National Preparedness Month and the COVID-19 pandemic

Sept. 10, 2020

If this summer has shown us anything, it’s that the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop other disasters from happening. From the east coast’s Hurricane Laura to Iowa’s devastating derecho to the wildfires consuming the western states, it may seem like emergencies are piling up one by one.

What the virus has changed, however, is how we respond to these disasters. That’s why National Preparedness Month is different this year. We know that disasters such as flash floods can not only knock out power, block roads and disrupt emergency services, but also cause stores and pharmacies to close. COVID-19 adds to this complexity, so when you’re preparing for emergencies, it’s important to keep that in mind.

For example, when you’re assembling your emergency kit, include a one-month supply of prescription medication. Add in fresh masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectants. Don’t forget food, water and paper products. And if you’re wondering what else to add to your emergency kit, just remember back to the beginning of the pandemic. Toilet paper was scarce. The food supply chain was disrupted for a time. Some medicines and first aid supplies were hard to find. If we experience a disaster on top of the pandemic, those problems could surface again – and they could get much worse. It’s a good reason to make your kit as soon as possible.

When you’re creating your preparedness plan and putting your kit together, don’t forget to take pets into account. Make sure you pack enough food, medications and supplies for your furry family members as well. Resources could be in short supply wherever you take shelter due to COVID-19.

It may help to ask yourself a few questions as you create your emergency plan, and discuss them with the other members of your household. They include:

  1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?

  2. What is my shelter plan?

  3. What is my evacuation route?

  4. What is my family/household communication plan?

  5. Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and update my emergency plans due to COVID-19.

Once you’ve made your emergency plan, practice it. Try testing your communications plan and meeting at your agreed-upon shelter if you get separated. National Preparedness Month only comes once a year, but this year has taught us that we need good preparation more than ever. After all, a disaster won’t politely wait until the pandemic is over before it strikes, and we can’t control when that happens. But when it does, we can be prepared.