Disasters Happen: Tips for Texans This National Preparedness Month

Hurricane disaster preparedness

Marines patrol past a flooded house in Houston last year.  Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 in damage to your home. Credit: Marine Corps

We hate to sound all public service announcement-y, but now that this year’s hurricane season is off to an active start, FEMA wants to remind you during September’s National Preparedness Month that “Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.”

How do you prepare for any multitude of disasters? FEMA and ready.gov offers these four steps to disaster preparedness:

  • Make and practice your plan.
  • Learn lifesaving skills, such as CPR and first aid.
  • Check your insurance policies and coverage for the hazards you may face.
  • Consider the costs associated with disasters and save for an emergency.

There are countless online resources for emergency preparedness, so we’ve assembled a basic outline of what to do, plus links to helpful resources. There’s plenty you can do now to be prepared in case a disaster strikes locally.

 

1. Make a Plan

When a disaster strikes, your family might not be together at the time, so think ahead about how you’ll reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find — one that’s outside your home in case of fire and one that’s outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.

As part of your preparedness plan, know how you’ll receive emergency alerts and warnings for your area. The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) integrates several emergency notifications, including the Emergency Alert System on radio and television (The old, “This has been a test of the Emergency Alert System..”), Wireless Emergency Alerts on your mobile phone (used notably for Amber Alerts), and NOAA Weather Radio, onto one platform.

Know what to expect during an evacuation. Make a shelter plan that includes your family pets because most public shelters do not accept non-service animals.

2. Learn Life-Saving Skills

When first responders aren’t immediately available, it’s helpful to know some basic life-saving skills that’ll sustain you and your family. The first step to that is having a well-stocked first-aid kit and disaster kit that contains supplies to help you shelter-in-place.

Learn what to do in a medical emergency until help arrives: Call 9-1-1, stay in a safe location, stop the bleeding, position the injured and provide comfort.

Know how to turn off utilities like natural gas in your home, shut off the water, and mitigate your home against flood damage.

3. Check Your Insurance Coverage

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you and your house or condo are adequately covered. Check your insurance policies and coverage before a disaster strikes.

As many Texans discovered last year after Hurricane Harvey, most homeowners’ and renters’ insurance do not cover flood damage, so think about buying flood insurance well before the storm.

Photograph your valuables, including important documents and personal belongings to help you quickly file a claim after a disaster.

4. Save for an Emergency

Plan for the possibility of disaster by assembling important documents and scanning them for safe-keeping in the cloud. (Even if it’s just emailing them to yourself.)

Maintain savings for use in case of an emergency and keep a small amount of cash at home to purchase necessary supplies, fuel or food if ATMs or retail point of sale systems are down.

Shelby Skrhak is a former newspaper reporter covering crime and courts. As a newshound, she’s assembled a DFW crime/severe weather/breaking news list to follow on Twitter, including news outlets, reporters, police and fire departments, offices of emergency preparedness and other sources.