If you don’t get your emergency plan together soon, your family could be out of luck.

Do you remember the days when patriots such as us were considered alarmists because we prepared for emergency situations? It seemed like some folks pictured us as scary-looking folks carrying “The End Is Near” signs and having warehouses full of grain and large water tanks.

But with weather disasters and terrorist attacks on the increase – both around the globe and in the United States – preparedness is going mainstream. People directly affected by the events of 9/11 and storms such as Katrina and Sandy, as well as those who observed the aftermath on television, have learned that being prepared for a crisis is extremely important.

People now understand that having a family emergency plan mapped out in advance is not ridiculous; it’s just plain common sense. Having at least a 72-hour supply of food, water and other necessities is not being paranoid; it’s being smart. Organizing their essential documents is not a waste of time; it’s a time saver. Even the U.S. government understands the need for citizens to prepare for an emergency and recognizes its inability to adequately take care of people following a disaster. That’s why they’ve set up websites to educate people on how to get ready.

So, we patriots have finally been vindicated for our foresight, and we’ll take the high road by not saying, “I told you so.” But, here’s the problem. The vast majority of Americans who agree that they should be prepared have never actually gotten around to doing it. It’s not a front-burner issue for them. They figure they’ll always have time to do it before an emergency situation occurs. Maybe they will. But what if they don’t?

Over the course of the next few days, we’ll get into preparedness that’s specific to certain disasters, including tornadoes and hurricanes. But there are a few things you can do that will enable you to be prepared for just about any emergency. They include putting together a disaster plan for your family, preparing a 72-hour survival kit and organizing your family’s essential documents. Let’s take a brief look at each of those three components

Family Disaster Plan

Some parents try to protect their children by keeping emergency plans a secret. But keeping your children in the dark about crisis preparations – even if your intentions are good – may actually put them at jeopardy if and when an emergency situation arises. On the other hand, making them feel like important members of the family when it comes to preparing for a disaster will go a long way toward them responding in the appropriate fashion once a crisis strikes.

Following are a dozen tips for parents who have chosen to talk to their kids about being prepared for a crisis:

  • Include your children in family preparedness discussions, answering their questions honestly.
  • Have your kids memorize their personal information, including their names, parents’ names, address and phone numbers.
  • Learn the disaster response policies of your kids’ school or day care center and have a back-up plan in place for someone to pick them up if you can’t.
  • Ensure that your kids’ school or daycare center has your current emergency contact information.
  • Have at least two pre-arranged meeting places for your family and make sure the kids know where they are, as returning to your home in a crisis might not be possible.
  • Establish an out-of-state contact known by your children and their school or day care center, in case local lines are down and only long distance circuits are functioning.
  • Teach your kids how to use 911 and rehearse what they should say to a dispatcher.
  • Make sure your kids know to stay away from downed power lines, utility poles and trees.
  • Practice evacuation routes and strategies as a family.
  • Teach your children responses such as Drop, Cover and Hold, and Stop, Drop and Roll.
  • Prepare a small “bug-out bag” for each child, including items such as a family photo, toy, game, book or puzzle, plus treats.
  • Place copies of your kids’ birth certificates, recent photos and kids’ comfort foods in your bug-out bag.

Survival Kit

Following a disaster, it will take government agencies a minimum of three days to be able to take care of people who have been negatively affected by it. You can greatly lessen the negative impact of those long 72 hours for you and your family by having a survival kit packed and ready. Many places recommend including the following items in a 72-hour survival kit:

  • Water. One gallon per person per day.             Editor’s note: check out Water4Patriots for our top choice of personal water filtration.
  • Food. Items that can be eaten quickly with little preparation time.
  • Manual can opener and other cooking supplies.
  • Plates, utensils and other feeding supplies.
  • First-aid kit and instructions.
  • Copies of important documents and phone numbers.
  • Warm clothes and rain gear for each family member.
  • Heavy work gloves.
  • Disposable camera.
  • Unscented liquid household bleach and an eyedropper for water purification.
  • Personal hygiene items.
  • Plastic sheeting, duct tape and utility knife.
  • Tools, including a crowbar.
  • Blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Large, heavy-duty plastic bags and a plastic bucket for waste and sanitation.
  • Special needs items for children, seniors and those with disabilities.

Among other items you should have ready to go are:

  • Flashlight.
  • Battery-operated radio.
  • Batteries.
  • Whistle.
  • Dust masks.
  • Pocket knives.
  • Emergency cash in small denominations.
  • Sturdy shoes, change of clothes and warm hats.
  • Local map.
  • Permanent marker, paper and tape.
  • Photos of family members and pets for re-identification purposes.
  • Contact lists with phone numbers.

Essential Information

If you can keep the following information on paper and/or on your smart phone, in a computer document, and on the web, you will be well prepared for an emergency.

  • Up-to-date medial insurance information.
  • Updated will.
  • Power of attorney information.
  • Life insurance information.
  • Bank account numbers and passwords.
  • Basic list of current bills.
  • Doctor and veterinarian information.
  • Spare keys for the house and car.

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