There is probably no place in the world that's not at risk for some type of unexpected widespread emergency. A little common-sense planning can go a long way to minimize the adverse impact on you and your family in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
The loss of the use of a flush toilet quickly demonstrates how much our civilized world depends on indoor plumbing. A major lesson from the recent disasters that have occurred around the world is that as individuals we must be prepared to survive on our own for at least the first few days after a disaster. Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services--water, gas, electricity or telephones--were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.
In the mid-50s I lived in Oklahoma during several active tornado seasons. At that time, the country was also concerned about civil defense. I remember numerous newspaper and magazine articles on preparing our homes for a widespread disaster. The one suggestion that I've never forgotten is to NEVER throw out an empty bleach bottle. They make great containers for storing water. Rinse out, fill with water, seal and label them, then store in a dark spot in your house. I always buy bleach in the largest container available, usually a one and a half gallon size. While you should replenish the water every six months, it's not hard to forget to do so, but it's easy to disinfect the water if you need it for drinking purposes.
The American Red Cross says, "You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. The only agent used to treat water should be household liquid bleach. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (IS-22) is FEMA’s most comprehensive source on individual, family, and community preparedness. The guide has been revised, updated, and enhanced to provide the public with the most current and up-to-date disaster preparedness information available.
Amazon.com has a free online two-page Emergency Prepardedness Checklist that you can print out from their site. You can cross off all the items that you already own and then decide which of the remaining items you should stock up on. While everyone should have a supply of water and toilet paper on hand, not everyone needs a supply of hurricane roof ties. It's a good list that will make you think about just how much you must consider to prepare your home for unexpected emergencies. You need to prepare yourself and your family to survive a disaster whether you are at home, in your vehicle, at your office, or at school.
The Institute of Business and Home Safety has a gallery of 14 videos that you can view online that show how to minimize the destructive consequences of natural disasters and everyday events from hail storms and hurricanes to water damage and wildfires. There is also an interesting map of the U.S. that shows where natural disasters are most likely to occur.
The Insurance Information Institute offers free software on their site titled "Know Your Stuff" to create and maintain an inventory of your home. On the download page there is also an online video to get you started.
Links to lists to help you organize a family disaster plan before the unthinkable happens:
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