PRINCETON, NJ — Disasters can strike at any time, and the American Red Cross North Jersey Region encourages everyone to take the first steps to being better prepared by creating and exercising an emergency plan for their household during National Preparedness Month.

 “Creating and exercising your plan are important steps in making sure all household members know what to do in an emergency,” said Mathieu Nelessen, regional CEO, American Red Cross North Jersey Region. “The Red Cross has free tools available to help you develop your plan and learn how you and your family can be better prepared for disasters. If you took action to prepare last year, update and rehearse the plan with your family now and check your emergency preparedness kit for expired items.”

MAKE A PLAN Everyone in the household should help put the emergency plan together so they know what they should do if something occurs. Because everyone may not be together at home when a disaster happens, the plan should include ways to contact one another and two places to meet – one near the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and one outside the neighborhood in case circumstances prevent people from returning home. The plan should also identify an emergency contact person from outside the area in case local telephone lines are overloaded or out of service.

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Any emergency plan should also include decisions about where to go if ordered to evacuate and what route to take to get there. It’s a good idea to include alternate routes in case roads are closed. Don’t forget family pets. Make sure to include plans for them such as pet-friendly hotels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.

RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross has developed mobile apps that provide information on what to do before, during and after emergencies, including a “Make a Plan” feature on how to develop an emergency plan. Another important feature in the disaster apps allows users to let family and friends quickly know they are safe with a customizable “I’m Safe” alert for Facebook, Twitter, email and text. The free apps are available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.

HOME FIRES The most common threat people face across the country is a fire in their home. National Preparedness Month is a good time to develop a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone in the household. When developing the plan, walk through the home and look at all exits and possible escape routes, including windows. List two ways to get out of every room in case fire blocks one of the paths. Pick a place to meet outside, a safe distance away and – no matter the circumstances – stay out of the home until fire officials say it is okay to go back inside. All households should practice their plan at least twice a year.

People should also install smoke alarms on every level of their home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. They should test the alarms monthly, replace the batteries at least once a year and replace them every ten years.

A full listing of Red Cross Preparedness Month activities in the North Jersey Region can be found at: Red Cross of North JerseyFor more information on how to prepare for all types of emergencies, people can visit Red Cross Prepare.

About the American Red Cross North Jersey Region 
The American Red Cross North Jersey Region provides programs and services throughout the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren, with a combined population of 5.7 million. The region trains and mobilizes more than 3,330 volunteers who support the delivery of services in the community. Last year, the Red Cross North Jersey Region responded to 494 local home fires, helping 1,130 displaced families; collected 25,420 units of blood through blood drives and Red Cross Blood Donation Centers; provided 1,877 military family case services with emergency messages, helping families find assistance and/or get counseling and referrals; and trained 60,441 individuals with life-saving skills in preparedness, CPR, AED use, first aid and aquatics. Follow the North Jersey Region on Twitter @RedCrossNorthNJ.

 About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit Red Cross