Are You Prepared for The Next Disaster?
There are real benefits to being prepared.
• Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany
disasters. Communities, families, and individuals should know what to do in
the event of a fire and where to seek shelter during a tornado. They should
be ready to evacuate their homes and take refuge in public shelters and know
how to care for their basic medical needs.
• People also can reduce the impact of disasters (flood proofing,
elevating a home or moving a home out of harm’s way, and securing items that
could shake loose in an earthquake) and sometimes avoid the danger
completely. The need to prepare is real.
• Disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Each
disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property.
• If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and
disaster-relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be ready
as well. Local responders may not be able to reach you immediately, or they
may need to focus their efforts elsewhere.
• You should know how to respond to severe weather or any disaster that
could occur in your area—hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme cold, flooding, or
• You should also be ready to be self-sufficient for at least three days.
This may mean providing for your own shelter, first aid, food, water, and
Using this guide makes preparation practical.
• This guide was developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),
which is the agency responsible for responding to national disasters and for
helping state and local governments and individuals prepare for emergencies.
It contains step-by-step advice on how to prepare for, respond to, and
recover from disasters.
• Used in conjunction with information and instructions from local
emergency management offices and the American Red Cross, this
guide will give you what you need to be prepared.
The main reason to use this guide is to help protect yourself and your
family in the event of an emergency. Through applying what you have learned
in this guide, you are taking the necessary steps to be ready when an event
occurs. Every citizen in this country is part of a national emergency
management system that is all about protection–protecting people and
property from all types of hazards. Think of the national emergency
management system as a pyramid with you, the citizen, forming the base of
the structure. At this level, you have a responsibility
to protect yourself and your family by knowing what to do before, during,
and after an event. Some examples of what you can do follow:
• Know the risks and danger signs.
• Purchase insurance, including flood insurance, which is not part of
your homeowner’s policy.
• Develop plans for what to do.
• Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
• Volunteer to help others.
• Put your plan into action.
• Help others.
• Follow the advice and guidance of officials in charge of the event.
• Repair damaged property.
• Take steps to prevent or reduce future loss.
You will learn more about these and other actions you should take as you
progress through this guide. It is sometimes necessary to turn to others
within the local community for help. The local level is the second tier of
the pyramid, and is made up of paid employees and volunteers from the
private and public sectors. These individuals are engaged in preventing
emergencies from happening and in being prepared to respond if something
does occur. Most emergencies are handled at the local level, which puts a
tremendous responsibility on the community for taking care of its citizens.
Among the responsibilities faced by local officials are:
• Identifying hazards and assessing potential risk to the community.
• Enforcing building codes, zoning ordinances, and land-use management
• Coordinating emergency plans to ensure a quick and effective response.
• Fighting fires and responding to hazardous materials incidents.
• Establishing warning systems.
• Stocking emergency supplies and
• Assessing damage and identifying needs.
• Evacuating the community to safer locations.
• Taking care of the injured.
• Sheltering those who cannot remain in their homes.
• Aiding recovery efforts.
If support and resources are needed beyond what the local level can
provide, the community can request assistance from the state. The state may
be able to provide supplemental resources such as money, equipment, and
personnel to close the gap between what is needed and what is available at
the local level. The state also coordinates the plans of the various
jurisdictions so that activities do not interfere or conflict with each
other. To ensure personnel know what to do and efforts are in agreement, the
state may offer a program that provides jurisdictions the opportunity to
train and exercise together. At the top of the pyramid is the federal
government, which can provide resources to augment state and local efforts.
These resources can be in the form of:
• Public educational materials, such as this guide, that can be used to
prepare the public for protecting itself from hazards.
• Financial grants for equipment, training, exercises, personnel, and
• Grants and loans to help communities respond to and recover from
disasters so severe that the President of the United States has deemed them
beyond state and local capabilities.
• Research findings that can help reduce losses from disaster.
• Technical assistance to help build stronger programs.
The national emergency management system is built on shared
responsibilities and active participation at all levels of the pyramid. The
whole system begins with you, the citizen, and your ability to follow good
emergency management practices— whether at home, work, or other locations.
Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness is
organized to help you through the process. Begin by reading Part 1 which is
the core of the guide. This part provides basic information that is common
to all hazards on how to create and maintain an emergency plan and disaster
Part 1: Basic Preparedness
• A series of worksheets to help you obtain information from the
community that will form the foundation of your plan. You will need to find
out about hazards that threaten the community, how the population will be
warned, evacuation routes to be used in times of disaster, and the emergency
plans of the community and others that will impact your plan.
• Guidance on specific content that you and your family will need to
develop and include in your plan on how to escape from your residence,
communicate with one another during times of disaster, shut-off household
utilities, insure against financial loss, acquire basic safety skills,
address special needs such as disabilities, take care of animals, and seek
• Checklists of items to consider including in your disaster supplies kit
that will meet your family’s needs following a disaster whether you are at
home or at other locations. Part 1 is also the gateway to the specific
hazards and recovery information contained in Parts 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Information from these sections should be read carefully and integrated in
your emergency plan and disaster supplies kit based on the hazards that pose
a threat to you and your family.
Part 2: Natural Hazards
• Thunderstorms and lightning
• Winter storms and extreme cold
• Extreme heat • Earthquakes
• Landslides and debris flow
Part 3:Technological Hazards
• Hazardous materials incidents
• Household chemical emergencies
• Nuclear power plant emergencies
• Biological threats
• Chemical threats
• Nuclear blasts
• Radiological dispersion device events
Part 5: Recovering from Disaster
• Health and safety guidelines
• Returning home
• Seeking disaster assistance
• Coping with disaster
• Helping others