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Aside from your own personal safety and the safety of your family and pets, you are likely not thinking about much else during an actual emergency event such as a tornado, hurricane, severe thunderstorm, flash flood, or earthquake. For this reason, it is a good idea to prepare as much as possible while you are calm and able to think clearly. This way, you and your family will know what to do and be better equipped to handle the aftermath of a severe weather event.

Here is an example of a "to-do" list you can use to create your own storm and disaster preparedness plan:

For hurricanes, turn off water, gas, and electricity.
For severe thunderstorms or flash floods, make sure your sump pump is working correctly and nothing is blocking any part of your sump system.
Make sure everyone knows how to operate a fire extinguisher and where they are located.
Keep smoke alarms up to date and test regularly.
Ensure adequate insurance coverage.
Know first aid / CPR / AED.
Take an inventory of your home possessions.
Archive vital records and documents.
Reduce home hazards.
Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
Maintain your plan.
Make sure everyone in your family knows how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity at the main switches or valves. Keep any tools you will need near the gas and water shut off valves. Turn off the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged, you suspect a leak, or if local officials instruct you to do so.

Because there are different gas shut-off procedures for different gas meter configurations, contact your local gas company for guidance on preparation and response regarding gas appliances and gas service to your home.

If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out quickly. Turn off the gas using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor's home or from your cell phone at a safe distance away from your house.

If you turn off the gas for any reason, you must have a qualified professional turn it back on. Never attempt to turn the gas back on yourself.

Fire Extinguishers
Every home, barn, and shed should have an up-to-date fire extinguisher in an easy-to-access location. Make sure all family members know how to use it.

Smoke Alarms
Install smoke alarms on each level of your home, especially near the bedrooms. If you or anyone in your family has a sensory disability, consider a smoke alarm with a strobe light and vibration. Follow local codes and manufacturer's instructions about installation requirements. Also, consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your home to detect odorless hazards.

Insurance Coverage
Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Homeowner's insurance does not cover flood damage and may not provide full coverage for other hazards. Talk with your insurance agent and make sure you have adequate coverage to protect your family against financial loss.

First Aid
Take American Red Cross first aid and CPR / AED (Automated External Defibrillation) classes. Red Cross courses can accommodate people with disabilities. Discuss your needs when registering for the classes.

Inventory Home Possessions
Make a record of your possessions to help you claim reimbursement in case of loss or damage. Store this information in a safe deposit box or other secure location where flood and fire will not be a threat to ensure the records survive a disaster. Include photos or video of the interior and exterior of your home as well as cars, boats, and recreational vehicles.

Have photos of durable medical equipment and be sure to make a record of the make and model numbers for each item. Get professional appraisals of jewelry, collectibles, artwork, or other items that may be difficult to evaluate. Make copies of receipts and canceled checks showing the cost for valuable items.

Vital Records and Documents
Vital family records and other important documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, wills, deeds, and immunization records should be kept in a safe deposit box or other safe location.

Reduce Home Hazards
In a disaster, ordinary items in the home can cause injury and damage. Take these steps to reduce your risk:

Hire a professional to repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections.
Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves and hang pictures and mirrors away from beds.
Use straps or other restraints to secure tall cabinets, bookshelves, large appliances, mirrors, shelves, large picture frames, and light fixtures to wall studs.
Repair cracks in ceilings and foundations.
Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products away from heat sources.
Place oily rags or waste in covered metal cans and dispose of them according to local regulations.
Have a professional clean and repair chimneys, flue pipes, connectors, and gas vents.
Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
In the event you need to evacuate at a moment's notice and take essentials with you, you probably will not have the opportunity to shop or search for the supplies you and your family will need. Every household should assemble a disaster kit and keep it up to date.

Click here to get a sample disaster supply kit checklist you can use to create your own.

Maintain Your Plan
Its one thing to create a storm preparedness plan, but it's another to keep it updated and relevant to your current life circumstances.

Review your plan at least once per year. Have you moved? Do you have new family members such as babies, aging parents, caregivers, or pets? Have you bought or sold livestock such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, or chickens? Has the health condition or needs of a family member changed? These are all factors that can influence your specific emergency storm preparedness plan.

Review your plan every year and quiz your family about what to do.
Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills on a regular basis with your family.
Check food supplies for expiration dates, and discard or replace stored water and food every six months.
Read the indicator on your fire extinguisher(s) and follow the manufacturer's instructions to recharge. Test your smoke detector monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace alarms every 10 years.
*This information is general and is not intended to replace or override any of the advice, warnings, or information given by local officials, FEMA, NOAA, or any other official regulatory organization or government branch regarding storm safety in the form of thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail storms, floods, or any other natural disaster or man-made disaster. Always follow take-cover recommendations, evacuation orders, and any other advice given by local officials for your area, regardless of whether it is similar to or different from this information.