Home Disaster Readiness
and convenient steps you can take to protect a household with people
who won't cooperate with readiness efforts.
One person can make a difference.
Power outages, fires, floods,
earthquakes, wind, and storms can interrupt utilities, phones, stores,
ATMs, and travel. You can be forced to leave your home because of
flooding, sewage backflow, fire, chemical accident, or terrorist
threat. These things occur when you are least prepared. This is an
inexpensive common sense preparation document. It will help your
commute and vacations.
The large disaster relief
organizations can provide basic relief for a lot of people, but need a
few days to get set up. Wise people are prepared to handle problems on
their own for at least a week.
Don't buy any survival kits or
anything you are not familiar with. After the power goes out is not the
time to try something out. Don't waste your money buying "special
survival food". It will probably get old before you need it. Just keep
your regular canned goods stocked.
This is not a complete guide
to preparation; it is only to give you a starting place. Experience,
training and special equipment provide better preparation. And nothing
is better than common sense (which doesn't seem to be very common).
The most effective way to prepare is to have good friends and
neighbors. And that means being a good friend to your neighbors. The
people who are well connected socially to those nearby do the
best when disaster strikes. The only thing better is to be
part of a neighborhood group that prepares for disaster together.
Copyright 2005-2018 Ken
All rights reserved.
This document may be freely
redistributed for educational purposes at no charge in unaltered form.
This information is for
educational purposes only. There is no guarantee of any kind that it is
accurate, or that no harm will come to anyone who uses it.
This information is
provided on an "as is" basis with absolutely no warranty or guarantee.
The information is not necessarily correct, complete, or suitable for
any particular use. The entire risk is with you. Should harm arise from
using this information, you assume responsibility for all damages and
injuries. In no event shall the copyright holder, or any other party,
be liable for compensation or damages arising from the use, misuse,
failure to use, or inability to use this information.
Why most planning is simple
Most people do the wrong thing when
confronted with a disaster. This is their first time in the situation,
they aren't ready for it, and they need to decide what to do under
stress. Most often, they choose incorrectly, compounding the problem.
Making simple plans and preparations
that can be used for any disaster, large or small improves your
situation a great deal.
- Buy appropriate insurance.
- Locate the cutoffs for the
water, gas, and electricity. There may be special tools to operate
them, know where they are.
- Make sure children can recite
their name, address, & phone number.
- Pick two out-of-area relatives
who messages could be left with in case of separation. Pick relatives
most family members would know the phone number of. Tell the family
members to leave messages there in case of separation.
- Identify a "back-road" route to
use to get out of the area when the highways are clogged. This is handy
to know about on holiday weekends. The route does not have to be
fast, just less likely to be completely clogged.
- Identify an auxiliary source of water, such as a pool, hot tub,
creek ahead of time to flush toilets.
Getting people ready
- Motivate everyone to make a
travel bag. This is everything they need for an overnighter or a
week-long vacation (except clothes) in one small bag. Travel bags save
a frustrating hour of rounding stuff up every time someone wants
spend the night somewhere.
emergency management offices keep lists of people with
functional needs. Make sure they know about your loved ones if
- Educate yourself about
issues before a crisis occurs. If you need insurance, you probably
won't be in the right frame of mind to carefully research how to not be
taken advantage of. One web site dedicated to this is http://www.disasterprepared.net/
(this listing is not an endorsement).
Getting the home ready
- Install a smoke detector and
a carbon monoxide detector. Keep
the batteries fresh. Most houses have smoke detectors; the ones that do
not have most of the fires. Inspectors find that 1/3 of all smoke
detectors have missing batteries.
- Test your smoke alarms regularly to ensure they make a loud beep
when needed. Fire departments recommend doing this monthly.
- Keep two pocket flashlights and
spare batteries. Hide them if necessary. Keep a flashlight by your bed
where you can find it without fumbling around in the dark. Keep the
- Make sure there are enough
blankets for a cold night with no heat.
