What have you done to prepare for the unexpected?
One by one, our home's smoke detectors started sporadically beeping, telling us – no, screeching at us – to get with the program and replace the batteries.
Had it really been that long since we had changed them? It was an embarrassing moment for my husband and me. We counted our blessings that nothing tragic had happened and quickly went about replacing the batteries in the smoke detectors, some of which are battery-only operated.
In that instant, we made a vow to no longer let life get in the way of life-saving measures within our control. We agreed to replace the batteries during every spring and fall time change going forward.
Ironically, this all happened on the eve of National Preparedness Month, which is going on right now. If you've failed to plan, use what's left of September as a reason to get ready for the unexpected.
"As we talk with folks in the community, the No. 1 thing that folks aren't doing is actually preparing their families and making a plan, and the tools to do that are right on our website," said Jolene Carpenter, emergency services director for the American Red Cross of the Tri-States.
"I didn't think about any of these things either until I started working here 2½ years ago," Carpenter added. "But I have five kids, and now we have talked about our plan and made our kit."
It's like anything else. Many of us think, "It's not going to happen here," so we put off planning and preparing for power outages, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, blizzards and other disasters that really could hit home.
"We want to make sure people are thinking about all the different types of disasters that could affect our areas, and then have the conversation with our family about these things that we don't necessarily feel comfortable talking about," Carpenter said.
When it comes to disaster preparedness, it's important to be prepared on the financial front, too. Carpenter recommends adding these financial-related tools to your supply kit, which should be securely stored somewhere along your family's escape route:
- Cash: You'll want old-fashioned cash on hand, because large-scale disasters can render ATMs and store credit and debit card machines inoperable for a few days. Determine a dollar amount that's appropriate for your family to cover food, water and other supplies for three to five days.
- Copies of documents: Keep copies of your bank account numbers, homeowner's insurance policy, birth certificates and other important documents in your kit.
"If you haven't planned, you're scrambling for days and days to just try to keep your head above water to get through the day," said Carpenter, who has helped many victims of house fires who did not have a plan. "The more prepared you are, the faster families can start their recovery and get back to a sense of normalcy."
By Emily Kittle