Galveston County is no stranger to disasters. While the type may range from hurricane to tropical storm, floods or fires, one thing remains the same. When faced with a disaster, preparing ahead of time is vital to protect your family and property.

September marks National Preparedness Month, and the Galveston County Health District encourages you to take time now to prepare for the wide variety of disasters you may face.

This year’s theme is “Prepared, Not Scared. Be Ready for Disasters.” Being prepared can be the difference between life and death.

Most homeowner and renter insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. If you add flood insurance, keep in mind most policies take 30 days to go into effect, so don’t wait until it’s too late.

Take photos of important documents and personal belongings. Include birth and marriage certificates, immunization records for children and adults, driver license and other photo IDs and Social Security cards. You also want photo documentation of valuables. It will help you quickly file an insurance claim after a flood, if necessary.

Disasters can be costly. Start now and set aside a small amount of each paycheck to go into a savings account. Also, keep cash on hand since ATMs and credit card readers may not be available. Cash can help pay for immediate expenses like lodging, food and gas.

And, be sure you put your emergency plan in writing. If evacuating, know where you plan to go. Having a plan in place lets you know everyone in the home is on the same page and prepared.

Develop a family emergency communication plan. It’s possible family members may become separated from one another during a disaster, especially during the day when adults are at work and children are at school. Plan for touching base and getting back together. Practice fire escape plans by having a home drill at least twice a year with everyone in the home.

When it comes to medicine, put prescriptions, emergency contact information for family and doctors, insurance cards and identification together in a plastic bag.

If you haven’t already, sign up for alerts and warnings in your area, so you can stay on top of changing conditions.

Now that school has started, update school records and make sure your children know who to contact in an emergency. Including favorite stuffed animals, board games, books or music in the emergency kit can help comfort children in a disaster.

In the hustle of dealing with a disaster, pets sometimes fall to the end of the list. Plan for pets now. Have copies of vaccination records, a current photo of your pet, an ample supply of food and water, a carrier or cage, medication, muzzle, collar and leash.

You may also want to learn life-saving skills such as CPR and first aid. For more information, visit www.ready.gov/September or www.gchd.org/public-health-services/public-health-preparedness/natural-disasters.

Randy Valcin is director of public health surveillance programs at the Galveston County Health District.

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