CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- Disasters can strike at any moment, and individuals should take action to prepare themselves for emergency situations. September is National Preparedness Month, and this year's national theme is "Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How."

The observance is a reminder that people should always be prepared by having a plan, checking their insurance policies and learning lifesaving skills such as CPR and first aid. Throughout the month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has weekly themes to show people the different aspects of planning for a disaster.

WEEK 1: MAKE AND PRACTICE YOUR PLAN

Ready.gov provides tips on how to create a plan for yourself, family and friends. When putting together a plan, people should consider the specific needs of their household. This includes medical needs, dietary needs, disabilities, cultural and religious considerations, pets or service animals, and ages of each household member.

It is also important to collect contact information of each person and other important people and offices such as medical facilities, doctors, schools or service providers, and identify evacuation zones in the area. The emergency plan should be readily accessible to each person, whether they have a copy in their wallet, backpack or purse, or it is placed in a central location in the home. Lastly, household members should review and practice the emergency plan regularly.

WEEK 2: LEARN LIFESAVING SKILLS

Knowing basic home maintenance and lifesaving skills such as CPR and first aid are important. For basic home maintenance, Ready.gov provides tips that people should follow such as having emergency supplies including flashlights, spare batteries, food, water and medicine. People should also keep their home safe by making sure smoke alarms are on each floor, working properly and replaced every 10 years. Chimneys and vents should also be cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year. If you are renting a home, please contact your landlord to ensure that maintenance is done accordingly.

In an emergency, people should call 112 in Europe. However, life-threatening emergencies can happen fast, and emergency responders are not always nearby. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, advises people to practice simple actions immediately in an emergency until help arrives. The simple steps are call emergency responders, stay safe, stop the bleeding, position the injured and provide comfort. FEMA offers web-based training at https://community.fema.gov/until-help-arrives.

WEEK 3: CHECK INSURANCE COVERAGE

It is important to review and understand the coverage in your property (homeowners or renters), health and life insurance to ensure the policies provide sufficient coverage. Individuals should contact their insurance company if they have questions or want to make changes to their policy.

Furthermore, people should consider adding flood insurance even if they do not live in a high-risk flood zone. According to FEMA, flood damage is rarely covered under homeowners or renters policy. More information on flood insurance is at https://www.floodsmart.gov.

WEEK 4: SAVE FOR AN EMERGENCY

People at all income levels can experience challenges with rebuilding their lives after disasters. It is recommended to save money in an emergency savings account. Ready.gov has information and tips, including the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit at https://www.ready.gov/financial-preparedness.

For local assistance, Army Community Service's Financial Readiness Program has financial counselors to assist with financial planning. Contact ACS at DSN 366-6824 or +32 (0)6532-6824.

SET UP ALERTS

All U.S. and non-U.S. military, civilian and contractor personnel whose normal place of duty is an Army garrison, installation, community forward site or facility are required to register for AtHoc. The mass-warning notification system sends registered users emergency warnings and other critical information such as hazardous road conditions, reporting delays and base closures due to severe weather. For more information about AtHoc, go to http://www.usagbenelux.eur.army.mil/AtHoc.html.

The U.S. Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System, commonly referred to as ADPAAS, requires U.S. Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians, contractors stationed overseas and their Families to include their contact and location information. The system allows personnel to report accounting status, complete needs assessments and view reference information. To access ADPAAS, go to https://adpaas.army.mil.

Personnel and their families stationed overseas should also register for the U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, so they can receive security messages in the event of a terrorist threat, security incident planned demonstrations, natural disasters or other emergency situations in the country they reside in or countries they visit during their tour. In an emergency, U.S. citizens are advised to contact their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.