Disasters don't plan ahead but you can

September 11, 2018 Swedish Blogger


  • Schedule a family meeting to discuss preparations.
  • Gather survival supplies.
  • Practice your emergency plan.

September is National Preparedness Month. While Washington’s natural beauty generally conjures tranquil images of majestic mountains, crystalline lakes and abundant evergreens, a number of potential disasters lurk behind this peaceful facade.

The large wildfire threats throughout Washington state in the summer of 2018 triggered evacuations and led the governor to declare a state of emergency for all 39 counties. And the Northwest region has seen its share of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, landslides, floods and powerful storms. While it may seem challenging to plan for such unwelcome disasters, disaster preparedness experts generally agree that the best way to prepare is to plan ahead.

For guidance on how to become ‘Red Cross Ready’, you can develop and document your plan with this downloadable template from the American Red Cross (ARC).

Schedule a family or household meeting

Set aside some time to get organized and create a disaster readiness plan. Because everyone’s exact needs vary, there is no single solution that will be effective for all.

During your preparedness meeting, topics of discussion might include:
  • What types of disasters might occur locally?
  • Where will your family meet if separated?
  • How will you communicate if phone lines are down?
  • What will you do if the power is out?
  • How will you keep up-to-date on information from authorities?
  • Where are the nearest shelter(s)?
  • Are there multiple routes to the shelter or emergency health care, if roads are closed?
  • What other community resources might be available to help?
  • Do any family members have special needs (dietary, prescription medications, mobility restrictions, sensory issues, etc.) that might be of additional concern?

It is important to designate which family member is responsible for what action during times of disaster. Always give extra consideration to older relatives, young children, ailing family members, or individuals with physical disabilities or other special needs. If you live alone or need an extra hand, consider reaching out to neighbors and asking for assistance.

Gather emergency supplies

Envision what your family would need if cut off from electricity, water service, and medical aid. At a minimum, the ARC recommends having a 3-day supply of water and food on hand for evacuation situations, and a 2-week supply for sheltering in your home. Be sure to review detailed ARC recommendations for essential survival kit items, and/or to order a manufactured, ARC-approved kit.

Swedish has donated kits developed by American Preparedness, a veteran-owned business based in Seattle, to community health organizations and homebound seniors. Read the Swedish Community Benefit Report for 2017 to learn how Swedish reinvests in its communities.

Some basics for your preparedness kit include:
  • Water (one gallon per person, per day)
  • Easy-to-prepare non-perishable foods
  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Radio
  • Back-up power supplies
  • Personal hygiene and toiletry items
  • Extra eyeglasses/contacts
  • Baby supplies (formula, diapers)
  • Games and/or comfort objects for children
  • Pet supplies
  • Emergency contact information
  • Copies of important documents
  • Cash

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides a helpful list that includes a variety of items specific to families with kids.

You might also consider preparing a mini survival kit to store in the car, since you could be anywhere when disaster occurs. Include extra clothing and blankets, along with a good pair of walking shoes.

If you need to go to a shelter, plan to bring bedding and supplies with you – including medications and medical equipment. Note that you can often still make use of a shelter’s resources (i.e. first aid, prescription refill assistance, mental health services) even if you aren’t staying at one.

Practice your plan

Once your emergency plan is developed and your survival kit is assembled, your family can avoid panic during a disaster by practicing plans in advance.

This is also immensely helpful to troubleshoot potential issues that might arise, such as: learning how to safely use the camping stove, finding exit route hazards for maneuvering a wheelchair smoothly, test driving multiple routes to the nearest ARC shelter, or confirming that your hand-crank radio actually gets a signal so you can receive important updates from authorities.

Take a Heartsaver First Aid, CPR and AED class at Swedish and learn to save the life of an adult, child, or infant using first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) techniques.

For additional disaster preparedness information, visit the American Red Cross, US Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Washington State Department of Health.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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