It’s National Preparedness Month — Make your emergency plan

Last year, the Red Cross in Minnesota supported more than 2,500 people with basic comfort and care after local disasters — mostly home fires, which is the most common disaster threat people face across the country. During September, also known in some circles as National Preparedness Month, we encourage everyone to be ready for emergencies, such as home fires. A few important, easy steps are below. Take them and you and your loved ones will be more Red Cross ready when disaster strikes.

HOME FIRE SAFETY As part of the national American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which aims to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years, the Red Cross urges households to develop a fire escape plan; and to install and test smoke alarms.

When developing the plan, walk through the home and look at all exits and possible escape routes, including windows. List two ways to get out of every room in case fire blocks one of the paths. Pick a place to meet outside, a safe distance away and – no matter the circumstances – stay out of the home until fire officials say it is okay to go back inside. All households should practice their plan at least twice a year.

People should also install smoke alarms on every level of their home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. They should test the alarms monthly, replace the batteries at least once a year and replace them every ten years. Need help developing your plan? View our charts for single, multiple and high rise dwellings.

Icon PreparednessEMERGENCY PLAN Everyone in the household should help put the emergency plan together so they know what they should do if something occurs. Because everyone may not be together at home when a disaster happens, the plan should include ways to contact one another and two places to meet – one near the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and one outside the neighborhood in case circumstances prevent people from returning home. The plan should also identify an emergency contact person from outside the area in case local telephone lines are overloaded or out of service.

Any emergency plan should also include decisions about where to go if ordered to evacuate and what route to take to get there. It’s a good idea to include alternate routes in case roads are closed. Remember planning for family pets. Make sure to include places to stay for them, such as pet-friendly hotels and animal shelters, along the evacuation route.

MOBILE APPS Download today the free American Red Cross Emergency  App. The app combines more than 35 emergency alerts to help keep you safe, including information about what to do in case of floods, tornadoes and other major disasters. To find it and other Red Cross mobile apps, including Monster Guard, a fun preparedness game for kids, and pet first aid, search for American Red Cross in smartphone app stories or go to

For more information on how to prepare for all types of emergencies, visit

In my what kit?

Yeah, it’s a winter Monday morning. (Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross)

A typical winter morning conversation at the Northern Minnesota Red Cross region HQ after a day-long snow fall and more winter weather expected:

Hey, what’s in your winter car preparedness kit? In my “what” kit? Your car emergency kit, you know, the kit with extra stuff you keep in your car during winter for emergencies? Oh, right, yeah. Boots, gloves, blanket, jumper cables. I mostly think about it in terms of keeping warm. Yeah, me too, but I think my kit needs work.

Does anyone want to brush off the snow? (Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross)

Sure, you can call us geeks (we don’t mind), but we’d rather be prepared, especially on a day like today and the days to follow, than frozen and worried. So, if you’re planning to be out and about via automobile, in addition to having supplies (e.g., scarves, gloves, & blankets) to keep warm, check your car:

  • gas tank: full (half = empty)
  • tires: inflated
  • windshield washer reservoir: full
  • driving: go slow
  • poor visibility: stay home

Of course, we offer the suggestions above knowing that you’ll keep in mind your location–the Twin Cities Banana Belt (term provided courtesy of Thief River Falls native) versus the Minnesota Frozen Tundra (term provided courtesy of Southern California native). Plus, our Red Cross water cooler conversationalists agree that urban versus rural travel shapes your kit.

For more ideas click here,

XO from the Red Cross Water Cooler!

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