That place where we are safe from disaster has a name. Sadly, it’s called “nowhere.”

This year, in one city on one coast, a raging fury of flash flood waters forced cars through the center of town, demolition derby-style. In another city on another coast, the image of a man standing on the roof of his home, as a dangerous wildfire hurtled his way, is etched in our collective memory.

Manmade and natural disasters can target anyone at any time, from Ellicott City, MD, to Camarillo, CA, from fires to flooding and from earthquakes to tornados. In many cases, survival depends on emergency preparedness. There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.

1. Have a plan

The first thing you will need is a safety plan. Stay informed through radio, TV or Internet and know how your community will warn residents in the event of an emergency. If you are driving during a flood, be reminded of the saying, “don’t drown—turn around.” At home, talk about places to meet such as the basement (tornado), yard (fire) or on high ground (flood). Devise an evacuation route or fire escape route and be sure all family members know that route. Practice makes perfect.

2. Stock up

Three things you will need to keep on hand include food, water and an emergency kit. Experts recommend at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food items and water in your home. And a home emergency kit should be stocked with a battery-powered radio with extra batteries, flashlight, medical supplies (including gauze, tape and bandages), basic tools, plastic sheeting and duct tape (to repair a leaky roof or broken window) and a whistle to signal for help. And, finally, consider keeping a charger stick at the ready for your cell phone.

3. Ready your surroundings

It might seem overwhelming, but some of the things that will help you be prepared for an emergency make you a good neighbor. Pack an emergency supply kit in the trunk. The kit should include everything from a properly inflated spare tire and lug nut wrench to cold-weather items such as a snow shovel, blanket and kitty litter for traction. At home, make sure you install some alarms and check their batteries regularly. Know how to shut off utilities and use a fire extinguisher. Store your important documents in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.

And consider learning first aid and CPR—these skills can make you more confident in dealing with the unexpected.

Your mother taught you to plan for a rainy day. Now, it’s your turn: Discuss your safety plan with those you care about and be better prepared for emergency situations and disasters.