Get Prepared: How to Ensure You Have What You Need in an Emergency

Why is that that the only time we think to get prepared is when disaster is breathing down our necks?

So often we hear about hurricanes, fires or other disasters and think, ‘I should really put a few things together in case of an emergency,’ but never actually get around to doing anything about it. It’s a universal problem driven by two things. First, for many of us, it’s difficult to be sure of what is needed or how to put it together. And second, the thought of something bad happening to our loved ones is often too difficult to consider. These are fears worth overcoming.

Alicia on the importance of getting informed

The most important step in getting prepared is to read up on the topic. There are many websites out there that can help you wrap your head around what exactly you need to get ready for anything. One of the best web sites for this is The Department of Homeland Security at We recommend that you spend enough time on the site to gain the confidence you need to get started.

Pay particular attention to the following areas:
1. Assembling a kit of emergency supplies — what’s necessary and what’s not?
2. Making an emergency plan — what are the important components of a plan?
3. Preparing for communication gaps — where should you look for important directives and how to you stay in touch if phones aren’t working?

Sarah on getting it done

One way to make the entire task seem less daunting is to keep in mind that it will take you less than 3 hours to get prepared for the unexpected. That’s right, isn’t your family’s safety worth one night of prime time TV? And if that still seems overwhelming, break it up into smaller bite-sized pieces. Assign one week as ’emergency preparedness week’ and have your family spend 30 minutes a night (ideally right before or after dinner) going through the steps together. Once everyone agrees on what to do, write it down and post it in the house. Think of how much worry this will save you all down the line.

These three tips are designed to help you get the basics in order.

#1: Remember the ‘Big 4’
Water, food, cash and a first aid kit are the foundation of any emergency kit. Make sure you have enough of each of these things to last each person in the house at least 5 days. Imagine how much suffering could have been avoided in the recent hurricanes if people had prepared a family emergency kit stocked with these amenities.

#2: Engage the Entire Family
Getting prepared should be a family event, not a burden for one person to carry. It’s in everybody’s best interest to know what’s been done and to be invested in the process. Make sure each family member has a job to do and encourage them to get it done within a week. One person can buy flashlights, a whistle and lots of batteries, another can find a radio (battery operated) in the house and make sure it still works, and someone else can clear out space in the pantry, garage or basement to store all of the emergency supplies.

#3: Get ‘Extras’
Think about any items that are critical to you and that may not be easy to get for a few days in an emergency and have extras on hand. Some important things to consider are prescription medicines taken regularly, glasses and contact lenses including saline solution and contact case, and baby items such as formula and diapers.