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Educational Consumer Tips

Before and After Disasters – Be Prepared

Author: Rachel Gelb
Category: Natural Disasters

Emergency preparedness is not just the concern of people on the west coast who have earthquakes, those who live in “Tornado Alley” or Gulf Coast residents who experience hurricanes. Most communities may be affected by several types of catastrophes during a lifetime. Therefore, knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.

Some of the basic protective actions are similar for multiple disasters. For example, safety is necessary when experiencing all hazards. Depending on the specific emergency, this could include plans for sheltering or evacuating. Developing a family communication plan or making an emergency supply kit are the same for most emergencies, natural disasters and terrorism. However, there are important differences among potential emergencies that should influence the decisions you make and the actions you take. Your Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests having a basic emergency kit with the following essentials in case of a disaster:

Emergency Documents Packet:

Social Security card

Birth certificate


Any other official, hard-to-replace documents

Contact information: Both your contact information and your emergency contacts' info. This includes your nearest relatives, your will executor(s), and employers.

Will and medical directives: Add a copy of your will/living trust and medical letter of instructions (keep the originals with your legal representative). You can upload a PDF file to Google Docs for this purpose.

Insurance: Homeowners, auto, medical, life, disability, and other insurance agents/brokers contact info and policy numbers

Financial accounts: Bank, investment, and credit card/loan accounts information, including institution names, phone numbers, and account numbers

Health records: Immunization records, allergies, dietary restrictions, medications, medical/surgical treatmentsPet information: Description of each pet, vet contact information, and any important medical notes

Property: Car information, home purchase papers/deeds, and other home inventory items.


Water and food for three days. (One gallon per person per day.)


A manual can opener

First aid kit

Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to provide protection from the outdoor elements

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal hygiene purposesWrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Local maps

Small battery-operated radio with extra batteries or an emergency crank combination radio, flashlight, and clock device

BBB recommends using FEMA’s website at to learn about the potential emergencies that could occur where you live and the appropriate ways to respond to them. When you know what to do, you can plan and prepare in advance to be ready. The FEMA website provides information about how to protect your household and begin recovery following the initial disaster.

Familiarize yourself with the signs of events that come without warning and know the local advance alerts and warnings and how you will receive them. Knowing about the local emergency plans for shelter and evacuation, local emergency contacts, the locations frequented by members of your household and the specific needs of household members including animals will help you reduce the impact of disasters. It may also save lives and prevent injuries during a crisis.

Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crisis also brings out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit

About the Author: Rachel Gelb is Communications and Marketing Manager for BBB serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. Find Rachel on Google +.

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