Preparing for An Emergency: Where Do I Start?

By Shaunda Rauch on September 30, 2013 from Emergency Services Blog via

In the majority of the conversations I hold with residents, family members and friends who want to increase their preparedness levels I have found that they are simply overwhelmed with the mere idea of personal preparedness.  It’s not that they don’t realize there is a need for them to take action … the plaguing question is “Where do I begin?”.   
National Geographic shows such as Doomsday Preppers and Doomsday Castle, which illustrate the extreme versions of disaster preparedness, have caused many to throw up their hands and declare any level of preparedness as being unachievable.   What they fail to recognize is that personal preparedness is just that … personal.  Each family’s preparedness efforts will be dictated by the “threat” they are preparing for [long-term illness, job loss, tornado, long-term power outages, etc.], the needs of their family members – including pets and the funds/storage that they can apply towards their preparedness. 
Recommendation #1:  Keep it simple by building a basic foundation to your preparedness program.  A good place to start it is building your disaster supplies kit(s). 
A disaster supplies kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.  Try to assemble your kit well in advance of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you. You will probably not have time to search for the supplies you need or shop for them.  You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days.
Additionally, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days or even a week, or longer. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages.
Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.
Your disaster supplies kit should contain essential food, water and supplies for at least three days.
Recommended Supplies to Include in a Basic Kit:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First Aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Infant formula and diapers, if you have an infant
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
Additionally, you may want to consider having supplies for sheltering for up to two weeks.
You need to be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Make sure you have food and water and other necessities like medicines in your kit. Also, be sure to have comfortable walking shoes at your workplace in case an evacuation requires walking long distances.
Your kit should also be in one container and ready to “grab and go” in case you are evacuated from your workplace.
In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car. This kit should include:
·         Jumper cables
·         Flashlights and extra batteries
·         First aid kit and necessary medications in case you are away from home for a prolonged time
·         Food items containing protein such as nuts and energy bars; canned fruit and a portable can opener
·         Water for each person and pet in your car
·         AM/FM radio to listen to traffic reports and emergency messages
·         Cat litter or sand for better tire traction
·         Shovel
·         Ice scraper
·         Warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and an extra change of clothes
·         Blankets or sleeping bags
Also consider:
·         A fully-charged cell phone and phone charger
·         Flares or reflective triangle
·         Baby formula and diapers if you have a small child
Be prepared for an emergency by keeping your gas tank full and if you find yourself stranded, be safe and stay in your car, put on your flashers, call for help and wait until it arrives.
Visit for a more thorough listing of items that you might want to consider including in your disaster supplies kit(s). 

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