18 tips to prepare for a natural disaster

Be ready in case of fires, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.

Alina Bradford
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
1 of 19 Alina Bradford/CNET

With fires, hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes happening around the country, it's smart to be prepared. Here are 18 tips to get you ready for an impending natural disaster. 

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If there may be flooding, unplug all of your electrical devices and move them to the highest floor of your home.

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Save your memories

Gather all your favorite photos, scan them -- if they're not already digital -- and save them on a memory card you can take with you if you evacuate. Make a copy of your memory card and mail it to an out-of-state friend or relative, just in case the original gets lost or damaged.

4 of 19 Screenshot by Alina Bradford/CNET

Email photos

Another good idea -- just in case -- is to email yourself your favorite photos. This way, they will be safe and dry, no matter what. Consider a folder in a Gmail account where you can save photos that you've taken or photos family and friends send you over the years.

5 of 19 Alina Bradford/CNET

Save your phone battery

When your phone is your only lifeline, you need to make sure it will last as long as possible. To save the battery, turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and location services. Here are some more tips.

6 of 19 Alina Bradford/CNET

Take portable phone chargers, too

It's always good to have a couple portable phone chargers ready in case you need to flee. The Zagg ($50) is my charger of choice because it's reliable, but a charger that you can recharge using the sun, like the Portable Solar Power Bank ($25) or the Anker Solar Charger ($52) are smart choices, too.

7 of 19 Alina Bradford/CNET

Make a go bag

Go bags are bags that you have ready in case of any type of emergency when you just need to, well, go. Here's how to pick a bag and fill it with essentials.

8 of 19 Alina Bradford/CNET

Save your important documents

Get all of your important documents, like birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, bonds, Social Security cards and other items and put them in a waterproof storage bag. A zippered gallon freezer bag will work. Keep the bag somewhere where you can grab it and pack it at a moment's notice.

9 of 19 Alina Bradford/CNET

Take water makers

As many people find out in evacuation circumstances, drinking water becomes a scarcity quickly. You can make sure you have water no matter what by packing devices that can purify rain, river or puddle water for drinking. LifeStraw Go Water Bottle ($45) or the Icon LifeSaver ($150) are good choices.

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Save drinking water

If you're going to ride out the storm (please, evacuate if you are ordered to!) store drinking water in gallon freezer bags. Just fill with filtered tap water from your sink before hand and store them in a safe place.

11 of 19 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Save water for the toilet

You're also going to need water to operate your toilet if water services fail. Don't use your drinking water, though. Fill up your tub with water beforehand. Cut the bottom off of a gallon milk jug and use it to scoop water into the toilet tank to flush. 

dispensing gas
12 of 19 Getty Images

Top off your gas tank

If you suspect that evacuation may be in your future, keep your car's gas tank topped off at all times. During an emergency, fuel can become scarce and you may not have time to fill up anyway.

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Don't forget your pets

Remember, shelters do not take animals during emergency situations. Your pets will need to evacuate with you, so don't forget to make a plan for them, too. 

Keep freeze-dried pet food and a collapsible water bowl in the trunk of your car, for example, so you can have it ready to go.

14 of 19 ASPCA

ASPCA pet disaster preparedness tips

You can download a brochure from the ASPCA on how to prepare your pet for a disaster here. One excellent tip they provide is to have a backup. Be sure a friend, family member or neighbor can evacuate with your pet if you are unable.

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Be prepared to swim

If massive flooding is a possibility, keep inflatable life jackets with you. Make sure each member of the family has one, as well as each of your pets. 

They are small, light, easy to carry and will keep you afloat in an emergency until rescuers come. The Onyx Outdoor Inflatable Life Jacket or the X-Lounger Inflatable Life Jacket are good choices. Just make sure you choose bright colors so you are easily seen.

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Keep perishables cool

Stow a couple of gallon freezer bags full of water in your freezer, too. They'll keep your perishables cool during a blackout and you can drink the water when the ice melts. Win-win!

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Use your washer, too

You can also fill your washing machine tub with ice, then bury your perishables in the ice. 

This is a great option during a short-term power outage (or parties!) and you can just drain your washing machine when the ice melts. Be sure you only try this with upright washers. Front-loading washers will make a mess when you open the door.

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Stock up on baby wipes

When there's no electricity and no water, baby wipes are a lifesaver for wiping faces, taking quick sponge baths and a million other things.

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Pack hand sanitizer

Whether you are evacuating or staying, you need to put a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer in everyone's pocket. Places to wash your hands are far and few during a disaster, but bacteria is aplenty.

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