No one can prevent natural disasters. But you can prepare for them. Being ready for a catastrophe before it happens may help you protect yourself, your family and your home.

Create a plan with your family, figuring out what to do in the event of a disaster. Make sure everyone knows their role and the plan — then have drills, practicing so you're all comfortable with who does what. As you get started with this process, follow these emergency preparedness tips to keep yourselves safe.

Pack an emergency preparedness kit

Having an emergency preparedness kit on hand may help you keep your family safe during a disaster. Store supplies in a large waterproof container near a door or in your garage so you can grab it and find shelter quickly. Ready.gov recommends you have at least three days' worth of food, water and medications on hand. They also provide a list of items to include in your disaster kit:

  • Drinking water (at least one gallon per person per day)
  • Nonperishable food, such as canned veggies and protein bars
  • Manual can opener
  • Flashlights or portable lanterns and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • A crank- or battery-powered radio
  • Sanitation supplies: toilet paper, moist towelettes, soap, trash bags and disinfectants
  • Local maps

Depending on your situation, your kit might also include:

  • Baby food, bottles and diapers
  • Pet food
  • Prescription medications
  • Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution
  • Dry clothing and blankets

Create and practice a disaster plan

Your family needs a clearly outlined plan to follow that helps keep everyone safe during a natural disaster or an evacuation. According to Ready.gov, the four primary factors that your plan should account for include:

  • Where to shelter
  • A route for evacuation
  • Getting emergency alerts and warnings
  • Family communication

As you're creating your disaster plan, keep the following preparation elements in mind:

  • Sign up for severe weather alerts in your area.
  • Program emergency numbers into your phone.
  • Decide on a meeting place for your family to gather.
  • Plan escape routes from your home and neighborhood. Remember, roads could be blocked in large-scale disasters. Have at least one alternate route — or more if possible.
  • Be sure all adult and teenage family members know how to shut off gas, electric and water lines if there's a leak or electrical short. Keep the necessary tools easily accessible, and make sure everyone knows where these are.
  • Consider learning CPR and first aid training.
  • Remember your pets. Bring dogs and cats inside during a catastrophe or make a plan for how you'll evacuate with them. Make sure they have ID tags.

Listen to local officials

Local governments have systems in place to help area residents learn about impending or occurring disasters. The timely information these entities provide can help you understand what threats are present and know when it's necessary to evacuate.

Sign up for alerts from local and national organizations to get the information you need. These may include text messages about urgent situations. You'll also see and hear written and spoken messages via cable TV and phone calls. In addition, you can tune into NOAA Weather Radio, which broadcasts weather-hazard information and safety alerts 24/7.

Remember that the groups that provide these messages are experts. Respect their warnings, and follow their guidance as closely as possible for your own safety.

Manage the details

Take note of your insurance policy numbers, and keep this information in a safe place that's easy to access. You'll want the numbers for your vehicle, home and any other relevant policies you've purchased relating to things that might get damaged during a disaster. It's also a wise idea to have your insurance company's claims department phone number on hand in case you need to start the process right away

As you're starting to prep, download your insurance company's app if it has one. These programs are convenient and let you do things like pay bills at the touch of a button. However, you can also initiate a claim and check on its status via the app. This is a convenient way to take action and move forward in the wake of a disaster.

While storing your insurance information in your phone and computer is a good start, your electronics' batteries may run down during a catastrophic event. Keep hard copies of this information in your wallet, in your glove box and even at your office or a relative's home in case you're unable to retrieve them from your own house but need to make a call.

Learn more

Different types of emergency situations call for additional steps in order to be prepared. Finding out the best emergency preparedness plan for any kind of natural disaster can help you prepare for a safe outcome.

The best-laid plans can help keep you and your family safe. And the right homeowners insurance policy can keep your residence protected after a disaster or other covered event. Contact your local Nationwide agent today to discuss coverage levels and options.

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