First off, figure that something IS going to happen some day. If you believe nothing will ever go wrong, then you won't really put much effort into your plan and you won't keep it ready. But, if you feel you have a responsibility to protect yourself and your family, and you believe that some time in the next 20 or 40 years there will be a catastrophic event where you live, then being ready makes sense.
After reading my general emergency preparation advice for your home here, make sure you check out how to prepare your vehicle for emergencies on the road.
Prepare for the Probable
What are the biggest potential disasters where you live? Is there a dam upriver from you? How far away is a nuclear power plant? How many tornados have there been in your county in the past 10 years?
It makes sense to prepare for the most probable situations. Don't worry about blizzards if you live in Florida and don't worry about hurricanes if you live in North Dakota.
Be familiar with the general weather patterns in your area. The prevailing wind will drive a wildfire, carry nuclear fallout, and push storms. Knowing where an event occurs in relation to your home coupled with your understanding of the environment will help you make better decisions.
Create a plan for each probable situation. Your plan for a blizzard may be to stay put and wait it out, while a flood plan might be to drive to Aunt Milly's 20 miles away. The more thorough and thought-out your preparations are, the more likely they will be to succeed.
Prepare the Priorities
When a catastrophe happens, you should assume that you have absolutely no access to any help. Since you are on your own, you need to have adequate supplies for you family. Each household has different needs, but this list covers the high priority items to consider:
- First Aid - have a general purpose family kit set aside. Don't use it for every day - keep it separate in your survival kit.
- Drinking Water - have 3 days worth stored. That is a minimum of 6 gallons per person. Read more about preparing water.
- Shelter - if your house is destroyed or uninhabitable, where will your family go? Choose someplace close such as a neighbor's home, and someplace miles away such as a hotel in a nearby city so you are ready for a personal emergency and a community emergency.
- Heat - no matter which state you live in, even the Disney states, you are in danger of hypothermia or outright freezing to death during some part of the year. If the power goes out, how will your family stay warm?
- Prescriptions - keep some extra medicines ready, especially those that are required daily.
- Food - yes, this is way down the list. You could live without food for 3 weeks if you have drinking water. But, I would rather eat. I've got a separate page about food storage.
- Communication - keep a cellphone ready as well as a small radio with batteries to receive news. Keep a list of phone numbers for relatives in your emergency kit so you can let them know your status.
Prepare for Three Days
Depending on your location, and the extend of the event, this predicament may last for 2 days or 2 weeks or longer. The normal guideline is to expect to support yourself for 3 days before relief efforts arrive. The hurricanes of 2005 demonstrated that 3 days may be too short a period in large-scale incidents, but it is a good mark to start. Volunteer organizations such as the Red Cross provide amazing support in critical times, but no one should expect them to save the day.
Practice Your Plan
The most critical component of survival is a Positive Mental Attitude
- a drive to survive. You can have the best plan in the world, but if you freak out and panic, it does you no good. The best way to stay positive is to practice. Go through scenarios of what might
happen before it does
happen. Train your family on what to do and how to use everything in your survival kit, just in case you are not there with them. Preparation for emergencies includes practicing and training.
Pack and Repack
You'll feel great when you have a plan designed and ready to go. You'll be proud to see your emergency kit sitting in the closet, ready to help you survive anything. You'll feel safe when you take a look at the extra food and water you have set aside.
But, 3 years from now, when an earthquake hits and you really need to use what you have stored will it still be good? Water and food need to be renewed. Water should be replaced every 6 months or so. Food has expiration dates. Batteries go dead after time. Prescriptions, medicines, and other items you may have will need to be replaced.
It's a good idea to have a set time twice a year when your family checks the kit. The day after Christmas and 4th of July are good, easy to remember times. Find the items that are too old and replace them. It might be fun to try some of the water and food to see what 6 month or 12 month old water tastes like.