7 Things To Do Now to Be Prepared for Disaster
The idea of emergency preparedness is good. But having an idea is not good enough. Every person—every family—needs a plan in the event of a disaster that could disrupt the ordinary course of life. But where to start? That’s where most of us get stuck for lack of useful, specific direction. The following quick tips will do the trick to get you unstuck and on your way to disaster-ready.
1. Water Storage
You don’t have to live in hurricane country tem or near a busy freight train rail systo get prepared. Disasters can hit anywhere. This means water could be in short supply. Make sure you have ample bottled drinking water in your home for immediate needs.
An Easy Way to Get Started
Experts tell us that, at a bare minimum, we need to have in storage three days worth of emergency bottled water per person.
A case of 24 (16.7 oz) bottles of water = 3 gallons
Purchase one case of bottled water for each person in the household. There you have it. Three gallons per person will get you through three days of the kind of disaster that affects the water supply and or safety.
Better: A case of 40 (16.7 oz) bottles of water = 5 gallons
For longer outages, consider you will need additional/water for flushing toilets and showers. One way to do this is with 30 to 45-gallon garbage cans with those larger heavy-duty contractor plastic trash bags, available at home improvement stores. Line the cans with bags, then fill the garbage cans with water and apply their tight-fitting lids.
Most people forget that three weeks without electricity means three weeks of no water if their water utility provider has not attached a generator to pump water to houses.
2. Point Person
Identify a friend or relative who lives in another state to be the “disaster point person” for your family. Then keep that person’s phone number and contact information with you at all times. Add this contact to every person’s phone. Instruct all of your family members (and let the point person know, too!) to call this person to check in with their location and conditions if you become separated when disaster hits.
Added protection: Decide on a code word each person knows. Make this your family’s verbal passcode. This way you can ask anyone “what’s the code?” to make sure you are not speaking with an imposter or other type of evil attempting to scam you to your lovedone.
3. Important Papers
One of the most critical tips for emergency preparedness is to think ahead. So scan your family’s important documents—birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, insurance policies, property deeds, car titles, immunization records, pet medical records, school transcripts, business licenses, education degrees, and tax returns.
Next, burn (copy) those files onto two DVDs or thumb drives. Keep one in a safe place and have a trusted friend or relative in a different state (your point person) keep the other.
4. Emergency Cash
You need to have some of your Contingency Fund (emergency fund) in small denominations of cash―$1,000 is reasonable, but any amount is better than having none. Store it in a safe place outside your bank—like a fireproof home safe or another similarly protected receptacle known only to you and one other person.
In the event of a disaster that cripples utilities and services, banks will be closed. ATM machines will be down because they run on electricity. You will definitely want to have cash on hand.
5. Build a Go Bag
Every household needs a Go Bag. This collection of items you may need to be disaster-ready if an event forces you and your family to become self-sufficient when all services are cut off.
Because you may need to evacuate with little notice, your Go Bag must be packed in an easy-to-carry container like a suitcase on wheels. Additionally, have each family member keep a backpack containing enough basic supplies for 72 hours, packed and ready to go.
Another (see above) good solar power bank that you keep charged with cables and adapters for your smartphone(s) is essential. Keep this in your Go Bag. The last thing you want to think about is finding these essential items at a moment’s notice.
Make sure your Go Bag includes an excellent first-aid kit that is well-stocked with your emergency supplies. If you take prescription medications, talk with your doctor about acquiring an extra amount for your Go Bag, which you regularly rotate so that your emergency supply of meds is not expired.
6. Full Tank
Keep your cars’ fuel tanks more full than empty. Make that a new habit. If you are required to evacuate, you won’t be the only one. Your entire community will be in the same situation.
If your vehicle’s fuel tank is regularly “almost empty,” you’ll be stuck in a very long line—assuming any filling stations are still in operation.
For true emergency preparedness, make a new rule that your car’s fuel indicator never falls below 1/2 full. It’s just as easy to keep the top half of that tank full as the bottom half.
7. Trunk Kit
Store a sweatsuit, sneakers, and old socks in the car’s trunk next to the spare tire. If there’s a flat tire, throw the sweats over your good clothes. If the car breaks down, the sneakers will feel better walking to the nearest service station. Being disaster-ready means you can change that tire without worrying about getting dirty.
Additionally, make sure you are always carrying specific emergency items in your car, including but not necessarily limited to:
- first aid kit
- another good solar power bank that you keep charged with cables and adapters for your phone(s).
- unscented pillar candle and lighter (a lit candle can keep a car’s interior warm enough to survive, just make sure you keep a window or door open slightly while the candle is lit).
- energy bars
- bottles of water
Check out Ready.gov for more information and terrific resources.
Not a very good Scrabble approach, but an excellent philosophy for life!
Expanded, Updated , Republished: 3-13-23
Wow Mary! I’ve been trying to be prepared and thought I was doing a lot better than I evidently am. Thank you thank you thank you! I’m on it.
Love the saving water in trash cans idea
I’m a former FEMA instructor trainer. Very good checklist. Technology is allowing us to replace some bulk. Instead of DVD’s many people are downloading important papers onto a thumb drive. I have copies of all my passwords, bank accounts, brokerages, passports, life and property insurance, drivers license, military DD214 all digitally stored on an encrypted thumb drive. My kids know where it is stored, if something were to happen to us, it is stored with a financial plan that I update at least yearly, sometimes twice if there are significant changes.
