In a disaster, first responders will be overwhelmed, and we each need to plan ahead to save ourselves and our families.

Talk about it. Talk with your family about potential disasters and why it’s necessary to prepare for them. Involve each member of your family in the planning process. By showing them simple steps that can increase their safety, you can help reduce their anxiety about emergencies. Also, consider creating emergency response cards for each of your family members.

Locate utilities. Locate the propane gas main, water shutoff and other utilities and make sure family members know when and how to turn them off.

Identify escape routes. Determine the two best escape routes from your home, in case one is blocked, and plan to go to safety on foot.

Pick a meeting spot. Plan where to meet after a disaster if your home becomes unsafe. Choose two places, one in the neighborhood outside your home and one outside your neighborhood in case you are told to evacuate.

Choose a contact. Make sure each member knows who your family’s out-of-state contact is, and instruct them to call this person and tell him/her where they are. Or, carry the information on a weatherproof paper at all times.

Practice. Practice your evacuation routes, Drop, Cover and Hold and Stop, Drop and Roll drills.

Account for special needs. Take into account the special needs of children, seniors, people with disabilities, family members who don’t speak English and pets.

Prepare kits. Have an under-bed kit for each family member. Prepare shelter-in-place supplies and GoBags, and make sure everyone knows where to find them.

Get a radio.Consider having an all-channels emergency radio, like the popular Eton 300 or Eton 400 models, with a supply of batteries, so you can get AM and FM radio and TV audio. Or, obtain a radio that is crank-driven or solar charged.

Be a ham.Consider joining our local amateur “ham” radio operators group. You will gain another communication tool in a disaster, and can become part of the emergency response network.

Gas up. Be sure your gas tank is always at least half full. But in an emergency, quickly evaluate: can the vehicle be driven? Will it help, or end up being abandoned in the way of emergency rescue efforts?

Get a fire extinguisher. Teach each member of your family how to use a fire extinguisher, and memorize where they are in your home. When you need them, it may be dark and wet or dusty.

For more information, visit or download Your Family Disaster Plan.