September is National Preparedness Month. The timing is always curious to me, as I’m based in the Southeast and September is historically the peak of hurricane season. Often, we’re responding rather than preparing for tropical cyclones.

September 2016 also marks the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a terrible event that serves as a somber reminder that we, individually and as a nation, must strive to be prepared for crises of all kinds. So what does that entail?

1. Prepare yourself, your family and your home

Start by developing a family disaster plan for you and your family. If you had to evacuate, where you would go? If you were separated in an emergency, how would you reconnect? Build a family disaster kit with the most essential items to survive for 3 to 5 days, starting with drinking water, essential medications and photocopies of identification documents.

2. Prepare your community

In a catastrophic incident where whole communities are affected, neighbors may be the first people able to help until emergency professionals can arrive. Know who has special needs, such as the elderly or small children and plan to check in on them during a crisis. Likewise, identify people in your neighborhood with special skills or training, particularly in the medical field.

Now extend your community preparedness efforts. Disasters can occur at any time or place, so have a plan for your workplace or church. Familiarize yourself with the emergency procedures and family reunification protocols at your children’s school or daycare.

3. Prepare to help others

In the United States, most municipalities have a disaster response and recovery plan coordinated by a local emergency management agency. If you want to help, one of the easiest ways to do so is to affiliate with an existing agency engaged in disaster response and relief, like The Salvation Army, or check to see if your community supports a Community Emergency Response Team.

4. Don’t stop preparing

Make emergency preparedness and planning efforts more than a one-time endeavor. Revisit and update your family and neighborhood disaster plans periodically. Change the supplies in your family disaster kit so the food, water, batteries and other supplies stay fresh. Preparedness is a way of life.