September is National Preparedness month, which makes it the perfect time to get equipped for potential emergency situations. Unfortunately, a disaster can happen anytime, anywhere. We regularly see stories on the news of hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes, and the aftermath they bring. Since it is impossible to predict when and where a disaster will strike, you need to be prepared at all times. Follow these 10 essential tips to ensure you and your family can stay safe and connected no matter what Mother Nature dishes out.

1. Establish a Communication Plan

When disaster strikes, you will immediately want to know the status of your loved ones. Establish a communication plan with your family, roommates, and close friends ahead of time so that you can get in touch quickly. Make sure everyone knows, understands and has practiced the plan.  In addition, ensure everyone has a list of important contact numbers available for quick access in case of an emergency.

2. Research Your Area

It is a good idea to learn more about your geographic area. Research likely natural disasters in your area. A natural disaster risk map shows the types of disasters that occur in different parts of the country. With this information, you can be better prepared for the specific types of emergencies that you are more likely to face. Check out this list from the Red Cross for a list of the different types of emergencies that can occur.

3. Stay Informed

Sign up for emergency alerts on your cell phone, and tune in to your local radio or television station during an emergency to get the latest information. Listen for sirens, and check social media or other online sources for news if you have access to the Internet. For more information about emergency alert options, check out this list from

4. Create a Kit

Prepare a kit with crisis essentials for you and your family. The kit should include food, water, first-aid supplies, flashlight, matches, cash and a credit card. Check out this Federal Emergency Management Agency checklist for more information on how to create a kit. Be sure to check regularly to verify all supplies are working properly.

5. Plan for Those Who Need Extra Care

Consider the special needs of young children, elderly folks, and individuals with illnesses or disabilities in your family. What will you need to have or do to make sure that they are safe? If you have an infant, pack formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream in your kit. For the elderly, do not forget at least a one-week supply of medications, copies of medical insurance and Medicare cards, oxygen, and wheelchair batteries. Check out for a complete guide to preparations for individuals with disabilities.

6. Don’t Forget About Pets

Pack a kit for your pet including a carrier, collar with tags, food, water, and copies of important documentation. Contact a neighbor in advance to check on your pet if a disaster strikes when you are not at home. Do not leave your pet chained up outside. It is a good idea to identify a pet-friendly hotel on your evacuation route to avoid any issues with lodging.

7. Learn the Evacuation Routes in Your Area

First, know how to evacuate your home in case of a disaster. Have an evacuation route planned, draw the route on a map and post it near the doorway. Plan a location to meet up in case your family is separated during the evacuation. Second, know the best evacuation routes out of your city and state. Contact a friend or relative that you can plan to stay with in case you need to evacuate.

8. Be Aware of How to Shut Off Utilities

Have a wrench in your kit and make sure your family is aware of how to shut off the gas, water, and electricity in your home. Natural gas leaks and explosions cause numerous fires after natural disasters. Learn the shut-off procedure for your meter and be sure to evacuate the home and shut-off the outside valve if you smell gas or hear a hissing noise. Do not forget to shut off water at the main house valve in order to protect that critical resource as well as electricity to prevent sparking.

9. Make Sure Someone is Trained in First Aid

Assign at least one person in the family to get certified in CPR. Ensure someone is also trained in basic first aid, and that at least one person knows how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). These crisis skills could be essential if someone is injured or experiencing health problems during a disaster.

10. Keep Valuable Documents in a Safe Spot

Make sure to store important documents in a safe place. In an emergency you will want to be certain that your birth certificates, insurance policies, passports, wills, and social security cards are protected. Consider investing in a fireproof safe for copies of the information that you keep at home. For original documents, a safety deposit box is probably the most secure location. Knowing that valuable documents are safe can ease some distress during a crisis situation.

Once a disaster strikes, it can be too late to prepare. It is essential to have a plan in place to protect your family. If a disaster should occur, don’t find out the hard way that your insurance coverage was insufficient. Contact your Cole Harrison agent today to make sure that you have the right coverage at the right price.

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