I’d recommend having a paperwhite Kindle or e-reader (charge lasts for weeks) with some survival books and entertainment on it. Also, spare chargers for any electronics you are taking. You can get a solar rechargable battery back up that will charge your cell phone, tablet, or e-reader half a dozen times for $20 or less. I personally have about 15 small battery back ups I can throw in a backpack, a means to charge them (solar panel) and one large battery back up that will power my computers and home phone for a day or two.
Like one of the people commenting, the Berkey filter system is great for water. I have one in my personal disaster kit along with a couple of life straw water filters.
For the lady in the apartment, it is a tough nut to crack, but here is some advice: Get some inflatable solar lamps/lantterns. They are inexpensive and safer than candles. Luminaid, MPowerd, Lucid are some of the brands. Readily available on Amazon, not expensive (even cheaper on sale occasionally). They really will light up a room for hours.
Also, don’t forget many homes still have bathtubs and spare shower stalls. If you have a little warning, you can use trash bags (I’d recommend 3 mil if you can find them, or just double bag) and fill a reasonable amount. Remember your floor is probably only stressed to handle 300-400# in a small area so that is 50 gallons or so. However, if you’ve got garage space, you can store water there. I have several large mylar bags set up to fill should I need them…one would weigh as much as a large car/SUV if full (1000 gal), so it would only go on a concrete garage floor on ground level.
Also you can store food in bulk fairly inexpensively…pasta is cheap, as is rice. I personally have freeze dried meat put away. It is expensive, but I know I’m set should a prolonged disaster happen. For those with canning skills, you can pressure can various meats and store them for 2-3 years. Lots of books available on how to do that.
I would also add, prepare your children if you work any distance from home. When we lived in SoCal and my children were young, we explained to them that if there was a big earthquake they may not see us for several days and they should stay with their teacher unless someone on the pick-up list or someone with the “secret word” arrived to pick them up. And that doesn’t mean something bad has happened to us because lots of roads and bridges could damaged and might not be passable.
Don’t forget to have at least a few days worth of doses of your prescription and over-the-counter daily medications. Make sure your prescriptions are up to date and have a refill available in case you’ve had to leave your home and have to get a refill at a different pharmacy. Also, pet owners should have a stash of pet food and their pet’s medications.
All good points. Everyone’s needs will be slightly different of course and those needs can change with time. Get your basics covered and move on from there.
When we bought gallon jugs of water I refilled them with tap water to store. I also fill empty bleach and vinegar bottle with water. Since I buy a lot of vinegar that comes 2 gallon jugs in a box, I out the bottles f water back in those boxes and they can be stacked. I can use that for flushing or drinking. I have a well, so every time the power goes out their is no tap water as the pump is electric.
Thank you for broaching this subject, Mary. It is a very important timely topic. I just started to change out my water jugs in the basement, replacing the water that is about a year old. I wash used gallon milk jugs out very well with soap and water and peroxide. Once they are totally clean I refill them with my fresh tap water and a couple of drops of peroxide the keep the water fresh. I have about 50 milk and water jugs that I am getting ready to go. I have taken plastic kitty litter large containers to put my toilet flushing water in. I also have Life Straws, Seychelle water containers and a Sawyer Water filter that can filter quite a bit of water. We had to learn from being in a hurricane area but blizzard prone areas can be quite challenging as well.
A plastic tablecloth is nice to have in trunk in case you need to change a tire in wet weather.
A good source of water when the electricity is off is the water heater. You need a hose to hook to bottom of water heater.
If you decide to draw water from the drain on your electric water heater make sure you turn the breakers off first. If you draw the water down below the elements and the power comes back on, you’ll likely be replacing your elements.
Water is heavy, and if you must bug out it can be very hard to carry enough to get you to your next destination. That’s why, in addition to bottled water, everyone in the family should also carry a personal water filter such as LifeStraw.
I invested in a Berkey water filter, is safe to collect water from streams, river or lake, is portable stainless steel and made in USA
Thanks Mary, I have been reading about preparing for disaster and am putting together a go-bag and extra pantry items, etc. My problem is I live in an apartment in the Seattle area. There are 50 apartments all electric and no generator. I have mentioned to my Manager more than once about storing water, etc in case of an emergency (we have underground parking and space) she just shrugs it off. For myself I have a fondue pot with sterno for heating water or soup. Any advice for us apt dwellers? We do not have any individual storage space. I’m 84 and everyone here is 62+. Thank you. Shirley
Great question! Count me in on it: I’m 67 and live in a New York City apartment.
Shirley, I’m not an apartment dweller, so I don’t have any experience to offer. But if you have 50 apartments & everyone is over 62, you’re all facing the same concerns AND you have a wealth of experience to draw on. I’d suggest getting a group of residents together to discuss & brainstorm, as well as how to get ALL of your residents involved. Your building manager may be able to shrug off one person’s concerns; not so easy to dismiss a building full of concerned people. Think about contacting a local newspaper, TV station, senior group to highlight your issue. See if other apartment residents have similar problems- maybe have even found answers.
What a great idea! I’m always excited about action rather than complaints. Great advice for many issues!!!