When it comes to natural disasters, gone is the age of “it won’t happen to me.” “So often people are surprised by disasters, but disasters are what we like to call inevitable surprises,” says Brad Kieserman, vice president of disaster operations and logistics for the American Red Cross. “They're going to come, so be ready.”

Planning for the worst

“Mother nature has thrown some things at us that people never thought possible...”

“Not all communities have the same risk,” Kieserman notes. “The first thing to do is know the hazards that affect your community.” Next, make a plan. “Draft an evacuation route that shows how you and your family will exit your home, and set a designated meeting spot where all family members will meet after a disaster,“ advises Shane Grady, the disaster response account coordinator for Duracell's PowerForward program, an effort launched in 2011.

Finally, build a preparedness kit that contains all of the things you and your family may need in the event of a disaster. “It's the little things people take for granted,” cautions Alfonso Arteaga, a senior brand manager with Duracell North America. For example, he suggests considering a headlamp in addition to a flashlight, as even doing simple tasks like cooking “can be a challenge if you're not ready.”

Preparing to be unplugged

“It's an unfortunate reality,” says Grady, “that no matter what kind of natural disaster strikes, the power almost always fails.” In our tech-connected age, this can come as a shock. “We live and breathe with our devices,” notes Kieserman. “Generally about eight hours after an outage, you realize just how dependent you are on them because they don't operate anymore. Whether it’s having a hand-crank charger, a charger you keep pre-charged that has multiple charges worth of energy, or a battery operated charger, having power — portable, individual power — is really critical in preparing for an outage.”

But it isn’t only our smartphones and laptops we need to consider, it’s also home health aides such as daily dialysis machines, ventilators and diabetes monitoring systems. “Make sure that you have enough batteries to get you through a couple of weeks, and have a variety of sizes to ensure you can power just about any device you might need during that time,” Grady advises.

Driving into disaster

Duracell’s PowerForward program works to mitigate the effects of a disaster with a five truck fleet strategically designed to meet the specific needs of different regions and positioned to reach anywhere in the continental United States within 24 hours. Each truck can charge 72 mobile devices and offers internet access. “We've charged over 10,000 mobile devices at this point, to reconnect families with their loved ones at their time of need,” shares Grady.

In response to Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico, both Heavy Haulers — the trucks usually stationed in San Francisco, California and Portsmouth, New Hampshire — were airlifted to the island in order to distribute one hundred tons of batteries.

Eyeing the future

Arteaga, who was born in Puerto Rico and living there at the time of the hurricane, reflects on relief efforts. “We spent five weeks helping out the people on the island. This was our longest deployment, and it's been our deployment where we've given away the most amount of product.

“Mother nature has thrown some things at us that people never thought possible,” he adds. “That’s helping make people reconsider, ‘Oh, I live in an area that isn't impacted by severe weather. I'm safe.’”

Take a couple of moments over the holiday season to be thankful for what you have — for your family and for whatever it is you value,” says Kieserman. “Disasters are part of life and they're inevitable. It goes much better for everyone if everyone takes a little time to prepare.”