September is National Preparedness Month. And given the recent wildfires in California and the expected wrath of Hurricane Florence, now’s the time to focus on whether you and your family are prepared for an emergency. Chances are … you might not be ready. In fact, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Brock Long has noted that America lacks a “culture of preparedness.’’

Often, disaster preparedness myths can inadvertently put you and your family in harm’s way. Here are 6 myths to avoid. And what you can do instead.

Myth 1: I’ll have ample warning and can take precautions.

Some weather events, like bad storms, are indeed predicted. But many times, the severity of the storm is underestimated or the disaster is completely unexpected, such as an earthquake or wildfire. That’s why it’s wise to always have an emergency kit at the ready for whatever eventuality comes along.

Myth 2: I’ll be at home and easily able to access my emergency kit.

Quick  where’s your emergency kit? It’s in your garage, right? (If you don’t have one, get busy putting one together, stat). And sure, the garage is a good place, because we spend a lot of time at home. But we also spend a lot of time not at home. That’s why it’s important to have multiple mini kits of the necessities prepared so you can store one in a desk drawer at work and one in your car.

Myth 3: I can just call 911 if I need help.

We often expect that emergency personnel will be available to help us out in a disaster. According to FEMA’s website, however, “Emergency responders do a great job keeping people safe, but they can’t do it alone. It may also be several days before they can reach your area. As such, we must all embrace our personal responsibility to be prepared.” If you need help immediately, consider reaching out to your local disaster relief agency through social media. Agencies like the Red Cross oftentimes have dedicated digital volunteers standing by. You can also follow your local police and fire department accounts on social media to receive important updates.

Myth 4: I’ll be able to locate my family members by calling them.

Often entire areas lose cell phone service in an emergency. Or local phone lines may be jammed, either because they’re out or everyone is using them at the exact same time. In many cases, making a long-distance call is actually easier. So it’s smart for families to have a designated contact outside of town, someone each family member is instructed to check in with to let them know they’re safe.

Myth 5: Preparing for a disaster makes you a “prepper.”

You might feel overwhelmed trying to get EVERY SINGLE THING you need for a catastrophe. But rest assured, there’s a big difference between being prepared for a weather event and the end of the world as we know it. A good rule of thumb is to be ready with food, water, and supplies for about 3 days, as recommended by FEMA.

Myth 6: My insurance will cover all the damage.

There are some disasters your insurance will cover … and some it won’t. For example, many times you must purchase separate earthquake or flood insurance to cover costs arising from those disasters. And you also might want to make sure your insurance covers “replacement costs,” which is different from market value and takes into account how much it costs to replace your home and its contents in today’s dollars.

Want to know more? Check out Ready.gov for more information on National Preparedness Month.

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about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.