In a recent survey of over 3,000 people who had taken first aid courses with the organization, 40 percent said they did not have a emergency plan or kit. "These are people who should be more aware than average," says Bernstein.
She says the recent earthquake in Nepal is likely to greater sense of urgency during National Emergency Preparedness Week (May 3rd to 9th).
Bernstein shared these tips for preparing your home and family for a natural disaster.
1. Have an emergency kit ready to "grab and go."
Make sure you have an emergency kit near the door you're most likely to exit, and keep it free from clutter.
The kit should include food, water, first aid supplies, medication, communication devices, contact lists, comfort items for children, cash and other items. St. John Ambulance has a checklist to help you put together a kit, which should serve each member of your family for at least 72 hours.
Bernstein also recommends keeping a kit in your car and at work.
2. Secure your heavy furniture.
Bookcases, appliances, pianos, dresses and beds can all become dislodged and cause injury. These should be fixed to the wall.
3. Put breakable and heavy objects down low.
Don't load your top shelves with items that can shatter and cause injury.
"Most people get hurt with flying or falling debris," cautions Bernstein.
She says the kitchen is often the most dangerous room in the house during an earthquake, thanks to heavy appliances, breakable items, and sharp objects.
4. Reduce the risk from glass.
Windows, mirrors and picture frames can shatter during an earthquake. Reduce your risk by securing pictures and mirrors to walls, and keeping beds and tables away from windows.
If that's not possible, consider heavy drapes in high-risk areas, or a special film for glass.
5. Turn off your gas.
Know where gas outlets are and how to turn them off.
6. Prepare your children.
Parents' instinct will be to run to children as soon as disaster strikes. However, if you are in separate rooms, it may be safer for each family member to take immediate shelter (for example, under a sturdy table).
Make sure your children are aware of safe zones and how long to stay put (at least 60 seconds after shaking has stopped). Bernstein suggests teaching younger children a song to sing during the shaking so you know they are safe.
7. Have a disaster plan.
Bernstein says having a family plan is crucial. Know how to evacuate, where to meet and who to call. Make sure each member of the family is prepared for a number of scenarios.
To hear more of Renee Bernstein's advice, listen to the audio labelled: How to prepare your home for an earthquake.