How can anyone be prepared for an emergency? Or a disaster? It is hard to know when an emergency is going to happen, and there are so many different types. Nonetheless, there are things you can do ahead of time that will make your life easier. Number one, is "be prepared."

The most common emergency that effects people is the "unexpected event." Prepare for this by getting to know your neighbors. At least say hi, see if they are willing to exchange email addresses with you. After all, if you are late or injured or lost, they are the people most likely to go next door and feed your dog, if you have established a friendly connection. If possible, store emails and addresses on your phone which you are more likely to have with you, than on a stand alone computer at home, or worse, pasted to the front of your refrigerator.

If you have a children or spouse, it is important to have a family "unexpected event" plan as well. Decide before hand who the children should call, and where, Mom? Dad? Cellphone? Work phone? If everyone is on facebook, emails and posts are another way to communicate with young people who may be more likely to check their site than to listen to a voice mail message.

The next most common disaster is a fire. Prepare for this before hand by renting a safe deposit box for your receipts and important papers. Most people experience a fire only once in their life. It comes as quite a shock that the insurance carrier is hesitant to pay out for anything you can't prove the value of. If you buy expensive appliances, flat screen TV's and gaming systems you want replaced, keep copies of the receipts on paper that will not fade. If an item is very expensive, such as jewelry, make an itemized list for your insurance carrier.

Go over escape routes with your children and spouse. Encourage them to get out as soon as possible and not worry about running back for personal possessions. Smoke and heat can confuse a person, tell them to stay close to the floor, crawl if necessary. Going out a window that is close by is preferable to opening an door into an inferno, just to get out the main exit. Even before the fire, be aware of what causes fires: decorative candles are the number one cause of fires in homes. Make sure any candles you light are actually designed for burning! You would be surprised how many are stamped with a caution, "for decoration only" ! Falling asleep while smoking is another very common cause. If you must smoke, try not to smoke indoors, and never never in a bed.

Another common emergency is power loss. Keep canned food and bottled water around, and a can opener! When I lived in Hawai'i, many residents were old enough to remember how food was scarce during the wars. It was common to see a pantry stocked with a month's worth of food. Rotate the items so that you eat the oldest stuff first. IF there was a hurricane or tsunami in your area you would be sad if you realized everything you had on hand was out dated. Some items have no expiration. For example, rice, if kept in a cool dry place is good indefinitely. Honey also does not expire and can keep for decades. Dried beans keep pretty long, but they are not a good crises food because they require fresh water to soak and cook and eat. For as inexpensive as they are, canned beans are a better disaster food.

A generator is another good tool to have in a power outage. Consider keeping the gasoline on hand to run it, if you are serious about being prepared. It won't do you any good otherwise. One of the biggest challenges in a series natural disaster is everyone being out at once. You couldn't borrow a cup of water from your neighbor after a Tsunami if no one for fifty miles has potable water. You couldn't start a fire if all the matches have become water logged. Keep a set of matches and flashlights with batteries in a waterproof ziplock baggie somewhere agreed upon in your house. Check the batteries every quarter. On Labor Day and Memorial Day, check the batteries in your smoke alarms! Make it a habit!