Get Prepared One Tip at a Time


The idea of emergency preparedness is a good one. Every family needs some kind of plan in the event of an kind of disaster that could disrupt the normal course of life. But where to start? Hopefully, these quick tips will do the trick to get you unstuck and on your way to being prepared.

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Water storage. You don’t have to live in “hurricane” country to get hurricane prepared. Disasters can hit anywhere which means water could be in short supply. 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. Most people forget that three weeks without electricity means three weeks of no water if your provider has not attached a generator to pump water to houses. 

Point person. Every family needs to identify a friend or relative who lives in another state to be their disaster point person, and then keep that person’s phone number and contact information with them at all times. Instruct all of your family members to call this person to check in with their location and conditions. Long distance phone service is often restored sooner than local service.

Important papers. 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. Now burn the files onto two CDs. Keep one in a safe place and have a trusted friend or relative in a different state (your point person) keep the other disk.

Emergency cash. You need to have some of your Contingency Fund in small denominations of cash―$1,000 is reasonable, but any amount is good―in a safe place outside of your bank, like a fire-proof home safe or other similarly protected receptacle, known only to you and one other person. In the event of a natural disaster that cripples utilities and services, you’ll want to have cash on hand.

Get a Go Bag. Every household needs a Go Bag. This is a collection of items you may need in the event of a disaster that requires you and your family to be self-sufficient when all services are cut off. And because you may need to evacuate, your Go Bag needs to be packed in an easy-to-carry container like a suitcase on wheels. Additionally, each family member needs to have a backpack that contains enough basic supplies to last for 72 hours—all packed and ready to go.

Trunk it. Store a sweat suit, 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, and kick off your shoes and change to sneakers. Now 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.

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10 replies
  1. Kristina
    Kristina says:

    As an emergency manager for a state, thank you for this entry. It is so important that families prepare for the worst, even if it never happens.
    Ask your doctor for a separate, one time prescription for medications needed for one month to be put in your go bag. Most will honor it if you explain why. Make sure to rotate the medications and change them as they are changed by your doctor. one month would carry you through most events.
    Also, add a spare pair of prescription glasses for any family member. Take the old pair once a new one is purchased and put in that members go bag. And having more than one pair (perhaps in another members go bag) is a good idea, too.
    Another tip, make a complete list of all medications taken by all family members and print it out. Laminate it if you can. When in an accident and you can’t remember everything, pull out your card with the list of medications. Avoid having medication interactions. My sisters and I all carry a list of my moms prescriptions, we don’t know who would be called in the event of an emergency.

  2. kaetra
    kaetra says:

    We live in the midwest in a well developed suburban community. Even so in our neighborhood rain and wind frequently knock our power out for days. A 2-3 day outage is pretty common, the longest was 8 days. (All the
    electric lines are above ground on poles, so it puts us at extra risk.)
    We now own a generator and I wouldn’t dream of ever not having one again. That small investment of $500 gives me peace of mind. We can run the fridge, window A/C, lighting, small appliances, etc.
    My next house will be one in an area with only underground electric lines! No more poles for us!

  3. Cathy- Tampa
    Cathy- Tampa says:

    Great points, Mary. If you can stay home during the ‘event’ some of the following suggestions are pretty simple ones. Living in Florida, we’ve also learned to fill up bathtubs with water for toilet flushing. Most of us are also fortunate to have pools to draw water from to flush. When the hurricane season approaches, I also begin to save gallon plastic milk/oj jugs. In the event of a hurricane I fill the jugs up with fresh water, after I’ve gently treated them with peroxide and rinsed well. They do leak and fall apart over time so plan on collecting each season if you use them a number of times. We have a smaller generator – not the neat one below – that we can fire up. It’s important to fire the typical generator up once a month so that it doesn’t clog up and runs smoothly. We also have a small a/c window unit that we can use in conjunction with the generator, refrigerator, and washing machine. It is wonderful to at least be able to do the wash when your power is out for days upon days! It was a Godsend for us when the hurricane came through and knocked out our power for a week. Have a portable clothes line or at least a sturdy rope, so you can hang your washed clothing out to dry. Not ideal but at least your clothing is clean. Check your flashlights and batteries before hand to make sure they work. Not a bad idea to also have solar lights in your yard. In the event of an outage you can bring them inside for light. Safer than candles. They also have LED lights now that go on and on. Also lighted sticks are a good thing to have on hand. Make sure to put solar lights outside each day of the outage to recharge. ALWAYS keep a can opener on hand. I’m in such a habit of using one that I have put my electric one away. If you have a gas grill, make sure to keep an extra propane tank on hand. Store this OUT side of your home, not in your garage. The grill comes in handy. Right before the storm, keep plenty of gas in plastic containers to refill your generator. Keep your generator OUT of your garage and far away from your home when running – preferably to the back of your house, and if you can attach to your house with a steal cord, all the better!. I say this b/c in a disaster someone can come along and steal them. They become a hot commodity fast! Yes, it happened here in Florida.

    • MadMaxi
      MadMaxi says:

      2 Liter soda bottles are made of plastic that doesn’t leach or breakdown as fast as the milk cartons. They are much better for long term water storage, just add water and a couple small drops of bleach(refer to Red Cross Disaster prep for exact amount ratio). Then store in a dark, cool place only thing you might need to do is re oxygenate the water to make it not taste stale after many months. That is done simply by pouring the water back and forth into another container.

  4. Nita Fisher
    Nita Fisher says:

    Great article! But something else to include in your go bag would be extra medication that you take regularly. Get your refills as soon as your pharmacy and insurance will allow and hoard the extras. In an emergency you never know how long it might be before you would be able to get a refill.

  5. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Your “Important papers” paragraph made me go WOW. Since Dave, my husband, died, I’ve struggled to put affairs in order (he did, and I do, have a will and trust, due to my urging). Putting everything on a CD resonated with me; great advice.
    No matter where I live, I will NEVER be without a propane fired whole house generator. Twenty seconds after the electrical power fails, the generator kicks on and I’m living in the lap of luxury.

    • B. In Lee, NY
      B. In Lee, NY says:

      We decided to get a generator after a massive ice storm crippled the farms just half a mile up the road for almost two weeks – that was TOO close for comfort. Ours can use either propane or gasoline with just minor adjustments. It wasn’t extremely expensive, since we are handy enough to do the work ourselves. But regardless of the cost, the reassurance of feeling ready to cope with a long power-out is priceless.


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