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American Red Cross Tips for Emergency Preparedness at Home

Photo: Courtesy of Issy Bailey

The American Red Cross continues to deliver our lifesaving mission nationwide. This includes helping you to become “Red Cross Ready” for an emergency. Disasters happen every day, even in this COVID-19 environment, and being prepared for a disaster or home emergency helps you recover more quickly. Being prepared may not prevent a disaster, but it will give you confidence to meet the challenge.

The Red Cross recommends the following simple steps to prepare for emergencies and help protect yourself from COVID-19.

Step 1: Be Informed

Familiarize yourself with the hazards that are likely to occur in your community.  Visit the Red Cross and local emergency management websites to learn specific actions to take before, during, and after these events. This will help you keep you and your household safe and strengthen your ability to adapt to the situation. Learn CPR and first aid skills in case help is delayed. Share what you have learned with your family and friends and encourage them to get ready.  

It is also important to understand what emergency notification systems are available. This includes weather alerts such as watches and warnings, and evacuation notification systems. Download the free Red Cross Emergency App which, in addition to monitoring more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts, provides tools and preparedness information. Check with your local emergency management agency to sign up for notification systems where you live. There are also notification systems that use your phone’s GPS and automatically alert you if you are travelling away from home and are in an area at risk.  

Step 2: Make a Plan

Discuss with your family and household members how to prepare and respond to the types of emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play. It is helpful to identify responsibilities for each member of your household and practice working together as a team.

Plan what you will do before, during and after each type of disaster, should authorities advise.  

  • Plan now if you will need help evacuating. 
  • Ask friends or relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them. If they have COVID-19 symptoms or people at higher risk in their home, make other arrangements. Check with hotels, motels and campgrounds to see if they are open. Check with local emergency management to learn their sheltering plan during COVID-19 exposure risk.
  • Create a plan to reconnect with loved ones if communication networks are down. Have a back-up battery to charge your cell phone.
  • Safeguard personal, financial, medical and other important records that will help you start recovering afterwards.

Step 3: Get a Kit

Being prepared also means being equipped with the supplies you may need in the event of an emergency. An emergency kit is essential to have at home. You can build your kit at home by compiling items like non-perishable foods, water, important documents and power chargers. For a stay-at-home kit, we recommend including everything you need for at least two weeks, such as food, water, personal hygiene items and a one-month supply of prescription medication. For an evacuation kit or “go bag,” we recommend including everything above that you need to be on your own for 72 hours. Consider the needs of all family members and pets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, include cleaning and disinfectant supplies that you can use on the go (tissues, soap, or hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol and disinfection wipes). Ensure that you have cloth face coverings, such as masks and scarves, for everyone in your household who can wear one safely.  

Bonus tip: Stay Safe from Home Fires 

Make sure you have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas, and test them every month. Create and practice a fire escape plan at least twice a year, until everyone in your household can escape in less than two minutes. If a fire occurs in your home, get out and stay out.

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