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Basic survival skills
How to prioritize needs in survival situations
How to adapt to extreme situations
Disasters are inevitable — at some point in our lives, almost all of us will have a brush with an earthquake, flood, tornado, blizzard or storm. But there's no use in worrying yourself sick; the best way to defend yourself against any emergency is to have a disaster preparedness plan.
Disaster prevention comes in many forms, from knowing what type of emergency to expect and packing an emergency preparedness kit to prepping your home and knowing how to return to it when the coast is clear. Follow these expert-sourced disaster preparedness tips to ensure you have a foolproof plan in place.
If you have to leave your home in a hurry, you'll want to have some essentials packed and ready to go. Keep the following supplies, recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in a portable container or "go bag" in the area of your house where you'll take shelter.
When things get chaotic, you want to make sure that every family member knows what to do. We suggest designating two meeting places (one close by and one a little further away in your neighbourhood) and hanging a map with the spots marked near your emergency kit.
Have important contacts written down if the power goes out and there's nowhere to charge your cell phone. Leave a copy in your emergency kit, too. Establish a plan for checking in with relatives in case local lines get jammed. Text messages will often go through, even when phone lines are clogged.
Keep important documents and papers that would be hard to replace sealed in a fireproof safe. If you have pets, make sure to include their vet records and their vaccination records; some vets and kennels won't admit your furry family without them.
Veterans should make sure to include your DD-214, verifying your proof of military service. If flooding is common in your area, put documents in a zip-top bag or waterproof container as well.
If the power goes out and you have time, unplug appliances and electronics and turn off air conditioners, whether you stay or go. This will prevent damage when the electricity surges back on. Leave one lamp on so you'll know when the power's back.
Invest in a backup home generator to keep your home running through extended power outages
If water lines could be affected, you'll also want to fill your tub and turn off the line. Use this H2O for sanitation, like hand-washing and pouring down the toilet to flush it. If there's a risk of flooding and you have the time, move valuable or hard-to-replace items like laptops, antiques and heirlooms to upper floors to keep them from getting water-logged.
If you'll be inside for a while, weather the storm with nutrient-dense, shelf-stable items:
Don't let your family rush back into your home without taking these precautions.
Look for damage outside. Walk around the exterior and check for issues like loose or fallen power cables, damaged gas lines and cracks in the foundation or in beams. If you have trees nearby, carefully assess their stability.
Note sounds and odours: Especially hissing noises or a smell of gas.
Check inside. If the power is still out, use a flashlight (not a candle — open flames can burn items or cause gases to ignite) to assess the damage.
Inspect appliances. For small appliances like coffee makers and toasters, look closely at the cords for fraying or exposed wires before using them again. Fridges, ranges and washers can be more complicated; call a service company to check the safety of connections and components, then replace anything that’s severely damaged.
Document the damage. It may be hard emotionally, but if you want to file an insurance claim, you’ll need a visual record of all the damage with clear pictures and thorough notes before you clean up.
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