In our lifetimes, experiencing natural disasters is an inevitable reality. For example, being a native Southern Californian, earthquakes have been a consistent source of stress in my region; especially within the past week. If you have not heard, Southern California experienced two of the largest earthquakes to hit the region in the last twenty years within the course of two days last week; with thousands of aftershocks following in their wake in the days since. So, emergency preparedness has been on everyone’s mind here as the damage caused to the areas most affected is assessed and any future earthquakes are prepared for.
As LIS students and professionals, having the possibility of natural disasters affect our personal and professional lives is always something we need to be mindful of. While you may not be able to plan for absolutely everything that could arise during a natural disaster, there are ways for you to protect yourself, your family, friends, co-workers, and pets so that you all are able to remain safe during these stressful situations. While many places already have emergency protocols established, be they your workplace, your home, or another location, there are other ways you can help yourself and others before a natural disaster occurs to keep damage or harm minimal.
First, when it comes to your home, the first suggestion I can make is to organize an emergency preparedness kit and checklist and maintain them regularly. Also, be sure to attend to any potential hazards around your home/work. Besides the standard first aid and disaster supplies, you should have any important documents already sorted and included in your kit so, when the time comes, you do not have to waste time looking for what you need. FEMA has published an incredibly thorough list of what you should include in your kit, which can be found here. Additionally, you may want to consider drafting a checklist of essential items and purchasing a backup of most, if not all, of the items you include on your list if you can. Since this checklist is up to you, do what best works for you, your family, and your budget. If you are just getting started assembling these things, Ready.gov and the American Red Cross are great resources to review.
Also, from experience, I would also suggest that you invest time now in backing up your coursework and other files to a cloud storage system like iCloud or a USB flash drive if you have not already begun to do so. Since electronics can easily be damaged in a natural disaster and out, you do not want to risk losing your work if you need it for later for academic or work purposes. For the past couple of years, I personally have gotten into the habit of off-loading files into my cloud storage system for safekeeping once I complete and submit my assignments for grading so that I do not run the risk of losing my files by having them stored solely on my laptop. So, if you have not already begun to engage in a similar practice, I would suggest doing that before you run into any issues.
Additionally, you may want to consider centralizing most, if not all, important family items in a pick-up-and-go bag that you keep in a closet or another safe place in your home. While it may not be humanly possible to put absolutely everything that you deem important into one bag, you should at least start to consider what you will need to most protect in the event of an emergency where you have little time to react. Since everyone has different needs, do what works best for you and your family that limits the amount of time you spend considering these ideas during an emergency. On a related note, I would suggest that if you find that there are items in your home you no longer need while compiling your pick-up-and-go bag, then you may want to donate them to disaster relief organizations or efforts so those who have recently experienced natural disasters or emergencies can use them as they begin to recover.
Thirdly, I would suggest that you get certified in administering first aid, CPR, and operating an AED; which is also known as a heart defibrillator. For those in the United States, the American Red Cross offers classes both on-site and online for people to become certified. I have taken the class on-site that certifies people in both adult and pediatric first aid, CPR, and AED operation, so I can attest that it is time well spent if you can fit it into your schedule. For those who cannot fit it in, however, the online option is available.
I recently enrolled in the online option to become re-certified after my initial certification expired earlier this year; so while I cannot evaluate this option from experience, I do know that it is still a great resource because it focuses on the same content that the on-site option covers, just in a different format. If you would like to survey the classes available in your area, you can review the American Red Cross’s website here. This knowledge is highly advantageous to have at work, home, or around town, so I would highly recommend looking into it. Also, be sure to check to see if any local colleges or schools are offering certification courses because they sometimes offer those classes throughout the year in partnership with the American Red Cross.
Now, while at home, work, or around town, another way you can keep yourself and others safe during an emergency or natural disaster is to survey your surroundings and, if applicable, the emergency plan in place where you are. If you are somewhere outside of work or your home and you are unsure about their emergency protocols, look to see if they are posted in or around the area. All else fails, survey the entrances, exits, and possible hiding areas in your surroundings. Are there places you can get to quickly and safely in the event that you need to protect yourself? Are there any obstacles or hazards that could prove harmful in an emergency? Also, make sure that, if you need to leave somewhere quickly, you have all of your belongings together so that you can just pick up and go if needed. Time is essential when it comes to handling an emergency; so it is important that you plan now so you do not need to stress later.
My last suggestion is that you research any emergency preparedness seminars or workshops in your area for more information. Since my background is not in emergency management, I am only speaking from experience and can only provide suggestions based on what I have been taught by the resources I have been graciously able to access over the years. If there is anything I have overlooked, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section.