On Sunday, late-season tornadoes tore through the Midwest killing at least eight people and leaving a wake of damaged homes and businesses.
As the communities begin to cleanup, many are also grappling with power outages and loss of services. We’ve seen this situation before. Just last year there were several devastating natural disasters, including tornadoes, droughts, hurricanes, and Superstorm Sandy.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warns on its Website, ready.gov, that people may need to survive on their own following an emergency.
“Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days,” FEMA said.
The National Geographic Channel recently aired a fictional documentary, “American Blackout,” that illustrates how crucial personal preparedness can be to survival. The program, scheduled to be shown again on November 20, follows several people during a 10-day nationwide blackout and shows how quickly everything can fall apart. Outside of whether it’s a plausible scenario, it does raise a compelling point: if disaster struck, how long could you survive?
Experts recommend having enough food, water, and supplies to last at least three days. If you have ever looked at one of these lists, they can seem pretty daunting to put together. The Safeguard Iowa Partnership, a public-private coalition focused on preventing, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from catastrophic events, has attempted to make it easier for everyone to be prepared. The organization has a “20 Weeks to Preparedness” guide. Each week has a list of supplies to gather and a task to do. For example, the first week lists gathering 1 gallon of water per person per day, flashlights and batteries, and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio. It also calls for developing or updating a family emergency communications plan.
FEMA has a wealth of information on its website about what people need to do to ensure they are ready —just in case— the worst should happen. Once you have a basic emergency kit, experts recommend making kits for your work place and car. An emergency financial first aid kit is also important to put together with copies of legal documents, financial information, and insurance forms.
It can be easy to fall into complacency by thinking that tornadoes, hurricanes, or other extreme events in the news won’t happen to you. But when these events happen, they should serve as a reminder that all of us need to take steps to be prepared.