WASHINGTON — From earthquakes in California to hurricanes in the Atlantic, natural disasters can create life-threatening situations. These disasters vary somewhat in the ways you prepare. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily move fragile items to the floor for a hurricane like you would for an earthquake. Here are some basics to prepare for any natural disaster.
Tune into local radio, NOAA radio, or local TV stations
Always. These will have the latest information about the path of the storm, the fire, or whatever is headed your way. It’s a good idea to find these channels ahead of time, so you’re not scrambling at the last minute to tune in.
Stock up on nonperishable food, water and medicine
You’ll want to prepare supplies to last at least a week. Fill plastic bottles with water and load up on canned foods — the kind you can open without an electric can opener. You’ll also want bread, nut butters, and so on. And don’t forget prescription medicines.
Fill your car with gas
If you have to evacuate quickly, the last thing you want to do is fight long lines at the gas station or run out before reaching your destination.
Store important documents like passports, Social Security cards, etc., in a waterproof container
Losing these critical documents could make a bad situation even worse, but they’re easy to forget about when in an emergency. If evacuating, make sure you bring them to your new destination.
Have a first-aid kit ready
That includes aspirin, bandages in multiple sizes, antibiotic creams, gauze, hand sanitizer, latex gloves, an emergency blanket, bug spray, thermometers, tweezers, and so on. You can never be too prepared.
Keep away from both standing water and floodwater
After Hurricane Katrina, studies showed that impacted areas had an increase in West Nile virus because of mosquitoes that thrive in standing water. But floodwater can also carry disease, be contaminated with sewage, or hide dangerous objects.
Don’t use tap water
In floods or hurricanes, tap water can become contaminated and no longer safe. In severe thunderstorms, the CDC recommends that people avoid being near plumbing to avoid being struck by lightning.
Charge your phone
And keep it on low-battery mode. Phones are good to keep maps handy. Download them so you don’t hog data or battery life, and bookmark or screenshot important pages.
Prepare your house
Depending on the natural disaster you’re facing, this could mean anything from boarding up windows (for hurricanes and tornadoes) to cleaning your roof and gutters (for wildfires). For earthquakes, you should bolt and brace things like water heaters and gas appliances, and ensure you can turn off the gas valves.
Don’t forget about animals
Pets, farm animals, and wild animals can be displaced during natural disasters. Make sure your animals have tags on them so, if separated, you can be reunited later.