How To Prepare For A Natural Disaster

 In Caregiving, Elder Care

Hurricane Harvey, that has inundated Texas with rain and harsh winds is leaving many residents homeless and facing the devastation. As a Rochester Elder Law Attorney, Miles Zatkowsky explains he has seen the stress that being unprepared for a natural disaster can bring to families. During September, which has been designated Natural Disaster Preparedness Month, we want to offer these valuable planning tips.

While it is almost impossible to prepare for a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey, there are steps to take to be as prepared as possible. With September being National Preparedness Month and with the potential for harsh winters and power outages in Western New York, now is an ideal time to look at your own preparedness plans.

Stay informed. The best way to prepare is to stay informed. Watch television, listen to the radio, read the newspaper so you can stay apprised of potential threats. If you hear about a storm or fire or other natural disaster heading your way, listen to instructions from emergency personnel. If it’s a winter storm that is going to impact where you live, get out and stock up on nonperishable food, bottled water and other items you need to survive if the power goes out or you’re housebound during the storm.

Know what community resources are available. In your area, where would you go in the event of an emergency? Is there a community center or school that offers safe refuge? Be aware of whether there are evacuations being ordered and know what you would do and where you would go.

Plan family communications. If you and your family are not together during the emergency, you need to have a plan to get in touch with one another and where you would meet if there was a forced evacuation.

Have a go-bag or an emergency kit. If you need to survive on your own, you need to build an emergency preparedness kit and make certain everyone in the family knows where it is. What should be in the kit?

  1. Three day supply of water and non-perishable food for every family member (and your pets)
  2. Battery-powered flashlights, radio and extra batteries
  3. First aid kit
  4. Medications
  5. Hygiene and sanitation items
  6. Extra clothing and additional blankets
  7. Manual can opener and cooking utensils
  8. Photocopies of your identification cards, medical cards, driver’s license, etc. Have an emergency contact card that has your health information, allergies, medications you’re taking and family contact information.
  9. Cash
  10. Special needs items
  11. Cell phone and charger

Check the disaster kit annually and replace food that has expired and update any items that are no longer needed and add items that may be needed now that weren’t before.

Make copies of important papers and store them in off-site. These papers include your Will, Powers of Attorney, banking information, life and health insurance information, birth certificates, social security cards, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, mortgage paperwork. Give these to a trusted family member or store in a safety deposit box. If you haven’t taken the time to get your legal paperwork together, if there is time, contact an elder law attorney to begin the process. If there is no time, make certain that is top of mind once the threat has passed. Having your legal paperwork in order will give you peace of mind the next time a natural disaster threatens.

Make plans for your pets. If you have pets, in addition to making certain you pack go-bag supplies for them, make arrangements in the event of an evacuation. Locate hotels or motels that are pet friendly, look for local community centers that allow people to bring their pets if they evacuate or find a family member who will care for your pets. Make sure your pets have collars with identification tags (better yet, get them microchipped) have their veterinarian paperwork with you so you have proof of vaccinations and ownership.

Our hearts are with those dealing with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and with those who may be in the path of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys area.

Resources for those who want to donate to those impacted. 

  1. The New York State Bar Association and The New York Bar Foundation are seeking donations to help provide legal services for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. The Houston Bar Association and The Texas Bar Foundation are working on flood relief legal needs initiatives and 100 percent of your donation to the Disaster Relief Fund will be earmarked for providing legal services to Texas flood victims. Checks should be made payable to The New York Bar Foundation with the designation “Disaster Relief Fund” and mailed to The New York Bar Foundation, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207. Donations can also be made online at – Please send your contribution in before September 22 so that dissemination of the funds can begin soon.
  2. Portlight – A U.S.-based organization that will help displaced residents who have disabilities or otherwise need special care. You can donate online here (just scroll down their main page):
  3. Global Giving – A crowdfunding community, is collecting donations for nonprofit organizations responding to the storm. To donate online, visit  Donors can also text HARVEY to 80100 to donate $10 to GlobalGiving’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Message and data rates may apply. Send a check by writing,”Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund” in the memo line and mailing it to GlobalGiving, 1110 Vermont Ave NW, Suite 550, Washington DC, 20005.
  4. Local Food Banks in Texas
  5. Texas Diaper Bank – Texas Diaper Bank is putting together disaster relief kits for families with young children. Donate here:
  6. SPCA of Texas – Assist with the care of pets uprooted by the storm with a donation here:
  7. PayPal Giving Fund —  You can choose which charity you’d like to support –
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