When I think about emergency preparation, my mind conjures up wild images of camouflaged conspiracy theorists storing food, weapons and iodide tablets in a cave or bomb shelter. I suppose every emergency has to be a Japan-sized earthquake and tsunami or a made-in-Hollywood nuclear disaster. In reality, that simply is not the case. Minor hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and droughts can create major havoc when they disrupt water, power or communication services. What’s more, an unexpected layoff, a divorce, a house fire, a trip to the emergency room or dozens of other scenarios might create a personal disaster at any time. We can stay calm amid the panic by following these four simple steps to be prepared for the unexpected.
First, every family should have a 72-hour kit ready for each family member. These kits are easy to prepare and should fit nicely into a backpack or bag. Include anything you might need to survive for three days, including prescription medicines, a change of clothes, non-perishable food items, water, first aid materials, some cash and whatever other essentials you may need. The idea 72-hour kit is inexpensive, easy to prepare, and easy to access if you needed to evacuate your home quickly.
After you have prepared for the short term, it is time to start thinking about long-term planning. Start small by buying a little more of what your family already eats on your next shopping trip. As extras begin to accumulate, find a cool, dry place to store surplus food items and remember to rotate so that the oldest items are used first. In no time at all, you’ll find that you have 3-6 months of food stored in case of emergency. Make similar long-term plans for medications, first aid supplies, bedding and clothing. Oh, and don’t forget the water!
With short-term and long-term supplies, you can have peace of mind that your family will at least have access to food and clean water in times of tragedy or disaster. You will survive. But there is more to emergency preparedness than simply surviving. For example, what would you do if your cell phone stopped working or if a natural disaster made it impossible to access email or the internet? How would you locate your family? How could you get home if a disaster happened while at work that closed the freeways?
The third step in preparing for emergencies is to have a plan answering these types of questions. It is especially important to decide on a place where your family should meet, how you will communicate, and what your kids should do if you don’t show up at the meeting place in a timely fashion.
Finally, emergencies and disasters are almost always expensive. A well-prepared emergency plan always includes an emergency fund to cover unexpected purchases, hospital stays, time away from work, etc. Your emergency fund should be equal to six months of living expenses, or at least one thousand dollars.
No one ever asks for tragedy to happen to them, but sometimes we are on the receiving end of natural disasters or personal or family emergencies. We will open up our options and ensure greater peace of mind in difficult times if we are prepared with a short-term emergency kit, a long-term plan to store food and other essentials, a plan for reaching our families and financial reserves to support ourselves and our families through difficult times.