Last month was National Preparedness Month. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and now in its seventh year, National Preparedness Month is a nationwide effort to encourage families to take some simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and communities.

The event marks a great occasion to ask a very important question: Is my household ready for an emergency situation?

According to FEMA statistics, less than half of all households have an emergency plan, and 42 percent of people report that they would need help during a disaster.

You can prepare your home by creating an emergency plan, building an emergency kit, being prepared to help your neighbors and working together to keep everyone safe.

Your family may not be together if an emergency situation arises, so it is important to plan in advance how you will contact one another, how you will get back together, and what you will do in different situations.

A good emergency plan should identify an out-of-town contact and make sure every family member knows the contact's phone number. Be sure every family member has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone call to reach the out-of-town contact. You should also familiarize family members with text messaging, as texts can often get around network disruptions that phone calls cannot.

You should also ask your child's school for a copy of its emergency plan for you to keep at home or work.

FEMA recommends an emergency supply kit for your home that contains:

"¢ Water, one gallon per person per day for at least three days

"¢ Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and a hand-held can opener

"¢ A battery powered or hand-crank radio and a weather radio with tone alert, plus extra batteries for both

"¢ A flashlight and extra batteries

"¢ A first-aid kit

"¢ A whistle to signal for help

"¢ A dust mask to help filter contaminated air

"¢ Plastic sheeting and duct tape to build a shelter-in-place

"¢ Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

"¢ A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

"¢ Local maps

"¢ A cell phone with charger

Additionally, consider adding things to your kit like:

"¢ Prescription medications and glasses

"¢ Infant formula and diapers

"¢ Pet food and extra water for your pet

"¢ Important family documents, like copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records, stored in a portable waterproof container

"¢ Cash or traveler's checks

"¢ Sleeping bags or warm blankets for each person

"¢ A change of clothing

"¢ A fire extinguisher

"¢ Matches in a waterproof container

The hope is that your emergency plan and kit will never have to actually be used. However, in the event of a natural disaster or other situation, you may need to survive on your own until aid and relief workers arrive. It could take hours, or it may take days, so preparedness is important.

For more information about how you can prepare your family, home or business for an emergency, or for helpful guides that can take you step-by-step through the process of creating your own emergency plan and kit, please visit Ready America at www.ready.gov.