For the past couple days, we’ve been breathing the smoke in Wine Country a hundred miles north of us. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes. The fires moved in so fast, many people didn’t have time to grab much more than the clothes on their backs. It’s devastating.
Last weekend the house a few doors down from us had a fire. Luckily, no one was home. But, they lost their dog and a lot of their belongings.
We had a minor earthquake a few days ago.
Oh! Also, North Korea keeps threatening to drop a nuke on us and our president keeps stirring the pot.
All these events (not to mention the hurricanes out east and the earthquake in Mexico City) have made me think a lot more seriously about whether we are prepared for an emergency, should one arise. I’m not going full on prepper mode here, I’m talking about taking simple steps to make sure my family is safe and we can easily get what we need if we have to leave our home quickly.
These are things anyone should do, in any part of the country. When we lived in OH, there were tornado warnings during storm season. In NC, a tornado touched down about 10 miles south of our house, and a hurricane swept through the area while we lived there. Californians aren’t the only ones who should take practical steps to make sure they’re prepared for the unthinkable.
You can’t prevent things like wild fires, earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes from happening. But, it’s well worth the time and money to make some easy preparations to lessen the blow should you find yourself in an emergency situation.
With that in mind, I pulled together some emergency preparedness items you can do around your house, and a list of items to include in an earthquake/emergency kit. Really, it only takes a few hours (if that) to compile all these items in the emergency kit. It’s likely you’ll never need the kit, but you don’t want to regret NOT taking the time if you do end up needing it.
- Make sure you have the recommended number of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for the size of your house. Check out this website for great information on where to install smoke and CO detectors.
- Be sure to check the batteries every six months.
- Have a fire extinguisher readily accessible.
- Come up with a fire escape plan and make sure everyone in your family knows where to go.
- Clearly post emergency contact information on the refrigerator or another central location
- Make sure all adults know how to turn off the gas, water, etc…
- Make sure your pets can get out if there is a fire and you aren’t home. We’re thinking about installing one of these on our sliding glass door.
- Make it a habit to keep the gas tank in your car half-way full at all times. You don’t want to have to wait in long gas lines if you need to get our of town fast.
- Make sure your kids know what to do in an emergency
- For kids in school, help them memorize your cell phone numbers and address
- Teach them basic fire safety (here’s a great site for resources on this.)
Emergency Items and Earthquake/Emergency Kit Checklist
My friend Sarah spent a lot of time compiling a list of everything you need in case of emergency. She kindly agreed to let me share all her hard work with you. You can also download the list here if you want to print it out (Emergency Kit Checklist). There are also earthquake bags you can purchase such as these in case you don’t want to take the time to order all the individual items. You can also search Amazon and a ton of options come up.
The Four Under the Bed Items
Store these under the bed in a plastic trash bag, a “giant Tupperware,” or other container that will protect them from shards of flying glass.
- a flashlight – DO keep batteries in this one; check it occasionally to make sure they work.
- a crow bar
- a pair of sturdy shoes – Save an old pair of running shoes to use.
- heavy gloves
The Earthquake/Emergency Kit
Store these things together in a backpack or duffel bag in the car. This list was created for one adult and one dog (Juneau! Follow him on Instagram. He’s awesome.) Just multiply the appropriate supplies based on the number of people in your household, and delete the dog/pet items if you don’t need them. (* indicates items that should be purchased for each member of your household)
- a flashlight with batteries – Store in glove compartment.
- extra batteries – Store them in the original packaging.
- a battery-operated or hand-crank radio
- hand-crank cell phone charger
- a wrench that will turn off the gas and electricity
- written instructions for turning off the gas, electricity, and water heater. – Laminate them.
- general guide to when to turn off utilities. – Laminate it. See 72hours.org/utilities.html. Make sure to include the specifications on sewer service in your guide.
- first aid kit
- food* – one 3-day ration packet (5 year shelf life) It’s also a good idea to have an emergency stash of canned goods stored at your home. This emergency kit is specifically designed for short-term emergency survival. I’ve seen tons of supply lists for emergency food stores online if you’re interested in preparing in that way as well.
- water – at least one gallon of water per person, per day. Plan on at least a 3 day supply. I just bought a couple packs of bottled water from Costco and keep them in the back of the car.
- a can opener – If your food stash includes canned goods.
- spork, bowl, cup*
- toothbrush and toothpaste*
- this list – Check things off as you get them, then laminate the list.
- a rain poncho*
- a warm hat*
- an old fleece*
- an emergency blanket*
- cash in small denominations
- a roll of quarters
- phone numbers for an out-of-area contact
- toilet paper
- moist wipes
- whistle – Affix to the outside of the backpack.
- dust mask*
- disposable latex gloves
- utility knife – Store in glove compartment.
- copy of health insurance card and driver’s license – Get them on the same piece of paper and laminate it.
- extra car keys and house keys
- permanent marker
- pad of paper
- a roll of duct tape
- safety pins
- plastic bags – Include some large, heavy duty trash bags and some smaller, liter-sized ziplocks.
- photos of family and you with them
- 1-3 cheap drawstring backpacks – Allows you to break up the load in the main pack if you are leaving on foot with other people
- extra collar and leash
- dog food* – 1 3-day ration packet (5 year shelf life)
- food and water bowls
- poop bags
- bully stick – Or other all-consuming, long-lasting dog pacifier
- vaccination records for all pets – Laminate this. Boarding facilities and some shelters won’t accept dogs without proof of vaccination.
- pre-made lost dog posters
Additional Car Items
Store these things in the car; they can be added to drawstring packs if you need to leave, but aren’t as essential as the items in the kit.
- compact car jump starter/cell phone charger
- first aid kit
- first aid book
The Earthquake Stash
This is the stuff it will be good to have if you can stay in the house, or have some time to safely gather things before you leave. You can store these things where you’d like, but make sure they aren’t in a place where things are likely to fall on them or where your access to them may be impeded after the shaking. Things that you already have and use for other purposes (i.e. bleach) can be stored separately from the main “stash,” provided the above restriction is met, because you will likely remember where they are; nothing that you buy exclusively for emergency use should be stored separately from the main stash, however.
- a three day supply of water – 3 gallons per person/dog per day for 3 days, or 9 gallons. Change annually— write a reminder in calendar.
- a three day supply of dog food.*
- fire extinguisher
- unscented liquid household bleach – For water purification. Make sure it is regular bleach— 5.25% percent sodium hypochlorite— rather than the “ultra” or “color safe” bleaches.
- eyedropper – For water purification. Add 8 drops bleach/clear gallon and 16 drops bleach/cloudy gallon. Shake or stir, then let stand 30 minutes. A slight chlorine taste and smell is normal.
- plastic sheeting – For covering broken windows. Use with utility knife and duct tape in earthquake kit.
- sleeping bag*
- large plastic paint bucket – For a toilet.
- staple gun or hammer and nails
- bungee cords
Seems like a lot, but it really only takes AT MOST a few hours to pull together all these items! And it can possibly prevent unimaginable loss and complications if you need these items and can’t get to them.
How about you? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one worried about emergency preparedness after all the emergencies filling our news feeds these past few months…stay safe!
And, is there anything I missed? What do you do to keep your loved ones and homes safe? Share the knowledge!
Finally, it goes without saying that many people have lost everything over the past few months due to natural disaster. Here are some great lists that have already been compiled of how to help in Puerto Rico, Mexico City, and Northern California. Let’s not forget to love our neighbors.