National Service News: What Would You Do If the Unexpected Happened?

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Having a family communications plan can prevent confusion during emergencies.


What Would You Do If the Unexpected Happened?

The current Atlantic hurricane season has been a harsh reminder of the devastation that can occur when major natural disasters strike. We keep our friends and neighbors in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other affected areas in our thoughts and prayers as our AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members are serving to help those communities through the long recovery process.

But think about this ... what would you do if something unexpected happened in your community? 

Depending on your location, your hometown could be susceptible to floods, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes, blackouts, and other natural or man-made events that could disrupt normal routines.

Would you be ready?

September is National Preparedness Month, and our partners at FEMA are leading the charge to encourage people to make plans for whenever the unexpected happens in your area with a multitude of resources at (and for Spanish speakers). 

There is a lot to think about, but here are some quick hints to help you prepare for an emergency or disaster in your community.

Have a plan: The time to make a family emergency plan is long before an emergency occurs. Make sure that the family has a designated gathering point where they meet in case of emergency and that everyone has access to a list of cell phone, work, or school numbers to contact other members away from home. 

Get some backup: It’s too late to think about backup plans when a power failure occurs, so make sure to keep a stock of flashlights with fresh batteries. Battery-powered chargers can come in handy for cell phones to keep the lines of communication open in an emergency. And if you have access to a backup generator, be sure it is serviced regularly so it will be ready to use when you need it.

Where's the radio?: Have a battery-powered radio – again, with fresh batteries – to get news alerts in the event power goes out. Smartphone users can also download radio apps to keep abreast of local news. has a great list of resources with hints on how you can use your tech to stay informed during an emergency.

Don't be thirsty: You will need a gallon of water per person per day when access to clean water is limited. Try to have a three-day supply stored and available.

Stock up now: Avoid battling crowds at the local grocery store during a last-minute quest for milk and toilet paper. Some people keep specially stocked "go bags" that they can grab quickly in case of an emergency. has a list of items (also on you will need to make your own disaster supplies kit that will keep you set for a few days. 

It's almost like we can hear our grandmother's advice echoing in our ears: "Stay ready, so you don't have to get ready." 

Never argue with Grandma.

In service, 

CNCS Office of External Affairs

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