Life can bring big surprises, and unfortunately, some of these surprises are quite frightening. Whether a fire, earthquake, or some other emergency occurs while you’re at home, you can keep your family members, your pets, and your possessions safe by taking the following precautions:

1. Grab your emergency kit.

Before emergency strikes, put together a kit and store it somewhere easily accessible. This kit should include first aid supplies, a battery-powered radio, water, food, flashlights, emergency contact information, and maps of the area. If you need to leave home, grab the kit as you head out the door.

2. Call for help.

Make an emergency call as soon as possible, but don’t get impatient if nobody picks up — emergency responders may be bombarded with calls. If somebody does pick up, maintain a calm voice and explain the situation, including as many relevant details as possible. Do your best to follow any advice the responder provides.

3. Let others know you are safe.

If worried family embers bombard you with calls and texts, respond with a quick update. Better yet, use the American Red Cross’ Safe and Well platform to spread the news. The “List Myself as Safe and Well” button will guide you through the process of registering yourself and your loved ones as safe. If you’re worried about friends and family members in disaster areas, conduct a quick search on the Red Cross site.

4. Pay attention to the TV and radio.

Watching the local news on television may not be possible, but your emergency kit should have a battery-powered radio that you can switch on if the power goes out. Tune into your local news station and listen closely for updates. Broadcasters will keep you informed of new developments and let you know when it’s safe to leave your home or shelter.

5. Be prepared to document your home’s damage.

If an emergency occurs while you’re away from home, take steps ahead of time to ensure that you can later document the damage for insurance purposes. With an app such as Myfox, you can monitor your home from afar. You’ll become aware of household damage as it occurs and thereby be better prepared to address ensuing insurance issues.

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