Preparing for Disaster

September is National Preparedness Month.  It’s a great opportunity for you to review how ready you are to handle an emergency, natural or otherwise.

What do you need to do in order to be prepared?

  • Create an emergency kit
  • Develop a communications plan.


If an emergency occurs, you may have to evacuate, or you may have to shelter in place (i.e., ride out the emergency in your home.)


Have a GO Bag prepared in case you are advised by officials to evacuate.  Twice a year, when you change your clock for daylight savings time, check expiration dates of the items in your kit.  Your GO Bag should contain the following items:

  • Radio – either battery-powered with extra batteries, or a hand-crank radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries (or hand crank flashlight)
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Cash in small denominations
  • Copies of your important documents (insurance cards, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.) in a waterproof and portable container
  • Extra set of house and car keys
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • A list of the medications each member of your household takes, why they take them, and their dosages.  If you store extra medication in your Go Bag, be sure to refill it before it expires.
  • Local map

See this helpful web page to guide you if you are instructed by officials to evacuate:

Shelter in Place

Identify a room with few doors or windows, ideally with at least ten square feet per person.  Keep enough supplies in your home to shelter in place for at least three days. If possible, keep these in a separate container and make sure your family knows that these supplies are for emergencies only.

In addition to the items in your GO Bag, here are the supplies that you should have on hand:

  • One gallon of drinking water per person per day
  • Non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned or packaged foods, and a manual can opener.(Energy and granola bars, dried fruit, and peanut butter are good choices.)
  • Phone that does not rely on electricity
  • Personal hygiene items: soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.
  • Child care supplies or other special care items.

Don’t forget about extra water and food for your pet!

See this helpful web page to guide you if you are instructed by officials to shelter in place:


Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance how you will contact one another and how you will get back together.  Here are the elements of your plan:

  • Decide where your household will reunite after a disaster.  Identify two places to meet: one right outside your home and another outside your neighborhood, such as a library, community center, or place of worship.
  • Designate an out-of-state friend or relative that household members can call if separated during a disaster.  If local phone circuits are busy, long-distance calls may be easier to make.  This out-of-state contact can help you communicate with others.
  • Ensure that household members have a copy of your household disaster plan and emergency contact information to keep in their wallets and backpacks.

Very useful information – along with a downloadable form – is available on the web site of professional organizer Judith Kolberg.  Here is one tip of hers that I really like:

To avoid busy signals between two individuals, agree that one person will call on the 5’s after the hour (i.e., 9:05, 9:15, 9:25, 9:35, etc) and the other person will call on the 10’s after the hour (i.e., 9:10, 9:20, 9:30, etc).

For More Information

Two useful web sites to consult are the Department of Homeland Security’s and New York City’s

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