As the Gulf Coast assesses the tremendous damage from Hurricane Katrina, many people are asking “How can we be more prepared next time?” With hurricane season at its peak and more storms predicted, now is the time to make sure you and your family are prepared for an emergency.

According to American Family Safety’s Barbara Feiner, a national expert in disaster preparedness and emergency medicine, preparation is the key to surviving any disaster — from hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes and other emergencies.

“During a disaster, your safety depends on having a well-coordinated emergency plan and a preparedness kit,” says Feiner. “It requires a small amount of time and money, but if a disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you made the investment.”

American Family Safety was created in January 2005 to ensure that every family in the United States is prepared for an emergency. The company provides education tools and quality emergency-preparedness products to help families create an emergency plan and to custom build or buy a 72-hour Ready™ emergency-preparedness kit.

In addition, Feiner and American Family Safety offer the following advice:

Hurricane Preparation Tips

Create a Kit — Create a kit containing essential supplies such as a flashlight, batteries, radio and first aid kit to sustain a family for 72 hours in the event of a disaster. Visit www.americanfamilysafety.com for a complete list of items to include in the kit or to request immediate delivery of a pre-assembled 72-hour Ready Kit™.

Develop a Plan — Families should develop a plan so that every household member who is away from home knows what to do and where to meet in an emergency. Also, plan an evacuation route. Most local emergency management offices and American Red Cross chapters can provide information on shelters and evacuation routes. Personalized communication plans can also be created, stored, and assembled for quick printing at www.americanfamilysafety.com.

Make Arrangements for Pets – Pets might not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on local animal shelters.

Keep Cash On-Hand – Always have enough cash available to cover your essential needs for a five-day period. If a hurricane or tornado occurs, banks and ATMs might be shut down and you might not be able to use credit cards in stores affected by the storm.

List Important Numbers – Create a list of important numbers to have after a storm, such as phone numbers and policy or account numbers for your homeowner insurance company, car insurance company, power company, gas company and phone company.

Refill Medications – Make sure you have at least a week’s supply of medications needed by family members.

Freeze Water – Freeze containers of water to create blocks of ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or a cooler if you lose power during an emergency.

Freeze Refrigerator Items – Freezing refrigerated items that you might not need immediately will help keep them at a safe temperature for a longer period if you lose power. Also, make a list of stores where you can purchase dry ice and block ice.

Stock a Disaster Pantry – Every family should have a disaster pantry: a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food to sustain your family in case of emergency. During a disaster, you might be on your own for 72 hours or more as rescuers attend to people who have been stranded or injured.

Teach Children to Respond – Make sure all family members know how to respond after a disaster. Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water. Children should also know how and when to call 9-1-1, police or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.

About American Family Safety

American Family Safety is an international corporation that distributes Emergency Preparedness education materials and supplies. The company markets a family emergency preparedness product called The Ready Kit™. American Family Safety was created to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) equip Americans with the tools and knowledge needed in case of a disaster or emergency. For more information, or to order a kit, visit American Family Safety at www.americanfamilysafety.com.