Preparing for disaster: families should start today

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Families that have been meaning to put together disaster supplies and a household disaster plan but haven't gotten around to it, should not put off getting started any longer. An individual might be surprised by how much progress they can make in just a couple hours.

"The main thing is to get started," said Sherry Nelson, University of Missouri Extension human development specialist.

"A couple reasons people might not prepare is that they feel overwhelmed by the process and that they can't afford to do 'all that stuff,'" Nelson said. "A better way to look at preparedness is to see it as a process that we do over time. And we continue to update it, such as by changing our weather radio and smoke alarm batteries twice a year."

Households need three things to be prepared for weather emergencies: supplies, a weather radio and a disaster plan.

Emergency supplies

Families might already have some of the basic items for an emergency supplies kit in their homes, so get a good start on disaster preparations by locating those items -- such as flashlights and batteries, a first-aid kit and rain gear -- and gathering them in one convenient location. Nonperishable, easily prepared food on hand, can be moved from the pantry shelves to the disaster kit.

If a member of the household has specific medical needs such as medication for heart conditions or high blood pressure, place those in the kit or identify them as a "grab and go" item, Nelson said.

"At least enough to get by for a few days. I have my stuff in a lunch cooler, so if we evacuate to the basement for a tornado, I just have to grab it and run downstairs."

Add to the emergency supplies a little at a time.

"Break it down into manageable parts," she said. "This also can make it more affordable -- perhaps $20 per month, more or less."

A free, downloadable guide to putting together a disaster supplies kit is available from MU Extension at

Weather radio

Just like smoke detectors, a weather radio should be a basic item of safety equipment in every home.

Weather radios are designed to receive information broadcast by the National Weather Service's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many models can be programmed to sound an alarm when NOAA broadcasts emergency warnings for a specific area.

They range in price from $20 to $100. Select a model with battery backup so that it will sound even if the power goes out. Test the radio regularly to make sure it will work when needed.

NOAA has more information about choosing a weather radio at

Disaster plan

A disaster plan tells everyone in the family what they're going to do when an emergency happens. A complete disaster plan will include information about each family member, household pets, insurance and finances, medications, vehicles and the home and its contents.

Download a disaster plan template at The PDF file can be filled out electronically, so it can be updated frequently, easily printed and saved on multiple devices and online.

To keep disaster preparations on track, Nelson suggests keeping to a schedule.

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