The very first thing you need to do to prepare for a disaster is to speak with your family and/or those with whom you live. If you live alone, have this conversation with yourself, but understand you don’t have to prepare all by yourself. Your family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, classmates, etc. will work with you; in fact you will probably be part of their extended team as well.
Your conversation will address the low-level anxiety you have about disasters and should begin to transform that anxiety into positive action.
The goal of the conversation is three-fold:
To predict means to assess the risks you face. It is in the discovery of potential risks that you’ll begin to develop the solutions to overcome them…your preparations. In the initial conversation, you will not know all the risks, but you will know some of them and that’s where you start.
To plan means to do what it takes to make your plan real – that is, taking the steps to get your plan in shape. Topics in your first conversation should include:
An acknowledgment that a disaster can impact you
A discussion of your personal vulnerabilities as well as the risks your community faces. Include any special needs of your household (such as seniors, those impacted by disabilities, small children or babies, and pets)
Setting some preliminary goals for continuing your disaster plans and preparations
To perform means to reap the rewards of evaluating your risks and preparing your plan. The satisfaction of knowing you have taken the necessary steps to improve your family’s chances of survival will engender confidence among your family members and increase the probability that your extended family and friends will do the same. The act of being informed on preparedness issues will elevate you to a new level of knowledge and expertise. This will allow you to become a necessary and welcome resource for others in your community and work environment.
Anticipate spending about an hour and a half with all the members of your household who are able to contribute. Gather together the adult members first. Have a second conversation with the younger members of your family, incorporating thoughts and ideas given at each level of comprehension.
One way to start the conversation is to ask: “How would you feel if a disaster hit our home today?” or “What would you do if a disaster hit right this minute?” Let everyone say whatever comes to mind. You may be surprised to find out that your teenage son or daughter has some good ideas. Get their thoughts, concerns and fears out on the table. As the conversation moves along the dialogue will open up and everyone will feel more comfortable expressing their uncertainties and worries. In these first 90 minutes do not make light of or dismiss any fears; at this stage any concerns are valid. You want an open and honest discussion because all efforts to foster cooperation. Teamwork now will naturally surface later and work in your favor during a time of need.