The threat of an earthquake has loomed over California for years. As a San Francisco Bay Area native, I've experienced more than I can count. After several years of drought, we now can add wildfires to the list of disasters that can strike both Northern California and Southern California regions at any time. The threat of a natural disaster is not unique to California. Flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes - it feels like a week doesn’t go by without one of these natural disasters popping up somewhere in the news.
In part one of this two part series, we reached out to expert first responder Vito Impastato, Battalion Chief of Contra Costa Fire and Rescue, for advice. He says the best way to handle an unexpected emergency is to prepare in advance. Here are five ways he recommends to be prepared for the moment an inevitable emergency occurs.
#1 Have A Basic Emergency Kit Ready To Go
- Food - 3 day supply of non-perishable food
- Water - 3 day supply of one gallon per day per person
- Batter powered radio
- Flashlight (NOT an iPhone!)
- Basic first aid kit
- Dust masks
- Things for hygiene
- Basic tool set or Leatherman
- Cell phone and chargers
- Prescription medication
You can also find a more comprehensive checklist here. Find a night on the calendar and have the entire family participate in creating the kit. In addition to the basics, Vito recommends that you may want to include some things like a board game, playing cards, books, or pet food. You should have several “Go Kits” in different locations of the house and your vehicle.
#2 Stay Out Of Harm’s Way
Once you have escaped the immediate danger, stay out and don’t go back in! No matter how safe you think you may be, it’s not worth risking your life. I asked Vito, as someone who has rescued countless people in life threatening situations, if he had seen common mistakes people make during an emergency. He cautioned, “We've had a number of people perish because they've re-entered their home while it was on fire for basic stuff like a wallet or even a pet. People don't have a plan when an emergency such as a fire takes place, and that's when they get really hurt.” He also advises to keep your important documents backed up in a safe place. In our second part of this series we talk about best practices for document storage.
#3 Pre Plan And Practice Emergency Drills
When an emergency happens or disaster occurs, the first few minutes or even seconds can mean the difference between life or death. Vito says that you should pre plan how you will respond beforehand. “You can pre plan almost all situations. Like the fire department, we train and practice over and over to create muscle memory so that when we actually have to do a task, it comes from muscle memory and not panic or emotion. The same is true for civilians. Plan and then practice. Hit the test button on your smoke alarm and do a drill.”
#4 Have A Designated Meeting Point
Many people think about how they will handle an emergency if they are together in their home. “Something to really think about is what to do when your family is not at home,” urges Vito. “Do you have a pre arranged meeting point? What will be your form of communication if cell service is down? I recommend having a planned meeting point.” If there is a major earthquake and you are at work and the kids are at school, have a designated location where you will meet ASAP.
#5 Active Shooter Situations - “Run, Hide, Fight”
While preparing this article, a neighboring community experienced another form of emergency that is becoming all too familiar in our country. People attending the Gilroy Garlic Festival were targeted in a mass shooting. I asked Vito what advice he could give to those that find themselves in an active shooter situation. “Run, hide, fight. These situations are scary and there is no playbook. Try to keep your wits about you. Run...have an escape route. Leave ALL your personal belongings. Hide...stay out of the shooters view. Block doors and lock them. Silence your phone. Fight...as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.”
Of course, the most important thing to consider in an emergency is your families’ and your own physical safety. In addition, making sure you are financially prepared is critical in helping you get back on your feet. In part two of our series, we’ll list the 6 best ways to get your finances in order...before it’s too late!
If you'd like to learn more about how a financial plan can help prepare you in case of disaster, schedule a call with us or subscribe to receive our blog.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Matheson Financial Partners LLC. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.