Are You Ready for Disaster? 11 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for Emergencies

You don’t need to be a pessimist to know that natural disasters can strike at any time. An earthquake, flood, hurricane, or other extreme weather event can force you and your family to evacuate with little warning. Then, after the disaster passes, you'll need money, documentation, and determination to regroup and rebuild. Don't be caught off guard! Take action today with these 11 steps toward emergency preparedness.

  1. Know the Risks

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    Know disaster risks in your area

    How much do you really know about the area you live in? To be truly prepared for natural disasters, you need to assess the likelihood of threat. For example, do you live on a natural fault line? Are wildfires commonplace? Is your home prone to flooding? Knowledge is your first defense.

    Related: Prep for Disaster: 10 Things You'll Need in a Home Emergency

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  2. Turn On Alerts

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    Turn on emergency alerts on phone

    Make sure your smartphone alerts are switched on so you can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs). Next, download the FEMA app for real-time alerts from the National Weather Service along with emergency preparedness tips and the locations of emergency shelters and disaster recovery centers in your area.

    Related: Never Do These 11 Things During a Thunderstorm

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  3. Communicate

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    Make emergency plan with family and neighbors

    Sit down with your kids and create a family emergency plan using a template from the American Red Cross as a guide. Be sure your pets are included in the plan. Gather together neighbors to develop a strategy for community preparation and relief efforts.

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  4. Go Virtual

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    Scan important documents for emergency

    Natural disasters can destroy important documents, family photos, and other precious mementos. Get started now scanning and digitizing vital paperwork and items of sentimental value, then be sure to keep backups of these documents saved and encrypted online.

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  5. Get Insured

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    Get disaster insurance

    While some natural disasters—for instance, tornadoes and hurricanes—may be covered by homeowners insurance, others, like earthquakes and flooding, are not, especially if your home is located in a risk-prone area. Check your policy: You may have to purchase supplemental insurance for natural disasters.

    Related: 10 Things You Had No Idea Home Insurance Actually Covers

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  6. Build a Kit (or Two)!

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    Build disaster kit

    Do you have food, water, and other supplies to last at least 72 hours? Print out this helpful list, courtesy of Ready.gov, the government’s information hub for disaster preparedness, then pull together your family's kit. It's a good idea to have one kit at home and another one in your vehicle.

    Related: 15 Household Items That Could Save Your Life

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  7. Start an Emergency Fund

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    Create emergency budget

    It's essential to put aside some savings to help you during and after a crisis. But there's much more to financial preparedness than an emergency fund. Check out the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit from FEMA for checklists of important financial and legal documentation you'll need in the wake of a disaster, as well as tips for organizing and safeguarding this vital information.

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  8. Disaster-Proof Your House

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    Disaster-proof house

    To survive a natural disaster, you need to prepare your home in advance. If you live in a hurricane- or tornado-prone area, seal all openings and look into roof upgrades. You may also want to investigate FEMA-approved specifications for building a safe room.

    Related: Hurricane Season: 10 Myths Not to Believe

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  9. Learn How to Help

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    Learn CPR methods for emergency

    After a natural disaster, it may take a while for first responders to reach you. Until Help Arrives is a five-step response program, developed by FEMA, that teaches you what you can do to save lives before the EMTs get there. After you've worked your way through the program, learn the hands-only CPR technique in a video produced by the American Heart Association.

    Related: After Disaster: 8 U.S. Cities That Went from Ruin to Rebirth

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  10. Take a Home Inventory

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    Home inventory emergency

    It's crucial to maintain accurate records of your household possessions, and it's never been easier to do. Free apps like Encircle and Sortly help you make a home inventory and keep an up-to-date digital record of important documents, valuable possessions, routine home maintenance, and renovation plans. Another platform to check out is HouseMaster Cloud, an online home management tool.

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  11. Practice Self-Care

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    Practice self-care in disaster

    When you're preparing for disaster, mental strength, inner kindness, and resilience can be just as important as physical precautions. Natural disasters—and even the threat of danger—trigger our worst fears and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. To keep everyone calm, safe, and working together, know how to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

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  12. Don't Miss!

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    Money-saving, time-saving—and yes, sometimes even life-saving—the latest and greatest smart home technologies span from self-programming thermostats to voice-activated TV controls to video doorbells and beyond. Raise your home's IQ!