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 redcross.org/apps.

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

Your Disaster Kit: Better Than a Magic Wand?

Magic Wand or Bust? Or, Our Favorite Disaster Kit Fail courtesy of Carrie Carlson-Guest.
Magic Wand or Bust? Or, Our Favorite Disaster Kit Fail courtesy of Carrie Carlson-Guest.

September is National Preparedness Mont and a great time to get Red Cross Ready for disasters. 

We know – so far your approach to preparedness has looked like a magic wand in a bin. Or maybe it looks like this “kit you don’t want to have” or one of these disaster kit fails.

While we can’t auto-magically get you prepared for disasters, we can give you the tools you need.  The basic steps include making a plan, building a kit and being informed.

Make a Plan Planning together is important. Everyone in the household should help develop the emergency plan and know what they should do if something occurs. The plan should include ways to contact and find one another. Include 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.

Often people are not at home when a disaster occurs and they may not be able to get back into their neighborhood. Plans should include decisions about where everyone will go if ordered to evacuate and what route they will take to get there. When discussing evacuation, everyone should include several different routes in case roads are closed. If pets are part of the household, they should be considered, including where they could be safe if the family has to evacuate such as pet-friendly motels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.

Get a Kit Another step to get ready is to build an emergency kit. Use an easy-to-carry container so the family can use it at home or take it with them if asked to evacuate. It should contain a three-day supply of water (one gallon, per person, per day), nonperishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a 7-day supply of medications, a multi-purpose tool, sanitation and personal hygiene items and copies of important personal documents. The Red Cross also recommends having at least two weeks worth of supplies at home.

Be Informed Everyone also needs to stay informed about what types of disasters are most likely to occur where they live or where they plan to visit, and how officials will communicate with you during an emergency. It’s also important to take a first aid and CPR/AED course—a vital component of disaster preparedness in case emergency help is delayed. Click here to find a class near your local Red Cross chapter.

Red Cross Apps People can be ready for whatever comes their way by downloading the free Red Cross apps for mobile devices which not only help people during emergencies, but offer help creating their emergency plan. The apps give people vital information to use during emergencies, even if they can’t connect to the internet. The apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.

Happy National Preparedness Month!