This is a guest blog post by Adrian Grieve of the Northeast Pennsylvania Region of the American Red Cross.

Do you have a plan for your family for what to do in the event of a disaster? Do you have a disaster kit and is it kept up-to-date? The reality is that most people do not. We may think about it briefly when we see a large disaster on TV or we hear of a fire that affected a family in our community, but rarely does it spur us to actually sit down and develop our own preparedness plan.

Having been in the disaster preparedness and response arena for almost 25 years, I have spoken with many people about being prepared. Here’s what they tell me:

“We don’t have large disasters here.”American Red Cross

“It’s not going to happen to me.”

“I just haven’t taken the time to make a plan.”

It’s true that most of us are relatively unlikely to have to face the widespread damage of a major hurricane, earthquake or tornado, although they do sometimes occur in our area. And we have all dealt with power outages and travel difficulties due to severe storms.

But we are at a greater risk of being affected by home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 360,000 and 400,000 home fires are reported each year, killing an average of 2,500 people.

So how do we as individuals and families become more prepared and encourage our communities as a whole to prepare?

It can seem like a large task, or one that can be put off until you have more time, but there is no time like the present. Too many people put it off and then regret not being more prepared when an event occurs. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task and time-consuming task.

Small steps can make a difference:

  • At the next parent-teacher night, ask what your child’s schools communication plan is in the event of an emergency.
  • When you call a friend or family member that lives out of your area, ask them to be the point of contact for your family’s “check in” in the event of a local emergency.
  • When you go shopping this week, buy an extra gallon or two of water and store it in your basement.
  • The next time you are playing with your kids, make it a game to find as many ways to safely exit your home in the event of an emergency and practice with them.

American Red Cross ShelterThe American Red Cross helps individuals and families by providing assistance for immediate needs after a disaster and a helping hand to start the recovery process. Often, after experiencing a disaster like a house fire, you’re in shock and at a loss of what to do next. Your local Red Cross can help by providing the means to purchase food and clothing, in addition to lodging if you have nowhere to go.

Our team of dedicated volunteers will make sure you have necessities through a comfort kit that includes personal hygiene items. Even something like a small teddy bear can help comfort a child. A warm blanket, a hot beverage and a caring hug will let you know that we care.

Once immediate needs are met, the Red Cross works hard to start your recovery process by connecting you with a variety of social service programs and other organizations to meet your family’s needs. We’re with you every step of the way.

By taking some small steps now and fitting them into our daily routine, we can become better prepared. Being prepared should become as routine as buckling our seat belts and putting our children safely in their car seats.

Adrian Grieve is the regional program and disaster officer for the Northeast Pennsylvania Region of the American Red Cross. To learn more about the Red Cross and how it helps communities, visit redcross.org.