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It’s unlikely that you’ll have a lot of time to prepare when a natural disaster strikes. Disasters often come quickly and unexpectedly. According to the Public Policy Institute of California only 29% of Californians feel they’re very knowledgeable about preparing for a disaster.
Being prepared can greatly reduce your risk of injury or damage following a natural disaster. Follow these steps to prepare for a natural disaster.
1. Understand Your Level of Risk
Before you can set up an emergency plan or create a disaster kit, you need to know what types of natural disasters pose a threat in your area. You should try to create your disaster plan based on the most likely emergencies to happen in your area. Common types of natural disasters in California include:
- Earthquakes: California has many active fault lines, which make it prone to earthquakes. An earthquake occurs when the earth’s crust along a fault line shifts suddenly. This causes movement, like shaking, on the ground level. This shaking can cause unsecured objects to fall, such as a book falling off of a bookshelf, or cause damage to the foundation of buildings.
- Wildfires: Wildfires are fast-moving fires that feed off of dry vegetation, such as desert plants like sagebrush. They commonly start due to a lightning strike, but can also be caused by human carelessness. A wildfire can grow quickly and cause major damage to entire neighborhoods or destroy thousands of acres of wilderness. Southern California, in particular, is prone to wildfires due to limited annual rainfall and dry vegetation. Wildfires can potentially be stopped or slowed using a wildfire defensible space around your home.
- Mudslides: Mudslides are a type of landslide that is caused by heavy rainfall sweeping loose soil and debris down steep hills. Several areas in California are prone to landslides and mudslides, especially desert landscapes after a sudden rainfall.
- Extreme Heat: Extreme heat is when there is a long period of time with high heat and humidity. This could be 2-3 days of temperatures above 90 degrees. Not only can extreme heat be dangerous to the human body, it is also dangerous to your home. Damages include inconsistent moisture in the foundation, deteriorating roofs, or even warped hardwood floors.
2. Plan and Practice Your Disaster Plan
Once you know what natural disasters you’re most likely to encounter, you should come up with a disaster plan in case of an emergency. Since disasters strike unexpectedly, you may not be with your family when one hits. Having a plan in place that everyone knows should help you find one another, even if there’s a power outage or you can’t use a phone.
Your disaster plan should include information such as:
- The meeting place for your family.
- Potential evacuation routes from home, work or school.
- A shelter plan in case your home is damaged.
- Considerations for family members with special needs, including children, seniors or those with disabilities.
- An emergency contact, such as a family member in a different state.
- The location of important documents, such as a bank deposit box or fire-proof safe in your home.
- A plan for pets in case of an emergency.
Your plan is only helpful if everyone in your family knows and understands it, so it’s crucial to practice it regularly. This is especially true if you have young children. Sit down as a family and go over the plan in detail, then start practicing.
Remember that different disasters may have slightly different emergency plans. For example, if a wildfire is heading towards your neighborhood, you’ll likely have to evacuate the area and won’t be able to meet your family in front of your home. Be sure to set up multiple meeting spots for different scenarios.
3. Invest in a Disaster Preparedness Kit
Whether you buy a pre-made kit or build one yourself, a disaster preparedness kit could help your family stay safe after a disaster. You can create an emergency kit for your home, and smaller kits for your vehicles. This helps you stay safe even if you experience a disaster while on the road.
Your disaster kit should include:
- Non-perishable food
- Clean drinking and sanitation water in airtight containers
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered radio
- Extra batteries
- Bedding and a change of clothes
- Power bank and charging cables for your cell phone
- Pen or pencil and a notebook
- Copies of family documents, such as insurance cards and ID
- Tarp, duct tape and rope in case you need to build a shelter
- Personal supplies – prescription medications, glasses, feminine hygiene products
- Infant supplies – diapers, formula, wipes
- Pet supplies
You should check your kit at least once a year to make sure everything still works and nothing has expired. Put the kit in an easy-to-access location in your home and make sure each family member knows its location.
4. Learn Basic First Aid Skills
Investing in a CPR certification program could potentially save a life in a disaster situation. If you can’t take a CPR class, you should at least learn basic first aid skills. Not only are these skills helpful in the event of a disaster, but you can use them in non-emergency situations as well. There are lots of ways to learn basic first aid- from taking an in-person class to watching instructional videos on the internet. Find the method that works best for you to learn.
You should also consider teaching your children how to use vital components of your first aid kit. Sit down with your family and go through the kit. Remember that many children may feel anxious at the thought of their parents getting hurt, so try to keep your lessons fun. For example, let your child pretend to be a doctor and use extra supplies, like gauze, to treat your fake injuries.
5. Reduce Risks in Your Home
Eliminating hazards in your home, office or vehicle could help you avoid an injury if you experience a natural disaster. Earthquakes, for example, are common in California. The shaking of an earthquake can cause items to fall off shelves or even knock over furniture. Securing objects on tabletops or bookshelves and anchoring your furniture helps reduce the chance it falls over. A wildfire defensible space is another example of reducing risks around your home.
Although you can reduce risks, it’s usually not possible to completely remove them. Part of preparing for a natural disaster is ensuring your insurance is up to date and gives you enough coverage. Contact Wawanesa today to learn more about how homeowners insurance can help protect your home from natural disasters.