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How to Be Prepared for an Emergency

By Edited Feb 24, 2016 2 6

Make Emergency Plans

and Have Emergency Supplies

A few minutes of preparation and planning can make it much easier for you and your family to survive a major catastrophe in your community.

Earthquakes, wild fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and mudslides are just some of the events that can change our life in a few minutes. One moment your life seems normal, even boring, and suddenly everything you have taken for granted has changed.

Be prepared for emergencies

No one can be completely prepared for every possible emergency. However, there are a few things you can do in advance to help you and your family be prepared to handle your immediate needs after a catastrophe strikes. One reason you need to think about these things is that, in a major disaster, it could be several days before the police, fire department and other emergency personnel are able to reach you. Remember Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans? If it is possible for you to take care of you own needs, and those of your family, for even a short time, you will get through the crisis with a little less suffering.

So, what items should you put together for your emergency kit?


Every car in your home should have a backpack or duffle bag full of emergency supplies. It should contain water, a few canned goods, a can opener, and a few days worth of your medications.

If you want to purchase a basic kit online, use this link to Emergency Backpacks from Amazon.  Then, you just need to add a few things to personalize it so you are prepared for an emergency.

Your emergency backpack should also contain a first aid kit, extra glasses or contact lenses, a flashlight, a wind-up radio or a radio with batteries, and a change of clothes for everyone in the family.

To make yourselves more comfortable, you should also keep toiletries, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, sample sizes of shampoo, a bar of soap and anything else you believe would make your life more comfortable if you had to evacuate in a hurry.

It you live in areas that are prone to forest fires, you may want to include disposable face masks in your kit. Also consider any special needs your family might have, such as a few diapers for a baby, or portable medical devices.

It is also a good idea to keep a couple of blankets or sleeping bags in your car.

In addition, remember that if you are not home when the emergency occurs, you may not be allowed to return to your home until after the danger has passed. You may want to include a small file containing copies of important documents such as insurance policies, and a list of your prescriptions. Also include a list of phone numbers, so you can get in touch with relatives, your physician, etc.

Finally, tuck a bit of cash into your backpack. In a real emergency, there may not be any working ATM machines or open banks that you can reach. Having a bit of cash will make life easier.


For people like me who live in earthquake country, there is always the possibility that the house could collapse or become unsafe. You might successfully escape outdoors, but not be able to retrieve anything from your house or car. When my friends and I gather for lunch, we often discuss the steps we have taken to be prepared in case of an earthquake.

In order to be prepared for this situation, many people I know are putting together waterproof emergency boxes that they keep in their backyards, a little distance away from the main structure of the house. Inside, they keep all the same items that they have in their emergency backpack, sometimes in larger quantities. Most emergency personnel recommend that you try to have a three day supply of essentials stored in a safe place in case of an emergency. This means that having a three day supply of food, medications, clothing and other emergency supplies is particularly important. Again, be sure you have blankets or sleeping bags. After earthquakes, people often find themselves sleeping outdoors until help arrives. Some of our friends have included small camp stoves in their emergency box, as well as a few cooking and eating utensils. If you keep any cash or copies of documents in your emergency box, store these items in a smaller waterproof container in the bottom of the larger box, with all your other supplies on top.


Now that you have gathered up some basic supplies that you can use in an emergency, you need to discuss your family emergency plans at a time when everyone is together. Include even the youngest children in this family meeting, so that they will know what to do in an emergency. Here are some of the questions you should discuss:

In case we have to rush out of the house during a fire, where would we all meet?

If we aren't together during an emergency, where should we try to go to reconnect?

If we can't get in touch with each other, is there a distant relative we could all contact?

Our family always had a tree where we agreed we would meet if we had to run out of the house due to a fire or other emergency. We also agreed that if we couldn't meet there, we would meet at the home of a close friend. If that didn't work, we would all contact a relative who lived in another city. This preparation paid off, when one of our daughters was in a major San Francisco earthquake. She walked several miles to a friend's apartment. It took her hours to get a phone call through to her husband. Once she did, he called all the other relatives to let them know that she was safe. Having a plan made it easier for her to cope with the crisis.

Although you cannot be prepared for every eventuality, knowing that you have prepared for some possible emergency scenarios will help you to feel less overwhelmed when something does happen.

If you are interested in learning more about protecting your family, you may want to read one of the articles listed below:

Go to the Emergency Room Now!

Helping Kids Deal with Death

How to Avoid Dog Bites!

Personal Safety Tips for Women

Preventing Death and Injury in Children

Teach Your Children Safety Around Electricity

Graphic art courtesy of photoxpress.com 

Enough Emergency Supplies for 4 People

Ready America 70385 Deluxe Emergency Kit 4 Person Backpack
Amazon Price: $139.99 $41.77 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 24, 2016)
Food and water for three days, plus blankets, goggles and an emergency combination flashlight and cell phone charger ... plus more. This can sustain your family until things start to return to normal.


Oct 3, 2010 12:29am
Fortunately I live in a place free of major natural disasters.
Oct 3, 2010 11:48pm
this is a very useful article. how many people live in a high risk area and do not have a disaster plan? Thanks for the heads up
Oct 7, 2010 12:45pm
Excellent article, for everyone. Nobody knows when a disaster is going to strike, look at Aberfan (coal tip slide) and Cork city 5 feet under water for a week earlier this year. No electricity with the floods. Might be an idea to have emergency details etc with relatives 10 miles away, certainly would have been an idea in Cork. Nobody could have gone digging for boxes in their gardens under 5 feet of water.
Jun 28, 2011 3:40pm
Great tips for emergency preparation.
Jun 29, 2011 2:22pm
Very important information here for everyone! I keep an emergency stash in my trunk that includes an old pair of tennis shoes and socks. In a true disaster, you might have to trudge through debris which might be difficult with other shoes or sandals.
Oct 8, 2014 12:58pm
Everyone should keep emergency supplies handy ... and keeping old tennis shoes and socks in your trunk is a great idea.
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