Disaster Readiness Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

When Ida battered Louisiana last week, we were reminded yet again of the ferociousness of wind and water and the damage it can leave behind. The families hardest hit are pleading for help and talking about what they wish they had done to protect themselves and their families. 

With Houston situated in a common hurricane path, it’s important to be ready for the elements, particularly the flooding that seems to occur every time a hard rain comes our way. Below are tips recommended by the City of Houston Office of Emergency Management to protect your belongings and the lives of your loved ones.

  1. Start with a plan that is communicated clearly to all family members. Your plan should include the parameters under which you will choose to leave or stay. For instance, if you have to evacuate and you are spread out in different locations when the notice comes through, where will you meet? What is your designated “safe place” if your own home is flooded or out of reach? Choose a neighbor or another family member on higher ground or in a safer location that everyone will get to if home isn’t an option.

If you are all together when emergency strikes, make sure everyone knows the safest location within your home. It should be an interior room with no windows and few doors, such as a closet or bathroom. Make sure that every family member has his or her phone with them so you can stay in touch if separated or keep long-distance family alerted to your whereabouts and well-being. Most importantly, plan all of this now, before disaster strikes!

2. If it is safe for you to shelter in place, make sure you have emergency provisions to sustain you. This should include one gallon of water per person per day, a 7-day supply of non-perishable food, a flashlight and extra batteries, a radio, first-aid supplies, and a whistle to signal for help. Don’t forget a manual can opener, prescription medicines, a mess kit with enough utensils for everyone, and personal sanitation items such as antiseptic wipes and paper towels. Bike helmets provide protection against flying debris during a hurricane, so grab them if you can.

3. If you must evacuate, it’s important to know what to take with you. Recommendations include copies of important papers in a waterproof bag, keys, cell phone chargers, water and snacks, all medications, a first aid kit, and unique items needed for members in the family. These include baby necessities such as formula and diapers, and anything elder members might need, such as special equipment and medical items. One item to consider purchasing and having on hand – an escape tool for your car in case you encounter flood conditions.

4. Follow a reliable source for your storm tracking information. To sign up for alerts about emergencies that can affect your neighborhood and the whole city, visit houstonemergency.org/alerts. You can also follow AlertHouston on Twitter @AlertHouston and Facebook at facebook.com/alerthouston. Your neighborhood Facebook group can be especially helpful for assistance and can alert you to street flooding, so be sure to engage with your neighbors there. And if you have electricity, all of your local news stations will provide information and alert you to any evacuation orders.

Preparedness is everything when it comes to natural disasters. We will always be Houston Strong, and a crucial part of that is being prepared.

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Rebecca Deurlein

REBECCA DEURLEIN IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND THE AUTHOR OF TEENAGERS 101: WHAT A TOP TEACHER WISHES YOU KNEW ABOUT HELPING YOUR KID SUCCEED (HARPER COLLINS). REBECCA WRITES FOR LOCAL AND NATIONAL MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS AND LOVES EVERY MINUTE OF LIVING IN SUGAR LAND, TX. FIND HER ON AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, HUFFINGTON POST, OR THROUGH HER OWN BLOG A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING TEENAGERS.