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7 Things You Need to Do Now to Plan Ahead for Disaster

The idea of emergency preparedness is good. But just having an idea is not good enough. Every person—every family—needs a plan in the event of a disaster that could disrupt the normal course of life. But where to start? That’s where most of us get stuck for lack of useful, specific direction. Hopefully, these quick tips will do the trick to get you unstuck and on your way to being “disaster ready.”

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Water storage

First of all, you don’t have to live in hurricane country to get hurricane prepared. Disasters can hit anywhere. This means water could be in short supply. For true emergency preparedness, store bottled drinking water in your home for your immediate needs. For flushing toilets and showers, line 30-45 gallon garbage cans with those large contractor plastic bags available at home improvement stores. 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.

Point person

Next, 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. Finally, 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 in the event you become separated when disaster hits.

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. Keep one in a safe place and have a trusted friend or relative in a different state (your point person) keep the other.

Emergency cash

Also, you need to have some of your Contingency Fund in small denominations of cash―$1,000 is reasonable, but any amount is good. Store it in a safe place outside of your bank like a fire-proof home safe or another similarly protected receptacle, known only to you and one other person. In the event of a natural disaster that cripples utilities and services, banks will be closed. ATM machines will be down as well because they run on electricity. So you will want to have cash on hand.

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Get a Go Bag

Every household needs a Go Bag. This is a 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. And because you may need to evacuate with little notice, your Go Bag needs to be packed in an easy-to-carry container like a suitcase on wheels. Additionally, have each family member keep a backpack that contains enough basic supplies to last for 72 hours—all packed and ready to go.

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.

Trunk kit

Store a sweatsuit, sneakers, and a pair of old socks in the trunk of the car next to the spare tire. If there’s a flat tire, throw the sweats on over your good clothes. Next, kick off your shoes and change to sneakers. Being disaster ready means you can change that tire without having to worry about getting dirty. Bonus: If the car simply breaks down, the sneakers will feel better on the way to the nearest service station.

Check out Ready.gov for more information and terrific resources.


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12 replies
  1. Mrs. S. says:

    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.

  2. Judy says:

    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.

  3. Lynda Marie RUIZ says:

    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.

  4. Cathy down on the farm... says:

    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.

  5. Liz says:

    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.

    • Ed says:

      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.

  6. Suzanne Patterson says:

    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.

    • Mayra says:

      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

  7. Shirley Kelly says:

    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

    • Jeanne says:

      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.

      • Sonja says:

        What a great idea! I’m always excited about action rather than complaints. Great advice for many issues!!!

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