Written Family Evacuation Plan and Emergency Kit
You never know when disaster will strike, so it's always better to be safe than sorry. Especially if you live in an area prone to natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, it's essential to have a worst-case scenario plan in place. Questions to ask include: "How will I escape my home?" and "Do you have an emergency contact who lives outside the area?"
Too busy to talk about your emergency plan? "It's hard to take the time and bring everyone together, but pick a time when you are going to be together anyway, and take 15 minutes to begin the process," says Polan. Acknowledging that it's not the most fun family conversation, she suggests broaching the topics often, in small doses, to make sure every family member feels comfortable performing certain emergency-only duties, like hiding in the basement during a tornado. "Periodically, when I'm sitting at dinner with my son, I'll ask, 'Do you know how to do this?' so that it's a more natural part of conversation," she says.
An emergency kit containing cleansing agents, medication, flashlights, whistles, matches, water bottles, nonperishable foods and extra clothing (among many other things) is also essential. "Be aware of any special dietary needs," says Polan. "If a family member has high blood pressure, don't fill your kit with sodium-filled foods." She also recommends making copies of passports and drivers' licenses, and, if you have pets, make sure you have food and any other items that they'll need, too.
For more information, check out the CDC's Family Emergency Checklist.