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Memories and visual reminders of Hurricane Ike’s impact in September 2008 are still plentiful throughout Gulf Coast region. The one bittersweet benefit of having experienced such a devastating disaster is knowing through hindsight which problems could have been lessened or prevented with better planning.

Now that hurricane season is back, millions of area residents must once again focus on the three necessary steps of disaster planning —1) Make a plan; 2) Build a kit; and 3) Stay informed. Disasters of any kind can occur at any moment, so taking the three steps should be an immediate priority for residents.

Stay Informed

During an actual emergency, your best source for information during a disaster will be News 92 FM (92.1 FM) on the air, on the live stream via the app and the website. Try to maintain constant access to some form of up-to-the-minute news — whether you have a battery-run radio, a vehicle radio, or the Internet.

Make a Plan

A good preparedness plan gets you ready for virtually any disaster. Such a plan compels you to decide what is absolutely essential to the wellbeing and safety of your loved ones, pets and yourself once a disaster hits. Make sure the plan accounts for the whereabouts of every family member, wherever they are. In case your home is affected by the disaster, designate a place away from home where your family will gather — such as a park or a neighbor’s yard — any site that’s easy to reach and easy to remember. You’ll also need a back-up meeting place farther away — possibly in another community or another town — in case the devastation ruins your original meeting place.

If you must shelter in place, your home kit should include duct tape and plastic sheeting for making your home airtight.

Write a list of important phone numbers you might need such as your hospital and your children’s schools. The phone list should also include one out-of-town contact person that everyone in your family should be instructed to check in with in case of an emergency. After a disaster, local phone lines are usually jammed and it’s often easier to make a long-distance call — so your out-of-town contact could be the key to keeping the whole family in touch. And remember, dialing 911 is still the best way to reach emergency response authorities if you need immediate help.

If you have children in school, do not rush to the school or schools to bring the children home.  Schools are required to have a disaster response plan in place, and parental interference can disrupt it. First, make time to learn the details of the schools’ preparation plans and specifically how they will communicate with you in a disaster.  If you’re likely to be at work during a disaster, find out if your company is ready for disasters and how it plans to protect employees. If no such plan exists, urge your company to create one.

Build a Kit

Having a workable plan can spare you from last-minute worry and chaos. But to actually be ready, you need supplies.

  • Start with gathering enough water and non-perishable packaged and canned food to last five to seven days.
  • You will need one gallon of water per person per day and of course a manual can opener.
  • Beyond food and water, you should have medications, toiletries, insect repellent, a radio, at least one flashlight, batteries and extra clothing. It’s best to have a kit for each family member — but these kits can be built and added to gradually. You’ll probably need to build a separate kit for your pets.

Keep your disaster kits in an easily accessible place in your home and make sure all family members know where to find them.

In case you’re not home when a disaster hits your area, it’s necessary to have a portable disaster kit.

Your portable kit should include:

  • a flashlight
  • extra batteries
  • booster cables
  • a tire repair kit and pump
  • a fire extinguisher,
  • a blanket
  • a first aid kit
  • bottled water
  • nonperishable high-energy foods and maps

In case your home or any of your property is destroyed, you will need to account for your home, your property and your identity. Try to build a packet of vital documents and a video recording of all your home’s contents, and store it with your family’s out-of-town contact for possible insurance purposes later.