- Own some basic tools, like a
claw hammer & nails, screwdrivers, big pliers, and an adjustable
- Keep a fire extinguisher rated
for grease in the kitchen. Shake the fire extinguishers every 6 months
to keep the powder from caking.
- Keep an escape ladder in every upper-story bedroom. Make sure
stored for easy access and everyone knows how to use them.
- Clean your gutters annually.
- Install a sump pump and flood alarm in the basement. Make sure
the battery backup can run for at least an hour.
- Anchor water heaters, fuel oil
& cabinets to the wall to prevent toppling.
- Put foam sleeves over exposed
- Keep 10 gallons of gasoline in
a non-sparking can if possible. Put stored gasoline in your tank and
buy new gasoline every year.
- Keep a home
for riding out disasters at home.
- Keep an evacuation
hidden away in case
the disaster makes you leave home.
- A lot of disasters rip stuff off the wall. A moderate earthquake
can hit anywhere on the planet and make an entire city want wallboard
fasteners, and the
first one to the hardware store wins. Keep a supply of
wallboard fasteners on hand, in several kinds. A ripped-out fastener
leaves a hole bigger than a pencil, so keep fasteners that can re-use
those holes. Also keep fasteners for virgin wallboard.
Getting everything else
- Put a family zip-kit
car. If some people get
around without cars, motivate them to put a personal zip-kit in their
backpack or bike-bag.
- Own a safe deposit box. Store deeds, birth certificates,
insurance information, photos documenting the house, and computer
backups in it. Leaving
copies of these items with a relative in a distant city instead also
safe deposit boxes annually or some states will
gleefully seize the contents. Keep the information up to date.
- Collar, tag, and/or chip your pets. This way you can be re-united
with your pet if someone rescues it.
- Make sure you can receive local alerts. Do an Internet search on
"emergency alerts" and your city name to see what's available and how
to receive them.
- Use a USB thumb drive as a key fob. Load it with emergency
your contact list, photos of your loved ones, prescriptions, insurance
information, automobile information, medical equipment information, and
so forth. It has lots of room, load it with everything you can think
of. It should not have your car description, licence plate number, or
home address if it is a key fob.
- You can download disaster readiness
and notification apps for your mobile devices. Be aware that wireless
communications are brittle and easily disrupted once trouble starts.
- Do you have any important information on your computer? Back it
up regularly, because your computer and its hard drive will
fail. Put every other backup in a different building (your drawer at
work, your safe deposit box, your relative's house, upload it
somewhere, etc). Fires and thieves take both the computers and the
- Losing a purse or wallet while traveling can have serious
consequences. You and your spouse should each have a credit card that
nobody else has. That way you always have a working credit card.
- Organize a camping kit. This is
great to have in case you must leave home. Organize a family camping
trip for whoever you can get to come at least once per year and make it
- Own a cell phone and keep the
- Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers - police, fire, and
rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends
and co-workers; etc. - and program them into your phone. Other good
places are a USB key-fob or a fireproof box, where you can include
- Store the number of a person to contact in your phone book under
ICE (In Case of Emergency) so authorities know who to call in an
emergency should you be unable to.
- Your cell phone provider may offer a free backup service to
preserve your contact list.
- You may be able to get locator service for your family's cell
- Women should
always have a
scarf. Most people on the planet always have some sort of scarf or
bandana, except for urban/suburbanites in safe industrialized
countries. Scarves have hundreds of practical and fashion uses. See the
separate pictorial scarf research document.
- Establish good relations with
your neighbors. They are priceless in emergencies. Good neighbors can
make your life easier in the best of times.
- When you interact with a
contractor, plumber, or hardware store manager, maintain a simple
long-term relationship. They are good to know when problems occur.
- The most important thing to have after a disaster is help from
The way you get it is to help others as much as you can when they have
Last minute preparations
- You can prepare if the disaster is coming, but hasn't arrived
yet. Weather and fire related disasters can provide several days
notice. The problem is that the hardware store will be sold out of what
you need. You can order anything on the Internet and have it shipped
Your preparation needs will differ.
Go over this list once a year to make sure you are still prepared.