When a natural disaster hits, the economic and societal impacts can be massive. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. has sustained 203 weather and climate disasters costing $1.1 trillion damages since 1980. And in 2016 alone, 15 weather and climate events cost Americans more than $1 billion in damage.
Severe climate isn’t always predictable—so it’s important to be as prepared as possible ahead of these events to help weather the storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) outlines steps anyone can take to better prepare themselves and their families for catastrophe.
1. Put together a kit for emergencies.
FEMA recommends having enough essential supplies on hand for at least . Non-negotiables include fresh water, access to clean air, and food that doesn’t require refrigeration, like protein bars, dried fruit, and canned items. Also set aside extra clothing, medication, batteries, flashlights, matches, and electronic devices. Prepare two kits—one with everything needed at home, and a smaller, lighter version of the essentials to take on the road.
2.Create a family plan for communications, shelter, and exit strategies.
Family members might not be at the same place at the same time when disaster hits, so it’s important to know how to contact each other and establish a safe meeting place with alternate routes to the destination. Create an emergency contact card for each person that lists friends or family members for reference—and to keep them in the loop, too.
3. Keep financial documents in a safe, accessible place.
Identification and financial documents are always needed post-disaster. Use a bank safe, deposit box, computer storage devices (USB drive, CD/DVD), and/or waterproof storage containers to secure personal identification (driver’s licenses, birth certificates, military IDs, and passports), and any financial account information, home insurance policies, and health records, etc.
4. Stay as informed as possible about current hazards in your area.
Research information about local climate statistics, areas prone to flooding, evacuation routes, and potential risks to consider if a storm or other natural disaster strikes. Follow developing reports on active nearby threats and adjust plans accordingly.
5. Get involved—help prepare your community.
After you’ve established a plan for yourself and family, take it a step further and help prepare your community for natural disasters. Organizations like Citizen Corps help educate and train volunteers to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to natural disasters and other threats.