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Military Health System

Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

Image of Start by creating a basic disaster emergency kit and create a plan to get back together as a family in the event of a disaster. . Airmen at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi assisted the 81st Civil Engineer Squadron with filling more than 2500 sand bags. Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

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Wildfires have burned more than 3 million acres of land in the U.S. already this year — an area bigger than Connecticut.

An array of disasters – like massive wildfires, hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, floods, and mud slides – now seem to be everyday risks.

So, how to prepare for an evacuation affecting your family and pets? Or even losing your home?

Start by creating a basic disaster emergency kit and create a plan to get back together as a family in the event of a disaster. Watching this disaster preparedness video can help you create your kit.

“The most important things you should have is the basic life-saving equipment”, said Christopher Springer, head of emergency management at, Naval Medical Center San Diego.

That means flashlights, radios, and batteries to support that equipment. “Then look at your actual household to think about your family members who have special needs or special medications, then build each emergency preparedness kit for your home and your family,” Springer said.

TRICARE also has information on what to do before, during, and after a disaster, and your benefits during a disaster.

Your Pets

For your pets, the Army Public Health Center recommends gathering an emergency kit with a two-week supply of pet food, water, and any medications. Make sure you have copies of pets’ vaccination and medical records as well.

Some emergency shelters require crates for pets, and some only accept service animals. It's a good idea to identify pet-friendly housing options outside of the evacuation area.

Make sure your pet's ID tags include your current contact information. You also may want to ask your veterinarian about getting your pet microchipped in case you’re separated during an emergency.

Hurricanes and Lessons Learned

In the eastern U.S., people are more likely to see hurricanes, flooding, and tornados. This year, the government predicts an above average hurricane season with up to 21 storms, and the year has already seen many deadly tornadoes.

For the staff of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in 2018, the impact of hurricanes became all too real, when Hurricane Michael devastated the base in October 2018. Many base personnel and families lived in the surrounding community, which had to rebuild following the hurricane.

“One of the biggest lessons we learned after the Tyndall was destroyed by was to understand what your insurance plan says,” said Robert Genova, the Emergency Management Operations support manager at Tyndall.

“Once the storm has passed, what are you authorized to do, such as having a contractor put tarp on your roof, and will your insurance pay for that?” he advised. “You need to understand what kind of limitations you have on your insurance.”

Preparedness Toolkits

Every military service has a guide and thorough preparedness toolkit localized to the installation and outside-of-base housing. New service members or PCS’ed families get initial information on the local hazards during their orientation briefings.

For example, the Air Force’s Be Ready guide is an authoritative and highly thorough reference source for all types of natural, man-made, technological and terrorism-related disasters.

The guide helps military families prepare for those events and runs the gamut from basic preparation to exactly how to deal with most any type of disaster.

The toolkits and catalogs go from awareness posters, information tear sheets, table tents, to hazard vignette short videos. There are also kids’ awareness campaign materials that include activity books and tear sheets focused on the threats or hazards for each installation.

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Last Updated: July 07, 2022
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