Emergency Preparedness Resources

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The first steps in preparing for any emergency are:

Prepare your home
Make a plan
Build an Emergency Kit
Create a Go-bag

Information for older Americans

Prepare your home

  • Make your home safe. During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. However, there are simple steps you can take to make your home safer. Start by viewing each room with a “disaster eye” and identify potential hazards – bookshelves that could tip over in an earthquake and block exits or heavy objects that could fall and cause injury.
    • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home and change batteries every 6 months.
    • Move beds away from windows.
    • Move mirrors and heavy pictures away from couches or places where people sit.
    • Clear hallways and exits for easy evacuation.
    • Store heavy items on the lowest shelves.
    • Keep an ABC type fire extinguishers on each level and know how and when to use them.
    • Strap down your water heater and fit all gas appliances with a flexible gas supply line.
    • Store flammable or highly reactive chemicals (such as bleach, ammonia, paint thinners) securely and separate from each other.
    • Secure pictures and wall hangings and use restraints to secure heavy items such as bookcases and file cabinets.
    • Know how and when to switch off your utilities.
    • Ensure that all window safety bars have emergency releases.
    • Be sure your home number is visible from the street so emergency vehicles can find you.
  • Duplicate important documents and keep copies off-site, either in a safety deposit box or with someone you trust. Documents may include: passport, drivers license, social security card, wills, deeds, financial statements, insurance information, marriage license and prescriptions.
  • Inventory valuables, in writing and with photographs or video. Keep copies of this information off-site with your other important documents.

Make a Plan

  • Create a household emergency plan here and distribute to each household member. Talk with your family about potential disasters and why it's necessary to prepare for them. Involve each member of your family in the planning process. By showing them simple steps that can increase their safety, you can help reduce their anxiety about emergencies.
  • Designate an out-of-area contact person. Try to select someone that is far enough away to not be affected by the same emergency. Provide this person with the names and contact information of the people you want to keep informed of your situation. Instruct family members to call this person and tell them where they are. Long distance phone service is often restored sooner than local service.
  • Make sure everyone knows where to find your disaster supply kit and Go-bags.
  • Have a flashlight and a pair of shoes under everyone’s bed in case there is an earthquake during the night. Use a plastic bag tied to the leg of the bed to keep these items from moving during an earthquake.
  • Plan where to meet after a disaster if your home becomes unsafe. Choose two places, one just outside your home and one outside your neighborhood in case you are told to evacuate. Be sure your gas tank is always at least half full.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Try to identify two escape routes.
  • Make sure each member knows who your family’s out-of-state contact is and instruct them to call this person and tell him/her where they are.
  • Locate the gas main and other utilities and make sure family members know when and how to turn them off.
  • Practice your evacuation routes, Drop, Cover & Hold and Stop, Drop & Roll drills.
  • Teach each member of your family how to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Create emergency response cards for each of your family members.
  • Take into account the special needs of children, seniors or people with disabilities, family members that don’t speak English and pets.
  • Talk to your children about how to be ready for a disaster with age appropriate tools

Build an Emergency Kit

  • After a major disaster the usual services we take for granted, such as running water, refrigeration, and telephones, may be unavailable. Experts recommend that you should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days. Store your household disaster kit in an easily accessible location. Put contents in a large, watertight container (e.g. a large plastic garbage can with a lid and wheels) that you can move easily.
  • Households/individuals should consider and customize their plans for individual needs and responsibilities based on the methods of communication, types of shelter and methods of transportation available to them. Other factors to keep in mind include:
    • Different ages of members
    • Responsibilities for assisting others
    • Locations frequented
    • Dietary needs
    • Medical needs including prescriptions and equipment
    • Disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment
    • Languages
    • Cultural and religious considerations
    • Pets or service animals
  • Your basic emergency kit should include:
    • Water – one gallon per person per day
    • Food – ready to eat or requiring minimal water
    • Manual can opener and other cooking supplies
    • Plates, utensils and other feeding supplies
    • First Aid kit & instructions
    • A copy of important documents & phone numbers
    • Warm clothes and rain gear for each family member.
    • Heavy work gloves
    • Disposable camera
    • Unscented liquid household bleach and an eyedropper for water purification
    • Personal hygiene items including toilet paper, feminine supplies, hand sanitizer and soap
    • Plastic sheeting, duct tape and utility knife for covering broken windows
    • Tools such as a crowbar, hammer & nails, staple gun, adjustable wrench and bungee cords.
    • Blanket or sleeping bag
    • Large heavy duty plastic bags and a plastic bucket for waste and sanitation
    • Any special-needs items for children, seniors or people with disabilities. Don’t forget water and supplies for your pets.

More information on the FEMA website

Create a Go-bag

Put the following items together in a backpack or another easy to carry container in case you must evacuate quickly. Prepare one Go-bag for each family member and make sure each has an I.D. tag. You may not be at home when an emergency strikes so keep some additional supplies in your car and at work, considering what you would need for your immediate safety.

  • Flashlight
  • Radio – battery operated
  • Batteries
  • Whistle
  • Dust mask
  • Pocket knife
  • Emergency cash in small denominations and quarters for phone calls
  • Sturdy shoes, a change of clothes, and a warm hat
  • Local map
  • Some water and food
  • Permanent marker, paper and tape
  • Photos of family members and pets for re-identification purposes
  • List of emergency point-of -contact phone numbers
  • Information to register for programs such as the American Red Cross Safe and Well Website
  • List of allergies to any drug (especially antibiotics) or food
  • Copy of health insurance and identification cards
  • Extra prescription eye glasses, hearing aid or other vital personal items
  • Prescription medications and first aid supplies
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Extra keys to your house and vehicle
  • Any special-needs items for children, seniors or people with disabilities. Don’t forget to make a
  • Go-bag for your pets.

Maintaining your kit

Just as important as putting your supplies together is maintaining them so they are safe to use when needed. Here are some tips to keep your supplies ready and in good condition:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers to protect from pests and to extend its shelf life
  • Throw out any canned good that becomes swollen, dented or corroded
  • Use foods before they go bad and replace them with fresh supplies
  • Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in the front
  • Change stored food and water supplies every six months. Be sure to write the date you store it on all containers
  • Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change
  • Keep items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as an unused trashcan, camping backpack or duffel bag.