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Tips and Tools to Increase Your RQ


Be Aware of your Local Government’s Emergency or Disaster Plan

One of the important first steps in preparedness is to familiarize yourself with your local community or state emergency/disaster plan.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other state and local government agencies are working hard to protect and prepare our nation for emergencies. The from the Department of Homeland Security makes it easy to find resources and information on plans and preparedness in your state.

Your neighborhood library is also an excellent resource. The reference section usually has a copy of your city and state plan, or library staff can help you locate it.

State Offices and Agencies of Emergency Management are a great resource and have easy links to find plans.

In addition, many states have developed plans for a specific response to a Pandemic Flu outbreak. View your state's Pandemic Flu plan and make sure you know what to do.

Know How to Find the Emergency Broadcast Channel on the Radio

This is a test. This is a test of the Emergency Alert System. This is only a test…”

Chances are you’ve heard this message on the radio or seen it on your television.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio services and direct broadcast satellite services to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a National emergency.  The system is also used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information such as weather or emergency alerts targeted to a specific area. 

You may want to familiarize yourself with your state’s Emergency Alert System plan by contacting your state’s emergency office here.

The National Weather Service at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has a site that links to information regarding weather warning and watches, including warnings by state. It’s worth checking out.

Look and Listen for Messages That Encourage Preparedness

You’ll find information on the Web that can help you learn more about what you need to do to be prepared for emergencies.

Whether you are looking for specific information about what to do in your city, county or state, or something more broad like what should be in a “Go” kit, these sits are good places to start:

Many major cities, including Boston, Denver, Harris County, TX, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego County, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have information on preparedness on their websites.  These cities have also created special public service announcements and public education efforts to encourage people to prepare.

At the national level, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with The Advertising Council, has sponsored public service advertisements that educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all kinds of emergencies.

The campaign – which includes radio, television and print efforts – asks individuals to do three key things to prepare for the unexpected: get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan, and be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses. You can view the ads in English or Spanish here.

Prepare a Disaster Supply Kit

When you put together a disaster supply kit, think first about the basics of survival: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth. So every emergency supply kit – such as this one from the American Red Cross – should include (among other items):

  • A 3-day supply of water
  • Food
  • Medications and special items
  • Tools and supplies
  • Sanitation
  • Clothing and bedding
  • Emergency car kit
  • Important family documents
  • First aid kit

The American Red Cross has a variety of emergency preparedness kits that can be purchased online, or you can consult the site for what should be in a kit that you make yourself. For example, you can get emergency radios that are powered by hand-cranking (no batteries required) and can charge your cell phone.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has also comprised a  list of additional items to consider adding to an emergency supply kit including:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help;
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps

How to Be Prepared for a Pandemic

With the continued risk of pandemic flu, officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have also come up with a checklist of items for pandemic flu preparation. You’ll learn how to:

  • Plan for a pandemic
  • Limit the spread of germs and prevent infection
  • Have items on hand for an extended stay at home

Prepare a “Go” Kit

Emergencies can strike at any time. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a “Go” kit to keep in your car or office.  It contains supplies that you can take with you in a bag or backpack.

Your “Go” kit should include some food and water to get you from emergency to safety and some of the comforts from home, like a toothbrush. Customize your “Go” kit based on your own personal needs, but every good “Go” kit should include:

  • Battery powered flashlight
  • Battery powered radio
  • Blanket
  • Work gloves
  • Plastic work goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Rain poncho
  • Whistle
  • First aid kit

Create a family Communications Plan

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes.

  • If you’re at work and your children are at school, where will you meet?
  • Talk with your family and make a plan now.
  • Who is the point of contact?
  • How will you communicate?
  • How will you take care of your pets?

These are just a few of the important questions that must be addressed in a plan. Making sure that your family has a plan in case of an emergency is critical to effective preparedness. Creating a plan is surprisingly easy, thanks to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready campaign.

The Ready web site even includes a downloadable Family Emergency Plan. Sit down with your family to complete the form, store it in a safe place, and make sure everyone knows where it is. It also includes wallet-sized cards that each family member can carry.

Here’s a tip: Commit a weekend to updating telephone numbers, buying emergency supplies and reviewing your emergency plan with everyone.

Establish A Specific Meeting Place

A predetermined meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion if your home is affected or your neighborhood is evacuated. Have you decided on a meeting place? Does everyone in your family know where it is?  Be sure to include pets in your plan. You should know that pets are not permitted in emergency family shelters, and some hotels will not accept them.

Have you held an emergency drill and had everybody meet in your selected place?

Store vital information in the next of kin registry now – before the need arises.

You should also be aware of the Next Of Kin Registry (NOKR) – a free tool for daily emergencies and national disasters. NOKR is an emergency contact system to help if you or your family member is missing, injured or deceased. NOKR provides the public a free registration service. Information you provide is kept in a secure archive. You can store emergency contacts, next of kin and vital medical information that would be critical to emergency response agencies.

NOKR does not permit sharing information for 3rd party distribution or for personal gain. NOKR is a public service tool for both citizens and emergency agencies.  NOKR is a facilitation tool for those who cannot speak directly to emergency personal. When you store your minimal contact information, the only viewer of this information would be that of emergency services.

Practice Or Drill On What To Do In An Emergency

The old saying is true: Practice makes perfect. And although no one can ever be perfectly prepared... practicing or performing emergency drills is very important. Most schools require all students to participate in fire drills... every family should have emergency drills as well. Look for ways to make emergency drills and enjoyable family activity and avoid scaring your children or making them worry unnecessarily. An excellent resource for information on how to prepare children for emergencies is the FEMA web site.

Volunteer and Get Trained to Help During Emergencies

When you volunteer before, during and/or after an emergency you learn important skills and procedures.  The strengths you gain also make your community stronger and better prepared to handle emergencies effectively. The American Red Cross should be your first stop when your’ looking for local emergency preparedness opportunities

In addition, you can get involved with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps.  The mission of Citizen Corps is to harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues and disasters of all kinds.  The Citizen Corps mission is accomplished through a national network of state, local and tribal Citizen Corps Councils. Click here for more information.

To explore even more volunteer options and opportunities, check out Network for Good, Volunteer Match, Volunteers of America and USA Freedom Corps.

Learn First Aid

First aid training gives you competence and confidence to respond in an emergency situation with skills that can save a life. Red Cross training offers complete, flexible programs that help you, your family and your community stay prepared for virtually any life-threatening situation.

If you haven’t taken a first aid class in the past five years, it’s time to do it! Training includes

  • CPR
  • First Aid
  • How to use an automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • Injury prevention courses
  • Blood borne pathogens training
  • Community disaster education

Contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information.

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