Some people may think it's "bad juju" to plan ahead for what might go wrong, as if the mere act of thinking about it will bring about calamity. But putting it off only means that if an emergency strikes, you and your family will be at a significant disadvantage. Here are five things that you can do over the course of a week or a month (September is National Preparedness Month) to get your ducks in a row.
Organize an emergency plan. First, know your evacuation routes — ideally, identify one or two options. Second, designate specific meeting places both close to home and farther away in case you are separated. Finally, get contact information for an out-of-state person whom everyone can contact to relay news in case you are separated. Visit www.getbuttonedup.com/tools/ to get a free printable checklist of what you should include in an emergency plan.
Hold a state of the union. An emergency plan is useless if other people living with you don't know about it. Take the time to discuss it as a group. Ensure that everybody is aware and knows exactly what to do, where to go and whom to contact. Pick a night this week to sit down as a family and go over your plan.
Document your valuables. Don't wait until you have to file a home-insurance claim before you realize, "Wow, I really should have made that home-inventory video." Anticipation of the worst-case scenario is very important when it comes to properly filing home-insurance claims. Walk room to room with a camera or pen and paper and document furniture, electronics, collectibles, clothes and other items of value. Estimate the replacement value for each and check that you have adequate insurance. Save the list and the photos as a digital file and, even if it is rough, send it to another person such as a relative, an accountant or lawyer for safekeeping.
Have records ready. You can't grab your filing cabinet and take it with you in an emergency. But you can grab a binder, such as an accordion folder or a laptop computer. Make sure you have your most important information organized and ready to go in case something happens. Having it organized this way also means that if something happens to you, others will know where to find the information.
Organize your emergency kit. The one thing those horrible images of Hurricane Katrina's devastation taught all of us is that you may need to survive on your own after an emergency — for at least a week. You could have to live without running water, gas, electricity, sewage treatment and telephones, which means you need to have your own nonperishable food items, water and other first-aid supplies at the ready.
The easiest thing to do is buy a ready-made emergency kit. But if you want to put one together by yourself, be sure to set aside a gallon of water per person per day, canned food, cash and a first-aid kit in a waterproof box. Make sure you have enough of each of these things to last each person in the house five days.