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A Year After Sandy: How to Prepare for a Disaster

The recent PBS NOVA program, 'Megastorm Aftermath,' serves as a reminder that you need to be ready in an emergency. Here's how.

By Caroline Mayer

With the one-year anniversary of Megastorm Sandy approaching, PBS recently aired "NOVA's Megastorm Aftermath," a fascinating look at what cities, companies and residents have done since Sandy to be better prepared for the next megastorm. (Click here to watch the program online.)
(MORE: How to Reach Loved Ones in an Emergency)

Sandy’s anniversary is a useful reminder for everyone to be sure they’re prepared in case of a disaster.

After my experience dealing with a massive storm I became a convert to emergency preparedness. And I think you should be one, too.

I built an emergency preparedness kit, thanks to useful advice I found on the sites of the Red Cross and, part of the government’s campaign to educate Americans on how to brace for and respond to emergencies.

First Step in Disaster Prep

The first step: “Sit down, figure out your needs, then find what resources may be provided by your local community,” says Tom Heneghan, preparedness manager for the American Red Cross.

Think about the rest of your family, too, particularly if your parents or kids live miles away. “A lot can be done on the Internet," Heneghan says. You can sign up for weather or emergency-management alerts in your area or where other family members live. "Then, the next time you visit your parents, for example, go to their neighbors and exchange contact information,” Heneghan says.

(MORE: A Boomer Guide to Proper Insurance)

What Belongs in a Disaster Prep Kit

Here's what advises you store in a disaster prep kit:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day, for at least three days).
  • Non-perishable food that will last at least three days, per person.
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
  • A flashlight — and extra batteries.
  • A first-aid kit.
  • A whistle, to signal for help.
  • Dust masks, to help filter contaminated air.
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows, doors and air vents and protect you from debris and contaminants in the air.
  • Moist towelettes.
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
  • A manual can opener.
  • Local maps.
  • Cell phone with chargers or solar chargers.
  • Prescription medicines to last at least a week and eyeglasses (if needed).
  • Pet food.

Also, if you're taking care of any children, make sure to include entertainment items to keep them occupied, like games, cards, crayons and coloring books.

Review your supplies periodically to be sure you have what you need and to replace any products about to expire.

You can also buy ready-made kits for $100 or so.

Keep the kit in a designated place in your home, where it will be easy to grab if you have to scoot. And be sure all your family members know where the kit is, so any of them can take it to a safer location.

Caroline Mayer is a consumer reporter who spent 25 years working for The Washington Post, covering such issues as product safety, scams, and credit cards. Mayer has received several awards, including the Betty Furness Consumer Media Service Award. She has written for Consumer Reports, CBS MoneyWatch, Ladies Home Journal, Kaiser Health News and others. Follow her on Twitter @consumermayer Read More
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