Brad Kieserman, American Red Cross Vice President, Disaster Operations and Logistics, emphasizes the importance of communication and preparation to improve the safety of each family and household. Here, he shares the top things each of us can do to get a step ahead.

1. Stay informed

“Understand the threats specific to your area,” advises Kieserman.  Now, more than ever, this information is readily available and will help you focus on what you need to do to stay safe. He recommends downloading the Red Cross Emergency mobile app to receive updates specific to your region, with specific actions to take before, during and after a disaster affects your area.

2. Make a family disaster plan and practice it

“Most folks don’t think about what they’re going to do if a disaster hits,” says Kieserman. Discuss the risks and how you’ll react, specific to each time of day. Know how you’re going to get in touch with one another if you lose phones, where you’re going to meet and who else to call if someone in the family can’t be reached.

3. Make an emergency preparedness kit

Consider what you’ll need if the roads and stores are closed after a disaster. Kieserman recommends checking your kit each time you change batteries in your smoke alarm.

4. Know basic first aid and CPR

At least one person in the family should be trained in these areas.

5. Help the community prepare

Don’t limit yourself to your individual household. Try engaging with your neighborhood for volunteer and education efforts.

To expand on each of these steps and make them as valuable as possible for children, Kieserman discusses the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project, a signature youth disaster preparedness program that focuses on education in schools.

“The beauty of the Pillowcase Project is that it focuses on the children,” he explains, “and they’re the ones who engage the family.” The program, offered across the country, looks at region-specific risks to inform and prepare children, not scare them. At the end of the program, students decorate and take home their own emergency kits, in the form of a pillowcase.