America’s PrepareAthon: Preparing for Disasters One at a Time

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According to a poll done by Kelton Research in 2012, 9 out of 10 Americans expect a world disaster to occur in the next quarter century and 56% said they aren’t prepared for it. Getting prepared can be as easy as putting a kit together, making a plan, and being informed.  But it’s also essential to know what type of emergencies are likely to occur in your area and during what time of the year.  On Wednesday, participate in America’s PrepareAthon, which highlights simple, specific steps individuals and organizations should take to increase their preparedness for a potential disaster.

America’s PrepareAthon is a nation-wide campaign calling for action to increase emergency preparedness and community resiliency through drills, discussions, and exercises.  The PrepareAthon will be held every Spring and Fall, encouraging people across the nation to take preparedness action before an emergency strikes.  To build a resilient nation, we must increase the number of people who understand which disasters could happen in their community, know what to do to be safe in an emergency, and make an effort to improve their level of preparedness.

PrepareAthon websiteIn an emergency, first responders help the people in the most need – like those who are stranded or the elderly.  It’s important that everyone else be self-sufficient until emergency response crews have time to get the situation under control. That means you need to be prepared for the worst, with supplies, family emergency communication plans, and knowledge to make sure you can care for yourself and your family until the situation returns to normal.

The first official national day of action is Wednesday, April 30.  For Spring, the PrepareAthon is focused on four hazards – hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires.  The day of action will be focused on steps you can take to prepare your family, community, and business.

No matter the hazard, there are preparedness steps you can take to be ready.  You can put together an emergency kit for your home and car, fill out a family emergency communication plan, learn about your local warning systems, purchase a NOAA weather radio, and identify shelter-in-place and evacuation routes at your home, work, or school. 

In each of the four hazard areas, there is information on where and when these events occur.  Read through the descriptions and decide which applies to you.  There are specific steps you can take to increase your preparedness in each area.


Hurricanes have the power to cause widespread devastation, and can affect both coastal and inland areas. Each year, many parts of the United States experience heavy rains, strong winds, floods, and coastal storm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

Small Steps

  • Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
  • Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the hurricane strikes.
  • Be aware that most shelters and some hotels do not accept pets.  Research pet-friendly shelters and hotels in your area and the area where you plan to evacuate.
  • Know how to turn off your gas, electricity, and water in case you need to evacuate.

FEMA tornado posterTornadoes

Tornadoes are a year-round hazard, but mainly occur in the Spring. The destruction and injury caused by a tornado depends on the intensity, size, path, time of day, and amount of time they are on the ground. Wind from tornadoes can reach more than 200 miles per hour, and damage paths can be more than 1 mile wide and 50 miles long. Tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a community in seconds.

Small Steps

  • Identify the best place to take shelter in your house.  The safest place is the interior part of a basement or an inside room, without windows, on the lowest floor.
  • Know the warning signs.  You may not see a funnel, but a dark, often greenish sky, large hail, a dark low-lying cloud, or a loud roar are also signs that a tornado is approaching. 


Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States and can happen anywhere. Flooding can occur during any season. The physical destruction caused by flooding depends on the speed and level of the water, the duration of the flood, terrain and soil conditions, and the built environment (e.g., buildings, roads, and bridges).

Small steps

  • If you live in an area with a high flood risk, elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home.
  • Install “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Purchase flood insurance.

WildfiresMap of wildfire risk areas

Wildfires can occur anywhere in the country.  They can start in remote wilderness areas, national parks, or even your back yard. Wildfires can start from natural causes, such as lightning, but most are caused by humans, either accidentally—from cigarettes, campfires, or outdoor burning—or intentionally.  

Small Steps

  • Talk to your kids about fire safety.  Make sure matches are out of their reach.
  • Post fire emergency phone numbers.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home.
  • Remove pine needles and dry leaves from within 10 feet of your home.

By registering your participation in the first PrepareAthon National Day of Action, you help build a stronger and more resilient Nation.  Join the discussion on twitter by following @PrepareAthon and using the hashtag #PrepareAthon.  Sign up today, and take the pledge to take steps to increase your own preparedness!

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Page last reviewed: April 30, 2014
Page last updated: April 30, 2014