Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, there has been concern about terrorism and how we might protect ourselves and our families. There is a lot of discussion about what everybody should be doing and very little information about how to do it. I am writing this book because I see two flaws in the current recommendations. The first is that these elaborate preparations are not practical. They are not things that fit into our day-to-day lives and they will not be there when the time comes to use them. The second flaw is understanding that the most effective terrorist is Mother Nature. Few of us are likely to be involved in a terrorist attack, but most of us are at risk for natural disasters, both large and small.

I am a public health physician with 25 years of experience in disaster operations. I have been the Health Officer in cities hit by hurricanes, floods, and hazardous materials spills. I have designed emergency medical operations. Those are my professional qualifications. More important to the advice I am about to give you are my personal qualifications. I am married and the mother of two children. I have been a head of household for more than thirty years and I have had to prepare and provide for my family through all kinds of natural and unnatural disasters.

In a major hazardous material incident, my home was within the two-mile evacuation radius. On a Sunday afternoon when my husband was away on business, I had to evacuate my aged mother and two very young daughters while overseeing the Health Department's response. I lived in Kansas City during the worst ice storm in history where tens of thousands of people were without power for as long as three weeks. Then I moved to Louisiana where we have been hit by four hurricanes in four years, including the worst natural disaster in United States history, the combined damage of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Most of what I have read on disaster preparation focuses on having a kit or supply of the necessities set aside somewhere in your home. Then there is information on rotating these supplies so they stay fresh and useful. There are people who have the room and the patience to have these stores, and to keep them up from year to year, even when they are not needed. I'm not one of them and the odds are you aren't either.

Typically, when there is an impending disaster you find that the flashlight is dead, the batteries have been used for other things, a lot of the food is out of date, and you never set aside the water to begin with. And anyone who thinks a portable radio is going to stay put in the closet clearly doesn't have children. So how do you arrange to have the supplies you need when you need them?  You make them part of the daily life of the household and the people in it.