A lesson we can learn from our neighbors to the east is that it is never a bad time to get prepared for a disaster.

September is National Preparedness Month. This month brings awareness to all forms of disaster and emergencies that can happen and how to best prepare for them. These include, but are not limited to, tornadoes and hurricanes, home fires, floods, landslides, wildfires, winter weather, earthquakes and even cybersecurity. This year’s theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”

The first step to being prepared is to make a plan. Talk with your family and friends about how you will communicate during a disaster. My husband and I have been discussing this more in recent weeks. Our plan if there is an emergency or disaster while we are at work is to go where the baby is, whether that be our home or at a sitter’s house.

Our step one is to find each other. Once your family makes a plan, review it and update it as needed. Children should be included in the discussion so they are aware of where to go and who to call to check in with. Also, remember to include your pets when making your plan. You do not want to forget about Spot when making a plan on evacuating during a home fire.

Step two is to make a kit. Many of us have heard of “bug out bags” or a go-bag. This is something you have ready to go and can grab at a moment’s notice. Things to have included in your bag or kit are water, nonperishable foods to last a few days, extra cell phone battery or charger, battery operated radio, first aid kit, whistle, moist towelettes, garbage bags, cash/change, change of clothes, matches in a waterproof container and local maps. Other things to consider based on family needs are prescription medications, glasses, pet food, infant food and formula.

If you have a bag (or two depending on family size) ready to go you can have some peace in the event of a disaster. It is a good idea to keep a kit at home in a designated place, at work in case you get stranded at work (this kit should sustain you for at least 24 hours), and a kit for your car full of emergency supplies. Make sure you update your kit as needed and replace foods that have expired.

Another way to get prepared is to know the risk of disasters in your area. Are you in an area that is high risk for earthquakes or floods? What about hurricanes or tornadoes? Once you have assessed your risks check with your insurance company and make sure policies are up to date. You can also check around your house and see if there are areas that could be improved to make your home stronger in the face of a storm.

Disasters and emergencies are something we hope to avoid, but we are not always so lucky. So get prepared for when an event does happen. You can have fewer things to stress over. Get a plan and communicate that plan with your loved ones.

If you have any other questions about National Preparedness Month you can visit ready.gov or contact me, the Family Consumer Science Agent, at 586-4009 or email ekmcclure@ncat.edu.

Emily McClure is a registered dietitian, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, Jackson County Extension.