Since joining the American Red Cross nearly four years ago, Tammie Pech has talked with many families affected by disaster.
Several victims shared a similar story.
"They all said, 'I didn't think it was going to happen to me. I wasn't ready.' Or, 'We weren't expecting it to be this bad,'" said Pech, a regional communications officer for the American Red Cross. Her region covers Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
September is National Preparedness Month, offering all of us an opportunity to prepare for the unexpected.
"Disasters happen every day all over the world. When it does happen, being prepared is the best way to be," Pech said. "No matter what kind of disaster, it's devastating and scary. But having a little bit of control over knowing what to do makes it a little less stressful."
The American Red Cross says there are three key steps to being prepared for any disaster: Get a kit, make a plan and be informed.
The American Red Cross recently launched a free Red Cross First Aid App, putting expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. In addition to being fully integrated with 911, the app features videos, interactive quizzes and step-by-step advice for everyday first aid scenarios.
The organization will soon launch apps for fires, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes, Pech said.
When disaster strikes, it's important to have a financial plan in place, too. Here are some steps you can take to be prepared on the financial front:
- Keep extra cash in your disaster kit. "When a large disaster hits town, it will be a few days before you can get money from the ATM," Pech said.
- Keep inventory of personal and financial information. Photocopy both sides of your credit and debit cards, and store the copies in a safe or safety deposit box, along with other important financial documents.
- Keep a list of shared credit union branch locations on hand.