September is National Preparedness Month which reminds everyone to prepare themselves, their families and their communities for disasters that could happen. This year's theme is: "Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How."
So how can you prepare for a disaster? First, it's important to be informed and stay informed. There are many different emergency notification systems that you can enroll in the area that you reside.
A great resource is Nixle, which will forward you alerts from your local agencies regarding severe weather, criminal activities, severe traffic and other important messages. You can sign up by texting your zip code to 888777. Research and sign up for what notification systems are available for your specific area.
It is very important to make sure you and your family have an emergency plan and that you have practiced it. There are a number of resources available online with great information on what to include in your plan — http://www.ready.gov has a great selection of information and assistance.
When making your plan, consider the specific people and needs in your household, such as infants, elderly, disabled, as well as indoor and outdoor pets. While making your emergency plan, go over basic fire safety with your family.
Check to make sure the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working and teach your children what to do if they go off. Make sure that you know how to use a fire extinguisher. The easy way to remember is to PASS it: pull (the safety pin), aim (at the base of the flames), squeeze (the handle), sweep (back and forth).
Teach your children how to call 911, when they should, and what information they will need to pass on to the operator, especially your home address.
Make sure that you have emergency kits stocked with basic supplies in your home, office and car. It's imperative that you have enough water and food to last each person in your family at least three days, as well as a battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit and extra batteries.
It's also a good idea to have your important documents, such as passports, account numbers and contact phone numbers in an easily accessible place. You can find a comprehensive list of items you need at ready.gov/build-a-kit.
Lastly, check your insurance coverage. If disaster strikes, having the proper insurance policy is the best way to ensure that you will be able to repair, rebuild and replace anything that is damaged.
Maintaining a detailed inventory of your family's belongings will help you if a disaster strikes. You can take photos or videos to help you record your belongings, but be sure to also write down descriptions, including year, make and model numbers. Be sure to store your inventory somewhere it can be easily accessed after a disaster.
Allen Riley is fire chief at Squaw Valley Fire Department.