Be informed, have a plan.

The summer storm season is here and the time to prepare is now, not later. 

Does your family have basic emergency preparedness plans in place? Taking certain must-do actions are necessary to not only survive but even thrive after an emergency.

“The first thing that people need to realize is that disasters are becoming part of life. We need to think about disasters differently and take them more seriously than in the past,” said Dr. Steven Jensen, American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council member.

Wreaking havoc and costing billions, natural disasters occur for reasons both outside of and due to human control. For example, earthquakes and tsunamis can be caused by the shifting of the Earth, but humans are also interfering with the Earth’s natural systems. 

“We’re building cities in more vulnerable areas where natural hazards occur,” said Jensen.

“It’s too easy to push disaster prep until later and think it won’t happen to you. That sort of thinking needs to change. Think seriously about your family, community and business. If you make serious preparations you will have a better chance of getting through it with a minimal impact on your lives,” he said.

The goal is to prepare yourself for disasters as if they were a way of life — because they now are, said Jensen, who hopes disaster preparation becomes as simple and habitual as putting on a seat belt.

The three keys to successful preparedness are build a kit, have a plan and be informed, said Jensen.

Be informed

People love to live in low lying areas which are prone to flooding . If you know your risks in advance, you can choose to build or buy a well-built and secure home on higher ground and prepare your home for the possibility of disaster, he said.

“The big thing is to understand your environment and what’s going on,” Jensen said. For example, “Many people don’t realize that one of the most earthquake-prone areas is in the Midwest on the New Madrid fault line. Maybe you don’t have a choice to move but there are precautions you can take.”

Everyone needs an emergency kit and a plan. 

Emergency kit

Your family’s emergency kit will vary depending on where you live but should have a minimum of three days of food and water, clothing, personal documents and extra cellphone batteries. For tips on compiling an emergency kit, visit

Have a plan

“How we get through a disaster depends on our adaptive capacity. Realize it’s a new situation. Things have changed. Can you adapt? It’s similar to dealing with a major illness or a financial setback. The people who thrive are the ones who understand they are facing a new situation. The ability to make adjustments will determine if they are knocked over or if they’ll thrive,” Jensen said.

Just like a business is dependent on a supply chain, people in emergencies are helped by others.

“You can’t do it on your own. We have to work together with our community and the network of people around you,” Jensen said.

Know the resources in your community and how to contact in an emergency. 


First aid and CPR training are important so people will have the skills to act in an emergency in case help is delayed. A variety of online and in-classroom courses are available at A variety of emergency preparedness and first-aid supplies are available at


PACKED & READY What to keep in an emergency bug out bag

Because it’s better to be ready, an emergency kit is a good thing to have in case you and your family need to make a quick getaway.

“After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life,” said Michelle Ralston, a spokeswoman with the Federal Emergency Management Agency/U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“When something bad happens, time is of the essence and mere seconds can mean the difference between life and death,” said disaster preparedness instructor Andrew Pontius. Certified as a disaster relief responder with the Salvation Army and Hope Force International, Pontius shares educational resources at Bug Out Bag Academy,

“Having a go bag (also known as a bug-out bag or 72-hour bag) pre-packed with everything you need to make your getaway means you can spend those crucial moments getting to safety instead of scrambling to grab the essentials and potentially forget critical supplies in the midst of all the chaos ... or worse yet, not make it out in time at all,” Pontius said.

Bug out bags are not a one-size-fits-all solution. An emergency kit should be specific to the needs of everyone in your home as well as customized to your particular climate and skill level. Learn more about building a kit at

• Duration: “A go bag’s contents should be able to provide for at least 72 hours of food, water and shelter,” Pontius said. “As a general rule of thumb, this is the average duration it takes rescue crews to locate and retrieve people in times of disaster. This is also the amount of time that a person can generally survive without water, although you should plan for having plenty of water on hand during those three days.”

• Water: Have one gallon of water per person, per day for at least three days. This includes water for drinking and sanitation. For tips on storing water and other safety considerations, visit

• Food: “Non-perishable, calorie-rich nutrients such as energy/protein bars are lightweight and easy to pack and eat on the go. Datrex bars are a survival ration intended for this purpose. Pack some gum as well to help curb hunger cravings, and keep your mouth moist and breath fresh,” Pontius said.

• Personal info: Carry copies of identifying documents such as your driver’s license, passport and birth certificate along with immunization records and anything else that would be helpful for emergency crews, such as paperwork identifying your blood type, medications and any medical conditions. “You’ll also be glad to have spare cash on you as ATMs and card swipes may not work,” Pontius said.

• Clothing: Dressing in layers will help accommodate different weather scenarios and regulate your body temperature. Choose clothing made of moisture-wicking material such as poly-propylene, polyester and wool. In addition to clothes, add a hat, gloves and multi-purpose scarf.

• Electronics: “A solar charger for your phone is relatively affordable and worth every penny when you need the extra juice,” Pontius said. A light-weight power bank with extra USB cables will be worth the added ounces, and a compact solar lantern that doubles as a USB-charging device works well for emergency situations.

• Important extras: Add in flashlights, a first-aid kit and extra batteries, along with a whistle to signal for help, Ralston said.

“Have a dust mask for each person in your home to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place. (Include) moist towels, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities and a manual can opener.

Be sure you have kits in your car and boat that include the basics you might need if stranded on the highway or on the water.

Know the Terms:

•Severe Thunderstorm Watch

Tells when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to weather reports. A weather radio is the best defense against being caught off-guard.

•Severe Thunderstorm Warning

Issued when weather has been report by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

•Tornado Watch

Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the weather conditions and stay tuned to weather reports.

•Tornado Warning

A tornado has bee sighted or indicated by either radar. Take shelter immediately.

•Flood Watch

Flooding is possible. Stay tuned to current weather reports.

•Flood Warning

Flooding is occurring or will occur soon in your area. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately and move to higher ground for safety.

•Flash food Watch

Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground. Be careful crossing low water bridges and traveling through areas prone to flooding. Stay tuned to weather reports.

•Flash Flood Warning

A flash flood is occurring or is imminent. Seek higher ground immediately. Some information provided by FEMA and NOAA.