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Surviving a natural disaster

Get a kit
Get a kit

The Red Cross suggests that everyone put together an emergency supplies kit to make sure that you and your loved ones are prepared for any disaster. Gather these basic supplies and store them somewhere you can easily grab them if needed:

  • water—one gallon per person, per day
  • food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items
  • flashlight
  • battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • extra batteries
  • first-aid kit
  • medications and medical items
  • sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • copies of personal documents (medication list and medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • cell phone with charger
  • family and emergency contact information
  • extra cash
  • emergency blanket
  • map of the area

You may not think you’ll ever be the victim of a natural disaster. But blackouts, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and thunderstorms do happen, and they hit hard. Surviving them takes brains, not brawn, and being prepared is the best way to make sure that you and your family stay safe. Get started by putting together an emergency supply kit and creating an evacuation plan and an emergency contacts list to help you respond properly if disaster strikes.

The American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend these basic steps to survive five common emergencies:


  1. Use a flashlight, not candles, for emergency lighting.
  2. Turn off the electrical equipment you were using when the power went out to prevent surge overload.
  3. Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer to keep cold temperatures in.
  4. Tune your battery-powered radio to the local weather station for the latest information.


  1. Have an evacuation plan.
  2. If officials advise you to evacuate, do it.
  3. If you’re going to an emergency shelter, bring extra clothes, pillows, blankets and hygiene items.
  4. Make plans for pets in advance, since animals aren’t allowed in public shelters.
  5. Cover each window with shutters or plywood.
  6. Remove damaged tree limbs before a storm.


  1. Find a place to gather if a tornado is headed your way, ideally a basement. No basement? Go to a center hallway, bathroom or closet on the lowest level of your home.
  2. Put extra clothing and bedding in large plastic bags to bring with you in case you need to evacuate.
  3. Listen to the radio or watch TV for storm info.
  4. Know the difference between a tornado watch and a warning: A watch means that a tornado is possible; a warning means that a tornado has been sighted and may be headed your way.
  5. If you’re inside, go to your designated safe place to stay protected from glass or other flying objects.
  6. If you’re caught outside, find shelter in a basement or a sturdy building. If you can’t get to shelter, go inside your car, buckle your seat belt and leave the engine on. Keep your head down below the windows, covering it with your hands and a blanket. If you can’t get to a building or a car, lie in a ditch and cover your head with your hands.


  1. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light or increasing wind. If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Get to safe shelter right away.
  2. Listen to the local weather station for the latest forecasts.
  3. Phone lines and metal pipes conduct electricity, so unplug your appliances and avoid using them.
  4. Close window blinds or shades to keep flying objects or glass from coming into your home.
  5. If you’re caught outside, go to a low-lying, open place that’s not prone to flooding and that’s away from trees, poles or metal objects.


  1. Install smoke alarms outside each bedroom and on every level. Replace them every 10 years.
  2. Use the test button to check alarms once a month. Replace all of the batteries once a year when you set the clocks back (or sooner if they run out).
  3. Vacuum cobwebs and dust from the alarms once a month.
  4. Consider keeping fire extinguishers on every floor and be sure everyone knows how to use them.
  5. Have at least two ways to exit from each room.
  6. Consider installing escape ladders around bedrooms on the second floor and above.
  7. Create an escape plan. Choose a place outside of your home where everyone will meet and figure out how to get there from every room. Practice this escape plan at least twice a year.