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National Preparedness Month 2012


Updated February 28, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Family Emergency Plan

Family Emergency Plan

Photo courtesy of FEMA

National Preparedness Month:

Every September is National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It's a time when more than 3,000 organizations, including the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, encourage everyone to learn how to best prepare for emergencies.

Would you be ready if there were an emergency today? From a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado, to a blackout or fire, make sure you have emergency supplies and a family emergency plan.

National Preparedness Month 2012:

National Preparedness Month has been observed for nine years now.

The focus of this year's National Preparedness Month is building a community approach to emergency management, "from Federal, State, local, and tribal governments to the private sector, nonprofits, faith based organizations, and the general public."

That means that we all have a role to play in:

  • learning more about the risks facing your community
  • finding out what you can do to prepare for an emergency
  • joining thousands of individuals from coast to coast in becoming a member of the National Preparedness Coalition

Preparing for an Emergency

One key to preparing for an emergency is understanding that an emergency can happen at any time. You generally can't expect to have advance notice, like when a hurricane is heading towards your area. Many disasters, like earthquakes and tornadoes, strike without warning.

If a disaster strikes, will you be prepared?

Do you know how you would contact all members of your family, and where you will all go to be safe? In addition to putting together an emergency supply kit, it is important to create a family emergency plan, with information like:

  • a neighborhood meeting place
  • an out-of-neighborhood meeting place
  • an out-of-town meeting place
  • names and locations where each family member can typically be found
  • emergency contacts
  • important medical history

You should also make sure your child's school, and other places where he spends time, have emergency plans.

Disaster Supplies Kit

A disaster supplies kit is much more than a first aid kit. A basic disaster supplies kit should include all items that your family might need to survive on your own for at least 72 hours, such as:

  • food - a three-day supply of non-perishable food, which might include ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal, peanut butter, nuts, non-perishable pasteurized milk, salt-free crackers, etc.
  • water - three gallons of water per person (one gallon per person per day)
  • prescription medications and important documents, such as immunization records, personal medical histories, etc.
  • infant formula, baby food, diapers, etc.
  • a sleeping bag or warm blankets for each family member and a complete change of clothing
  • matches in a fireproof container and a fire extinguisher
  • a can opener, paper plates, cups, plastic utensils, paper towels, etc.
  • personal hygiene items
  • a flashlight, NOAA weather radio, hand crank radio, and extra batteries
  • a dust mask, plastic sheeting, and duct tape in case you need to shelter-in-place
  • personal sanitation supplies, including garbage bags and moist towelettes
  • a wrench and pliers so that you can turn off the utilities in your home
  • local maps
  • paper and a pencil
  • household chlorine bleach (unscented), which can be used to make a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach) or to treat water (16 drops of bleach per gallon of water).
  • activities for your kids
  • a whistle to signal for help

In addition to the above supplies, you should add a first aid kit to your basic disaster supplies kit.

Helping Kids Get Prepared

Once you have your family emergency plan and disaster supplies kit, it is important to also make sure your kids are prepared for any unexpected event that might strike your community. And, yes, it's possible to prepare your kids without also scaring them, especially if you use these resources from Ready Kids:

FEMA also provides parents and teachers with a list of other resources to help your kids get prepared for, and cope with, emergencies and disasters.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also provides Family Readiness Kits to help families get prepared for most kinds of disaster.


Presidential Proclamation -- National Preparedness Month, 2012. Accessed September 2012.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information to Get Ready. FEMA R-3 / Catalog No. 09077-1.

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