What Are You Preparing For?

The most important things to prepare for are the things that are likely to happen. If you live on the Gulf Coast, be prepared for hurricanes. If you live on the Great Plains, be prepared for tornados. If you live on the West Coast, prepare for earthquakes. If you live in the North, prepare for blizzards. Fortunately, these preparations are very similar and they will also help you in the event of blackouts, terrorist attacks, civil disturbance and other natural or manmade disasters.

Unless you work for a government agency or the Red Cross, don't try to prepare for mass casualty or disaster relief for the community. The most important thing you can do for the community is make sure that you and your family are not part of the problem if you don't have to be. If your household can sustain your family for a week without anyone leaving the house and you can evacuate to designated shelters with your personal necessities on 30 minutes notice, you are part of the solution instead of part of the problem for your community.

Prepare to stay 7 days
or leave in 30 minutes

By the way, wear your seatbelt. If you live in the United States, you are more likely to be killed in a car accident than in all the natural and manmade disasters combined.

What Do You Need?

There are five necessities that all parents are required to provide for their children: food and water, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education. These are the basics because they are necessary to maintain life and health and to function in society. In a disaster situation, you want to be able to provide your own food, water, clothing, shelter and personal medical care. Obviously education can be suspended for a while. But it is still necessary to function as a member of society so identification, communication, money and transportation get added to the list.

When Should You Prepare?

Now is the time to do basic preparations for your family. Every household should have some emergency plans. Your local fire station probably has pamphlets on what to do in a fire or medical emergency. Stop by and get them. Then you will know where the fire station is. This is important, since fire stations are common distribution points for emergency supplies and information. Once you have the pamphlets, read and follow them. Protect your family from the personal disasters that happen every day - like house fires and heart attacks - then worry about the big disasters.

Check your disaster supplies every April and October. Daylight savings time changes in these months, and October is the month to put new batteries in your smoke detectors. Summer and winter are the times for bad storms, so spring and fall are the best times to do your preparations.

Have the kids show you their emergency money and contact information. Check your radios and flashlights and change outdated batteries. Look through the canned goods for things you need to replace. Check the first aid kit and the emergency kit in the car. While you are in the car, make sure there is air in the spare tire. After you have checked everything and replaced whatever needs replacing, make sure you have a good supply of spare batteries.


You should spend some of your preparation time documenting what you own. Take pictures of your home, inside and out. Open closets and cabinets and photograph the contents.† If you have jewelry, lay it out on a black cloth with a ruler beside it. If you have art works, make sure you have photos that show exactly what they are. Donít forget the things outside. Make sure cars, boats and trailers are included in your pictures. Anything of particular value, should be photographed carefully.

The easiest way to do this documentation is with a video camera. Scan rooms slowly and talk about what you are looking at as you go. If you donít have access to a video camera, take still pictures and make sure the pictures overlap so everything gets in at least one picture.

Document what you own on a DVD

Once you have the pictures, take them to the drug store or a photo shop and have them put on a DVD. Get at least two copies. Send one to a friend or relative out of town, and keep one with your important papers. Most homeowners insurance recommends that you have this kind of documentation in case you need to make a claim. If you lose your home in a disaster, this may also help you get government aid. No one is going to pay you for things you canít prove existed.