September is National Preparedness Month, a full month dedicated to encouraging the public to assess and prepare for local disaster risks and unplanned emergencies. The 2019 National Holdings Survey (NHS) conducted by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) found that a growing number of people invest in disaster preparation activities.

Approximately 60 percent reported perceiving themselves as being prepared, but only 42 percent believe preparing for a hazard will make a difference. Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas urges families to plan for the unexpected and devise their own emergency preparedness plans.

“Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency may make all the difference,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas said. “Making hasty, unplanned decisions in an emergency situation could make a dangerous situation even more hazardous.”

Two things every family needs no matter what the disaster are an emergency plan and an emergency kit. Your emergency kit should include items such as:

 a gallon of water per person per day for three days,

 a three-day supply of nonperishable food for each family member,

 a flashlight with extra batteries,

 first-aid kit,

 a whistle to signal for help,

 dust masks,

 a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities,

 a power inverter or solar charger for your cell phone

In addition to having an emergency kit ready, discuss with family and friends how you’ll contact each other, where you’ll meet if you can’t go home and what you’ll do in specific situations like a tornado or fire. Make sure all family members know where to meet and who to contact in case you get separated. A relative or friend in another area is an ideal emergency contact person. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to send and receive text messages. Consider downloading smart phone apps which provide emergency information. You might also consider enabling location sharing with family members and emergency contacts.

Families may also want to consider including such items as prescription medications, infant formula and diapers, pet food and cash. Remember to check your supplies every few months and replace expired items.

Other things to keep in mind:

 Catalogue your valuables. Take pictures of your valuables and place them in a safe. This can help the insurance company assess the dollar amount for your losses.

 Protect important documents. Place copies of important family documents such as birth certificates, passports, insurance policies and photos in a waterproof, portable container near your escape route.

 Start with trust. Whether you’re shopping for insurance before a disaster strikes or looking for a company to clean damaged areas, remove debris and rebuild, review the company’s Business Profile at bbb.org.

 Know where to turn. FEMA, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have many resources available to help families prepare for what to do before, during and after disasters happen.

For more tips on how to prepare before and react to a disaster, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline (903)581-8373, or go to BBB Scam Tracker.