7 Ways to Reduce Vulnerability and Prepare for Disaster

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, Floods September 30, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

We are all subjected to various hazards (flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, etc.). Many people want to prepare in advance but are unsure of where to start, receive conflicting information, or are deterred by the cost of some preparedness measures. While some activities can be costly, there are plenty of things you can do that are low cost or even free. Remember, preparedness is a continual process and your personal preparedness can change over time.

Increasing your activities in the following seven areas may help to reduce your vulnerabilities and better prepare you to both respond and recover from disaster.

1. Knowledge

Know the hazards in your area, know your vulnerabilities, and know your risk. Check out this article: 3 Things You Should Know About Flood Events

Know how to find information about the weather and how to protect yourself, family, and property from potential threats. Signing up for Weather Alerts or download other smartphone apps that can provide you with information you may need. The majority of these apps are free and can be downloaded ahead of time for you to use when needed.

Know about the potential risks to your property. For example, do you live in a flood zone? Here is an article about the National Flood Insurance Program and the maps used to determine rates.

Know how to take immediate actions around your home to help minimize a disaster if something begins to occur. For example, make sure everyone in your household knows how to shut off utilities in an emergency.

2. Integration

A widespread and strong social network can be very helpful to you during and after a disaster.  Help yourself before a disaster by identifying those you plan to communicate with during a disaster.

Communicate with your neighbors. Do they have disaster plans? What are they? Do they plan to evacuate in the event of a disaster? Make an agreement to share information with each other in the event of a disaster. After a disaster your neighbors may be a key resource as you begin the recovery process.

Communicate with your family. Create a family disaster plan. Where will you go if you need to evacuate? Who is in charge of doing what in an emergency? Select an out of state person all the members of your family can contact if you get separated and cannot reach each other. Be sure everyone knows how to contact the out of state person.

Social media is a great, free tool that you can use. Several platforms (for example, Facebook and Twitter) are available. Here is an article with tips on how to use social media during a disaster.

3. Trust

Get to know those community officials responsible for things such as announcing mandatory evacuations. Do these officials have a good track record for announcing evacuations in a timely manner? Before disasters, identify trusted local media sources that you know you can count on to provide valuable information in the event of an emergency. Consider following your local emergency management agency on social media sites.

4. Subsistence

Gather the items that you and your family need to carry you through a disaster. This is an area where many of the preparedness check lists, or “go-kits” as they are often called can increase your preparedness. It is traditional to have enough food and water for each member of your household to last 3 days. If possible keep a small stockpile of medication that your household will need. Recommendations for go-kits from the Red Cross can be found here and a video from ready.gov. Having a go-kit in your car or office is also a good idea.

5. Mobility

Do you have access to transportation in the event of evacuation (sheltering in your local area or distant evacuation)? Does your family have a working vehicle? Do you have access and money for fuel? If you don’t have a personal vehicle, do you have family, friends, or neighbors that you can evacuate with? Have you made a plan with them? Are you dependent on public transportation? Do you know your community’s policy on public transportation in the event of a disaster? Click here for more information on evacuation planning. 

Mobility may also include things like the freedom to leave work if needed or the ability to pick up kids from school in the event of an emergency. Making plans for how you can accomplish these things before a disaster happens will better prepare you to take action when needed.

6. Impact Avoidance

Impact avoidance is often referred to as mitigation and includes taking actions to reduce or eliminate risks of impact during a disaster. This can include activities such as putting in levees or dykes on your property, raising your home, securing heavy furniture to the wall, buying flood insurance, and more. 

7. Adaptability

You probably have areas of your work and home life that will not change regardless of your preparedness level. They are not easily adaptable. For example, your work may require you to be in an office every day, making evacuation more difficult than it would be for someone who can work remotely. Recognizing where you and your family are not able to easily adapt, is the first step in thinking of alternate ways to address them in a disaster situation.


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Video and Audio Files on preparedness and recovery.
Money Management in Times of Disaster Learn what you can do about your finances.
Disaster Preparedness Make sure your family is prepared.

The Extension Disaster Education Network website provides additional resources for Extension educators.


This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.