A Red Cross official says few people are prepared for the disasters that threaten them. American Red Cross president Marsha Evans stresses that natural and man-made disasters require preparedness, and a family plan.

The charity official says the Red Cross is educating people about the steps they can take before disaster strikes, but only 40 percent of Americans have a response plan. "We know disasters will happen," she said. "We don't know exactly when, in a lot of cases, but we know they're going to happen. And we've been very concerned that we seem to have a huge mountain to climb to get people to be more prepared."

She points out that through simple steps, people can prepare for threats that face them. First, they need a plan to communicate with family members - fathers, mothers, and children - who may be in different places when disaster strikes.

"The second thing is to build a kit, assemble some basic disaster supplies, water, food for three days at least, medications, just some basics," Ms. Evans explained.

She adds that everyone needs some training in first aid and CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, to help disaster victims. Ms. Evans spoke to a civic group called Town Hall Los Angeles, and she urged her listeners to join community organizations like the Red Cross.

"We need more volunteers stepping forward to help their communities prepare, so that we have not only prepared families but also we have prepared communities. And then, finally, give blood," she stressed.

The Red Cross official says blood is a precious commodity, and there is simply not enough to cope with a major disaster.

Ms. Evans noted that her advice is good for hazards that range from hurricanes to floods, and even terrorist incidents. She says preparedness gives people confidence.

"These kinds of disasters, whether they're an earthquake or a fire, it's a frightening circumstance," she said. "But when people have done those steps, they feel empowered. It doesn't make the disaster any less severe, but their reaction, their response, will give them that sense of confidence that they know what to do to help themselves, to help their families."

Ms. Evans says it has been a busy year for the Red Cross, marked by tornadoes and wildfires in the United States, and international disasters like December's earthquake in Iran, which killed more than 40,000 people. The American Red Cross helps in nearly all U.S. disasters and many international ones as well. Through the Iranian Red Crescent Society, it sent a disaster response team to help distribute supplies to that country's earthquake victims, with two-point-five million dollars in emergency assistance.