There’s no denying that global weather patterns are changing. People like to refer to this as global warming or climate change, but a more accurate term might be climate chaos. Across the world, storms are occurring more frequently and are more severe.
While there are things people can do to mitigate their impacts on the environment and the climate, no one is going to wake up one morning and just reverse the effects of climate change. The average person has to learn to live with them instead.
Read on to find out how to prepare for severe storms and other natural disasters such as floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and flood zone AE in Florida. Being prepared can make the difference between life and death, and it doesn’t take as much as people think.
Why Disaster Prep Matters
Most people think of serious natural disasters as things that happen to other people in other places, but that attitude can be dangerous. Having a plan in place doesn’t just make it easier to weather the storm in practical ways by using the essential gear and tools available on sites like Prepared Bee. Knowing that the family and, ideally, the community is ready for anything Mother Nature might come up with helps to keep people calm in the face of potentially panic-inducing scenarios and stops people from making unwise decisions based on emotional responses.
Understanding Past Problems and Current Hazards
Every community is different. Researching the area’s past can help people understand at least some of the hazards it faces in the present in addition to helping them avoid others’ potentially deadly mistakes. There are plenty of resources for finding relevant climate-related data, some of which also offer detailed maps and toolkits.
There’s no excuse for being unprepared for storms during hurricane season on the east coast. The same goes for earthquakes, wildfires, and tornadoes. However, the changing climate has also been impacting what’s normal in terms of weather patterns and storms.
Tornadoes have been occurring in places that never saw them before, and wildfires are increasing their reach as droughts occur in unexpected places. That means people should be prepared for the full range of potential natural disasters that could occur, not just those that have been common in the past.
Identifying Strengths and Resources
Part of preparing for natural disasters involves identifying resources within the family and community. Those might be practical resources like high places to retreat to in the event of serious floods or personal strengths such as one person’s natural leadership skills and ability to think clearly under stress. Identifying strengths and resources is as important as knowing what kinds of natural disasters are most likely to occur, so make sure everyone understands both of these vital components of disaster preparedness.
Evacuation vs. Shelter-in-Place
There are two approaches to weathering a serious storm. Evacuating may be the only safe option during events like wildfires and serious floods. Some people assume that evacuation is only the right option when it’s mandated by local government officials. However, an emergency forced evacuation is never the best option. Having a plan in place in advance is always better.
Planning for Evacuations
Having a set evacuation plan in place is the best way to keep everyone calm should it come time to leave the comfort of home. That plan should include knowing where to go as well as when to leave and how to get there. If possible, identify multiple places to go if an emergency seems imminent. They can include the homes of friends and family members in other towns, motels, or shelter sites set up by local officials. Families should also familiarize themselves with alternate routes for getting there or means of transportation out of the area.
Keep a full emergency kit in the car that includes all the basics, and fill it in advance if it seems like a serious storm is on the way, but don’t rely on the family vehicle to evacuate. In some cases, leaving on foot may be the only option. Having an emergency go-bag on hand for each family member helps to ensure everyone will have the resources needed even if the evacuation doesn’t go as planned. Those go bags should include:
- A three-day supply of food
- Bottled water and water purification tablets
- An emergency blanket, poncho, and body warmers
- A basic first-aid kit
- N95 masks and hand sanitizers
- A week-long supply of required, life-saving medications
- A flashlight or headlamp
- An AM/FM emergency radio
- A change of clothes
- Basic personal hygiene items
Most people also make copies of important documents such as ID cards, property deeds, insurance information, and lists of emergency contact numbers. For kids, comfort items like games or teddy bears are also a must.
Planning to Shelter in Place
Evacuations aren’t always necessary, or even helpful. In some cases, staying put and sheltering in place is the best way to reduce risks. Tornadoes are an excellent example. Because these natural disasters can’t be predicted very far in advance, the best way to handle them is usually to find a safe place in the home, such as a basement or a storm shelter, and then stay there until the threat has passed.
The exact location to shelter in place and what additional steps to take to ensure the family’s safety will vary depending on the kind of disaster that may occur. In some cases, sealing the room might be required to prevent contaminants released into the environment from reaching the family. When that’s the case, choose an interior room that has no or few windows to take refuge.
Some people use the same kits for sheltering in place as they do for evacuations. Since these go bags should contain everything required to survive, that’s a fine idea. However, families can also pack separate emergency kits for sheltering in place that contain more food and water, extra clothing to meet a variety of environmental needs, and more ways to keep kids entertained. In addition to the items above, shelter-in-place kits often contain:
- Sleeping bags or blankets
- Multiple changes of clothes
- Enough food to last one to two weeks
- Plastic plates, cups, and utensils
- A portable generator and fuel to run it
- Extra flashlights
- Bottles of water for drinking as well as basic hygiene
- A small camp stove and fuel to run it
- A power bank to charge phones and flashlights if the power goes out
- Pet food and supplies, if applicable
- Basic tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, and crowbars
When a shelter-in-place warning is issued, everyone should stay put until the local authorities issue the all-clear. Of course, sheltering in place doesn’t just come up when warnings are issued by the government. Families often elect to shelter in place during storms as well. Winter storms are a good example. If a blizzard is imminent, sheltering in place and making sure that the home has everything required to keep the family safe and comfortable until the roads reopen is often the best option.
Talk to the Neighbors
Community is always important, but never more so than during a disaster that affects everyone in the area. Talk to the neighbors about what kinds of plans they have in place for dealing with natural disasters and how those plans could be improved through collaboration. Few things bring people together like facing shared hardship, but that doesn’t mean neighbors shouldn’t consult each other in advance and take steps to improve outcomes for everyone.
Remember that community resilience is about providing for everyone, not just the average person. If there are people with special needs, such as young children, seniors with limited mobility, or disabled individuals, that create an extra burden for those responsible for their care. Think about how to accommodate low-mobility or high-risk individuals when developing plans, and work together to make sure that everyone will have what they need to weather the storm in relative safety and comfort.
If everyone in the neighborhood gets along well and there’s already a cohesive sense of community, that’s a definite step in the right direction. People should already have each other’s’ numbers, and there might even be phone trees already set up for more mundane matters impacting the whole community. If that’s not the case, take the time to exchange contact information with neighbors and explain why it’s important for everyone to be on the same page about disaster preparedness, especially if any sharing of resources is anticipated.
Start Planning Well in Advance
There’s no excuse for waiting until a natural disaster is imminent to start coming up with a plan. The best way to ensure that everyone remains safe, comfortable, and calm during an emergency is to determine what that will take well in advance. When people know what to expect, they are better able to follow directions, behave rationally, and remain calm even under extreme stress. Start creating emergency kits and planning evacuation routes now to avoid unnecessary and potentially dangerous hassles should the worst occur.