Preparing for disasters is crucial

A tornado warning sounds, and you have to get to safety quickly. An anhydrous ammonia tanker crashes near your home, and you’re told to shelter in place. The power goes out, and you have food in the fridge or livestock fans to run.

September is National Preparedness Month, and it’s a great time to prepare your family and home for various disasters that might come your way.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Extension Disaster Education Network recommend the following:

Be informed

Have a weather alert radio that will provide tornado, flood and other warnings.

Keep your cell phone charged and with you to receive wireless emergency alert texts.

Know what your city or county plans are for disasters that may strike your area.

Design homes for disasters that are more likely to strike your area; for example, landscape to reduce the chances of wildfire or slope yards away from homes so rain flows away.

Build a kit

In case of disaster, emergency responders can’t reach everyone immediately. Every family should be prepared to be on its own for at least three days. Gather these supplies, and store them together:

Water – 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

Food – at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food

Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both

Flashlight and extra batteries

First aid kit

Whistle to signal for help

Dust mask to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Manual can opener for food

Local maps in case you are not familiar with the evacuation route

Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

You also may need to include:

Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications

Books and other activities to keep children and adults busy

Pet food and other supplies


Important family documents such as passports or birth certificates and insurance policies

Any other items that you might need to be in your home on

your own for three days. See a list of possibilities at (

Make a plan

Talk to your family about what you would do in case of disaster, and write out that plan.

Home fire – Make sure each family member knows how to escape from every room, and agree on a place to meet.

Tornado warning – If you don’t have a basement or safe room, prepare a space without windows in the lowest level of your home.

Meeting places – If your family members are scattered when disaster strikes, agree on a place to meet because you may not be able to contact each other.

Out-of-state contact – Because calling or texting far away often is easier than locally after a disaster, agree on an out-of-state contact everyone should check in with.

Important documents – Gather insurance documents, birth certificates, passports, a recent bank statement, wills, recent tax returns and other important documents, and store them in a waterproof and fireproof container.

Pets – Know where to take your pet if you must evacuate. Disaster shelters will not allow pets because of health and safety regulations.

Being prepared for disasters that may affect your community or home will give you peace of mind and help you cope if a disaster does occur.

To learn more, go to (

(Ellen M. Bjelland is an extension agent in Family and Consumer Science with the Ward County office of the North Dakota State University Extension Service.)