Be prepared to care of your family and yourself for at least 72 hours after a disaster. Estimates show that about 480 people die and another 2,880 are injured in U.S. disasters annually. In addition, thousands lose their livelihoods and jobs due to disasters.
Even though deaths and injuries due to disasters have been on the decline in the U.S., there’s still room for improvement. And with just a few simple steps you may be able to save yourself and your family when a disaster strikes.
It is difficult to estimate deaths due to disasters because of the wide and varied nature of disasters. But worldwide, deaths due to disasters often skyrocket to more than 100,000 per year. While the U.S. population is about 5 percent of the world population, our death toll due to disasters is often far less than 1 percent of the world’s death toll. Many factors contribute to our safety record.
Local, state and federal warning systems help us prepare. The news media does a very good job on disaster coverage, especially in countries that have a free press. Some governmentally controlled media in developing countries may avoid disaster coverage because it is “bad news” and may reflect poorly on the government. When that happens, fatalities can rise because the people do not have enough information. Education has helped reduce the impact of disasters. We learn in school or at work by doing safety drills. Building codes have often saved lives because many city buildings are built to withstand certain disasters.
We could sit around and come up with many other reasons why we’ve saved lives, but the fact is hundreds of people still die each year and thousands are injured due to disasters in the U.S.
Across the nation, organizations and all levels of government are observing September as National Preparedness Month. For all the reasons above this is important, but what does it mean to the average person?
It simply means take the time this month, September, to take some steps to prepare yourself for the most likely disasters that could affect you.
It doesn’t mean, “I’ll ignore it, nothing will happen to me!” And it doesn’t mean, “The sky is falling, so I’ll build a bunker.” What does it mean?
1. Be informed
A lot of information is available from the U.S. government websites, which you can find through the Extension Disaster Education Network atEDEN.lsu.edu. In addition, your local emergency management, law enforcement, American Red Cross, local library, and/or Cooperative Extension Service office may help you find information. The first step is to find out what potential disasters may affect you. Have a battery powered radio in case the power goes out. During a disaster, information is often as important for survival as food and water.
2. Make a plan
Plan in advance what you will do for the most likely emergencies. Your plan should include a family communication plan and a shelter in place plan, as well as the action steps you will take when disasters are eminent. The EDEN website and agencies mentioned above can help you find guidelines to make those plans.
3. Get a kit
Think of everything you might need if you shelter at home for 72 hours. The list of items doesn’t need to be extensive, but plan to have those items handy. Consider a smaller kit that you can leave in your office or car or take with you in case officials ask you to evacuate the area.