The impact of climate change is being felt by families across the country as disasters grow larger and occur more often. To get ready for these intense weather events, the American Red Cross is urging families to make readiness a priority this September during National Preparedness Month.
For the past several years, the country has experienced more intense storms, heavier rain, higher temperatures, severe droughts and record-setting hurricanes and wildfires. Some of these emergencies are impacting people who don’t usually experience a major disaster, while other communities are going through the devastation of disasters multiple times a year.
Last year, extreme weather events created the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters to strike the U.S. Now in 2021, extreme drought conditions helped wildfires start earlier than normal, and more than 4.6 million acres have already been consumed — that’s nearly a million acres higher than this time last year. Meteorologists are also predicting another above-average hurricane season.
“Helping people affected by disasters has been at the heart of the Red Cross mission since our founding. In light of what we are seeing now, it is clear that climate change is a serious and devastating threat for the 21st century,” said Jennifer Pipa, vice president, Disaster Cycle Services for the Red Cross. “Disasters can happen anywhere, anytime. It’s urgent that everyone take steps to get prepared now.”
Help keep your family safe during disasters by taking three simple actions: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.
First, build an emergency kit with a gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for infants or pets, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.
Next, plan what to do in case family members are separated during an emergency, and what to do in case of evacuation. Coordinate the plan with your child’s school, your work and your community’s emergency plans. Don’t forget to include your pets. Remember, if you and your family need to evacuate, so does your pet. Plan in advance to know which pet-friendly hotels are in your area, and where your pets can stay in an emergency situation.
Finally, plan to stay informed by finding out how local officials will make contact during a disaster, and how to get important information, such as evacuation orders.
Being prepared is important for everyone. Depending on a household’s needs, there might be additional considerations to take into account as part of emergency planning.
For example, older adults or people with mobility, hearing, learning or seeing disabilities may need to create a support network of people that can help during an emergency. The Red Cross recommends creating a plan that considers each person’s capabilities, any help they may need and who can provide it. This is especially important if evacuations are called for or if the power goes out for several days.
Disasters can be scary for children. It’s important to talk with kids about preparing for common emergencies, how to stay safe and what to expect before a disaster happens. The Red Cross has free programs and tools to help, visit redcross.org/youthprep for more information.
National Preparedness Month is also a good time to take steps to help the community get prepared for emergencies of all sizes. By volunteering, donating blood or learning lifesaving skills, you can be ready to help your loved ones and neighbors when needed. Visit redcross.org to learn more.
Red Cross volunteers play several critical roles in their local communities, including providing aid after disasters and installing lifesaving smoke alarms. People can also support local military members, veterans and their families, or volunteer as a blood donor ambassador or a blood transportation specialist to be the critical link between blood donors and recipients.
Blood can take up to three days to be tested, processed and made available for patients, so it’s the blood already on the shelves that helps to save lives in an emergency. To help prepare the local community, make an appointment to donate blood or platelets and help save lives.
Learn lifesaving skills to help people in a crisis until medical professionals arrive. Sign up for a first aid, CPR or other classes available online or in-person.
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.