Disasters Don't Wait: 7 Steps to Get Prepared

Published on September 04, 2020

It's a situation everyone has experienced: The media and public safety agencies warn of an impending storm, chance of power outages, and loss of service weeks ahead of time. But you find yourself scrambling at the last minute for batteries, water, and ideas to keep your family entertained. Disasters don't plan ahead — even during a pandemic — but you can.

National Preparedness Month (NPM) each September promotes family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. As our nation continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better time to get involved.

1. Be Informed

Sign up for emergency notifications at ArlingtonAlert.com. You can get alerts about severe weather, major road closures, and emergency incidents to your phone, email, home, or work with this free County service. Already subscribed? Log in and verify your information is up to date. And make sure you follow Ready Arlington on Twitter and Facebook.

2. Make a Plan

Discuss and practice your emergency plan with every family member — even children! Identify two meetings points for your family, one right outside your home and one in your community, such as a library, community center or place of worship. Text and use social media if you are able. Make sure your children know who is allowed to pick them up from school if there is an emergency. Establish how you will get in touch with your family if there is no phone service or Internet. Check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest guidance on COVID-19.

3. Build a Kit

Collect the supplies you'll need ahead of time. Your kit should include enough water and nonperishable food per person for at least three days. This year make sure to include COVID-19 safety supplies like face coverings, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Other items: a NOAA Weather Radio, flashlight, batteries, first aid supplies, a whistle, local maps, moist towelettes, garbage bags and ties, cash, games and kids' activities, and copies of your insurance cards, bank accounts, ID, and other important documents. Also consider whether you'll need medication, glasses or contacts, infant formula and diapers, or personal hygiene items.

4. Establish Communication

Make sure you have key information easily accessible, including names and phone numbers of family members, friends, places (work, school, doctors), and services (power, gas, water, cable, etc.). Create an In Case of Emergency (ICE) contact card for each family member and identify an out-of-area contact person in case local phone calls aren't going through.

5. Plan for Evacuation

If you are told to evacuate, be prepared to do so. Staying in your home during a disaster puts you and first responders at risk. Designate a meeting spot in case you get separated from your family during evacuation. Take your emergency kit with you. If you have time, secure your home, close and lock all windows and doors, unplug appliances, and turn off utilities.

6. Prepare Your Pets

Don't forget to make an emergency plan for your pets. Get current ID tags on your pet's collar, make sure any microchip data is updated, and keep a recent picture with you. Create a go bag with medications, medical records, vaccination history, a leash or carrier, food and water, baggies, litter and cleaning supplies, and small toys. If you must shelter in place, plan to have a two-week supply of food and water on hand. Check to see if the Animal Welfare League of Arlington has opened its pet shelter.

7. Get Involved

Join the Community Emergency Response Team to help your community prepare for and respond to an emergency. Individuals are trained by professional responders to support Arlington emergency management and public safety agencies to assist the community before, during and after an emergency. Not ready for an ongoing volunteer commitment? Visit Volunteer Arlington for short-term opportunities.

Learn more about how to prepare for an emergency