. Know Before You Go
For those about to make a PCS move, it’s advised to thoroughly research your new location. Will you be stationed in the Caribbean, or in a Pacific Asian nation? Will you live on the West Coast of the U.S.? While looking up facts about the culture and the food, find out if your new home has experienced any major disasters in its history.
In addition, Ready.gov explains that warning systems vary from one place to the next, so you should also contact your local government to find out how the community will be informed in a time of emergency. Will you be notified by sirens, or a TV broadcast? Once you identify the risks of living in your area and how you will be informed of a disaster, you can begin to prepare your family’s emergency plan and kit.
2. Prepare an Emergency Plan and Kit
There are several government programs and websites, such as Ready.gov, Military OneSource, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website, that you should consult when you develop your family’s emergency plan. The important takeaway is that in order to keep your family a safe as possible, you need to decide in advance how your family will respond if a disaster occurs. Military OneSource provides a comprehensive list of things you need to plan for. Below, we’ve narrowed it down to the most important items you should start with:
After you decide how to respond during a time of emergency, you should assemble items for an emergency kit that you can grab in a hurry. Military OneSource and Ready.gov advise military families to prepare the following items:
For more specifics, as well as tips on how to maintain your emergency kit, visit Ready.gov.
3. Connect with your Readiness and Emergency Management Flight
Lastly, every active duty service member should connect with their installation’s Readiness and Emergency Management Flight, which is responsible for ensuring the installation is prepared to respond to all types of natural and manmade disasters. According to Ready.gov, the Readiness and Emergency Management Flight can also educate families about what to do in a time of emergency. In addition, each unit is assigned an emergency management representative, who can brief families on the installation’s emergency procedures and evacuation plans.
If you don’t have an emergency plan or kit, start developing them now. You will increase your sense of security and feel safer knowing your family has taken the steps to prepare for a potential disaster.