No one knows where he or she will be when a disaster strikes. Most disasters strike quickly and without warning. They can force people to have to remain where they are or to evacuate. They can sever basic services such as electricity, gas, water, and telephone. Although local officials and relief workers will be on the scene, they may not be able to reach everyone right away. Thus, it is important for individuals and families to make plans in advance and work together as teams.
Knowing what to do and preparing ahead of time is not only your best protection, it is your responsibility. Personal preparedness is primarily comprised of two actions:
The American Red Cross has developed a simple five-step plan:
Step 1: Find Out What Could Happen to You
The most common disasters in Arlington County are fires and winter storms. In Arlington County, the best way to find out about an emergency situation is to register for Arlington Alert. In addition, it is a good idea to keep one or more battery-powered radios, with extra sets of batteries, in easy-to-find locations.
Step 2: Create a Disaster Plan
Meet with family members and/or those who live with you to discuss the importance of preparation and the most probable types of disasters. Decide on several things:
- Choose two places to meet in case you have to leave your home. One should be right outside your home, to use in case of a sudden emergency, and the other should be outside your neighborhood, to use in case you cannot get home or you have to leave the neighborhood.
- Ask an out-of-state person to be your emergency contact. This is the person others who live with you can call to report and check on the whereabouts of everyone in the household.
- Give everyone who lives with you a card with the location of your sudden emergency meeting place and the location, address and phone number of the meeting place outside your neighborhood. Also include the name and phone number(s) of your emergency contact.
- If you have pets, find out which locations will be able to care for them if you have to evacuate your home. Watch How to Prepare Your Pet for a Disaster (video).
Step 3: Complete This Checklist
- Post emergency phone numbers near every telephone.
- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1.
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home.
- Practice using the best escape routes from every room.
- Distinguish which are the safest places in your home for each type of disaster that may require sheltering-up, sheltering-down and sheltering in-place.
- Tell every household resident how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity, at the main switches.
- Conduct a home hazard hunt and change the set-up or location of items that could cause injury in an emergency situation.
- Make disaster supply kits (see Step 5).
- Teach every household resident how to use the fire extinguisher.
- Be sure you have adequate insurance coverage.
- Take a CPR/First Aid course.
Step 4: Practice and Maintain Your Plan
- Review your plan every six months.
- Test smoke detectors monthly and change batteries every year.
- Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.
- Test and recharge your fire extinguisher according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 5: Make Disaster Supply Kits
Disaster supply kits contain items most likely to be needed if staying in a specific location for an extended period of time. Supplies should be kept in water-resistant containers and stored in locations pre-determined as the safest places to be if disaster strikes.
Arlington County recommends every household keep a 10-day supply of items in their kits for each member of the household.
The chart below offers some suggestions for items to place in kits.
- Home Kit — Keep near locations in your home where you would shelter-up, shelter-down and shelter-in-place.
- Office Kit — Keep in a place that is easy to access quickly.
- Car Kit — Keep in the trunk.
- Go Kit — Keep by the door of your home so you can grab it and go.
|Home Kit||Office Kit||Car Kit||Go Kit|
|Emergency Contact Info||x||x||x||x|
|First Aid Kit||x||x||x||x|
|Food — Non-Perishable||x||x|
|Prescription & Non-Prescription Medicine||x||x||x||x|
|Change of Clothes||x||x|
|Telephone not dependent on power||x|
|Flashlight & Extra Batteries||x||x||x||x|