September is National Preparedness Month; be prepared if disaster strikes

Published on Friday, 1 September 2017 13:43 - Written by MECHELE AGBAYANI MILLS, Better Business Bureau

September is National Preparedness Month, a full month dedicated to encouraging the public to assess and prepare for local disaster risks and unplanned emergencies.

In a 2016 survey conducted by Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, 65 percent of American households do not have adequate emergency plans. Forty-one percent aren’t confident with their community emergency plan that occurs with no warning. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency may make all the difference when the seconds start to count. The Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas urges families to plan for the unexpected and devise their own emergency preparedness plans.

Two things every family needs, no matter what the disaster is, are an emergency plan and an emergency kit. In addition to having an emergency kit ready, discuss with family and friends how you’ll contact each other, where you’ll meet if you can’t go home and what you’ll do in specific situations like a tornado or fire.

Your emergency kit should include items such as:

- A gallon of water per person per day for three days.

- A three-day supply of nonperishable food for each family member.

- A flashlight with extra batteries.

- A first-aid kit.

- A whistle to signal for help.

- Dust masks.

- A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

- A power inverter or solar charger for your cell phone.

Make sure all family members know where to meet and who to contact in case you get separated. A relative or friend in another area is an ideal emergency contact person. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to send and receive text messages. Consider downloading smart phone apps that provide emergency information.

Families may also want to consider including such items as prescription medications, infant formula and diapers, pet food and cash. Remember to check your supplies every few months and replace expired items.

Other things to keep in mind:

- Catalogue your valuables. Take pictures of your valuables and place them in a safe. This can help the insurance company assess the dollar amount for your losses.

- Protect important documents. Place copies of important family documents such as birth certificates, passports, insurance policies and photos in a waterproof, portable container near your escape route.

- Start with trust. Whether you’re shopping for insurance before a disaster strikes or looking for a company to clean damaged areas, remove debris and rebuild, review the company’s Business Profile at bbb.org.

- Know where to turn. FEMA, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have many resources available to help families prepare for what to do before, during and after disasters happen.

For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline at 903-581-8373, or go to BBB Scam Tracker.