Living in Florida has given my family and me an immense appreciation for the power of nature. If there’s one area of the US that experiences natural disasters on a regular basis, it’s Florida – we get flooding, hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, wildfires and a lot more.
Not long after we moved to Florida, my wife and I sat down to discuss emergency preparation and planning. While Florida’s a great place to live, you have to be prepared or your family might suffer the consequences. We weren’t willing to risk that. After all, as Denis Waitley said, “Expect the worst, plan for the best and prepare to be surprised.”
Checking Our Documents
Believe it or not, one of the most important parts of home disaster planning is making sure that you have all the paperwork you need. I didn’t waste any time in double-checking to make sure all of our papers were in order and that we had extra copies of the most important ones.
I made sure that:
- Both my and my wife’s driver’s licenses were up to date (they had several years left before they expired, since we’d just renewed them after the move)
- We had two copies of birth certificates for everyone (mine, my wife’s and both my boys’ birth certificates)
- We had all our insurance papers in order and copied twice
My wife suggested that we put one copy of everything in a waterproof container and put it someplace safe. Before we put all the papers away though, I had to go through and make sure that the insurance coverage was enough. Sometimes you think you have enough coverage, but it might not actually pan out that way.
Once we had all of our important papers copied and stored away (and made sure the boys knew where they were), we started making a list of important contact numbers. We definitely included my parents’ number, as well as my wife’s parents.
Just for good measure, we included our homeowners insurance hotline number and the direct line to the hospital and the local police (911 is great, but I felt we needed a few more numbers just to be sure – and to satisfy my neurotic nature).
Our Disaster Plan
More important than anything was our disaster plan. We had both the boys help in creating the plan, since I felt that they would remember it better by doing, instead of just watching. We started out asking questions and then fleshing out the plan with some answers.
My wife and I decided that the most important things for our plan were:
- Where to go if we all got separated so we could meet up
- Emergency cell phones for everyone (we bought disposable phones for the kids)
- A list of our evacuation procedures (Florida does a great job of posting procedures online)
- A map with the main evacuation route highlighted and an alternative route outlined as well
- Emergency survival kits (we opted for one big kit for the house and one for each vehicle)
Of all of these things, it seemed like the home survival kit list, and those for the cars, took the longest to set up. We bought waterproof containers for all the kits (even the ones going into the cars). We also thought long and hard about what to keep in each kit. Finally, we decided on:
- At least one flashlight
- Spare batteries
- Several gallons of fresh water
- Canned food and energy bars (with a can opener)
- Flares, candles and matches
- First aid kit
- Battery-operated radio
- Spare cash
- Extra clothing
- Copies of our paperwork/documents/insurance cards
Once the kits were prepared, we stored the largest one in the house and made sure the kids knew where it was and what was in it. We also take time every month to run through an emergency drill in the house, just to make sure that the boys keep everything fresh in their minds.
We haven’t had to use any of our kits yet, thankfully, but I’m sure the time is coming. I’m pretty happy knowing that we’ll be prepared if, or when, disaster strikes our home.
About the Author
Duncan Morrison has survived more than 40 years of severe winters, a tsunami evacuation, a plane crash and a tornado. This has given him considerable experience in assessing the threat for disaster and planning for survival. Duncan likes to provide his readers with vital information about survival planning and emergency preparedness, including the importance of maintaining an auto emergency kit, as well as home disaster kits. When Duncan has “down time”, he enjoys spending it with family and friends, working out and playing with his dog, Sammy.