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The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the way we live this year. From social distancing and mask-wearing to working from home and staying home a lot more than many of us are used to, COVID-19 has changed so much for all of us. While we’ve been focusing our attention on these changes, though, something we may have forgotten about is that COVID-19 is going to change the way we face and prepare for other disasters, too. Whether it’s a hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake, staying safe and healthy in the midst of evacuating, sheltering, and trying to get back to normal is going to be more of a task than it previously has been. Thankfully, the American Red Cross has compiled a great guide on this very topic to help you prepare before another disaster strikes.

Which Disasters Might Affect Me?

It can be overwhelming to come up with a plan for multiple kinds of natural disasters at once. To focus on which ones are more likely to impact you based on the geographic region you live in, use this handy map from the Red Cross. From that map, you can link to their safety pages for each kind of disaster relevant to your region for important tips and information as you make your preparations.

Preparing For Basic Needs Alongside COVID-19

The Red Cross says, “Disasters can cause sudden challenges like knocking out power, blocking roads, disrupting the response of emergency services, and causing stores and pharmacies to close for an extended period. COVID-19 adds to this complexity. Prepare now so that you have critical skills and can meet your basic needs.” They suggest the following necessities as you prepare:

  • “Learn lifesaving skills, such as First Aid and CPR.

  • Assemble two kits of emergency supplies and a one-month supply of prescription medication. Start with this basic supply list. Customize your kits to meet your needs. Include disinfectant and hygiene items like soap and hand sanitizer to protect against COVID-19. Some supplies may be hard to get, and availability will worsen in a disaster, so start gathering supplies now.

    • Stay-at-home kit (2 weeks of emergency supplies): Include everything you need to stay at home for at least two weeks with items such as food, water, household cleaning and disinfectant supplies, soap, paper products and personal hygiene items.

    • Evacuation kit (3 days of supplies in a “go bag”): Your second kit should be a lightweight, smaller version that you can take with you if you must leave your home quickly. Include everything you need to be on your own for three days – food, water, personal hygiene items, and cleaning and disinfectant supplies that you can use on the go (tissues, hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol and disinfection wipes). Ensure that you have cloth face coverings, such as masks and scarves, for everyone in your household who can wear one safely. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others in public. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unable to remove it without help.

    • 1-month supply of prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter medications like cough suppressants and fever reducing drugs and medical supplies or equipment. Keep these items together in a separate container so you can take them with you if you have to evacuate.”

Creating a Plan

In addition to ensuring the basic needs of you and your loved ones will be met in the event of a disaster during a pandemic, the Red Cross includes a few more important elements to your preparation to make sure to complete for when a disaster may strike:

  • Plan what you will do before, during, and after each type of disaster.

  • Be sure that you can find out quickly about a hazard.

  • If part of your plan involves going somewhere else to avoid the disaster, ask yourself these questions—Where will I go? How will I get there? Where will I stay? How can I help protect myself and others from COVID-19? What will I bring with me?

  • Complete a contact card for each member of your household, and ensure that they carry it with them.

  • Designate an out-of-town contact who can help your household reconnect. It may be easier to reach people outside the affected area.

  • Plan a meeting spot so you can reconnect when it is safe to do so.

  • Safeguard personal, financial, insurance, medical, and other records so you can take them with you if part of your safety plan involves leaving the house. These important documents could include:

    • Birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards

    • Current digital photos of loved ones updated every six months, especially for children

    • Insurance policies, deed, mortgage, lease, and loan papers

    • List of medications, allergies, and medical equipment.

    • Photos of valuable belongings you may want to include in an insurance claim

While preparing for disasters becomes more complicated during a pandemic, it is still possible to feel confident and ready for whatever may come. For more information and resources from the American Red Cross, click here.