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How To Prepare for an Emergency

How to prepare for an emergency!


A natural disaster can happen at any time. Some disasters give warning like a storm preceding a flood. Others, like earthquakes give no warning. Once a disaster happens, the time to prepare is gone and all you can do is cope. Take the next few minutes to examine what you can do to prepare. Anything you do today to will be like making a deposit in your survivability savings account for withdrawal in tough times.

Epicenter has composed a list of recommended supplies for your car, home, and work location. As a minimum, you should prepare to be isolated and on your own for 3 days and nights. There will likely be the loss of utilities after a disaster. Power outages are a given, but water may be scarce as well. The phone system may be inoperable. Your only source of news will be the car radio, assuming your local radio station has generator equipment. There might not be medical help for minor cuts or broken bones for several days.


With the loss of power come side affects you may not think of. There will be no gasoline available. (Without power, there is no way to pump the gas.) You might be far from home. Your car's heater might be your only source of heat. The money in your pocket will have to last until power is returned. Some supplies may be available, but buying some items like a manual can opener will be impossible. Cash cards will be useless if power or phone lines are lost. Many stores will have a hard time opening since items don't have prices on them anymore, thanks to scanning cash registers! You get the picture.


You could be just about anywhere when a disaster strikes; in the bathroom, driving to the store, sitting at your desk at work, or in the back yard. But remember, you will most likely be at, or near one of the following:



Your car.

You need to have supplies on hand at each location. It may sound like overkill, but you can't expect all three locations to be unscathed if a large disaster strikes. If you store provisions at each location, you will cover most of the likely situations. Another note: pets may not be allowed into shelters for health and space reasons. Prepare an emergency pen for pets in the home that includes a 3 day supply of dry food and a large container of water.


Let's look at some things you can do to prepare:


At Work:

Read your company's evacuation plan! Note the designated meeting locations for after an evacuation.

Each time you enter a room, take note of the exit routes and locations of fire extinguisher and medical kits.

Note locations of stairways as you walk from location to location.

Keep your own personal supplies in your desk in a single pack of some kind that you can access quickly. Along with your supplies, store a pair of walking shoes.

Be sure you have composed a card to carry in your wallet or purse with important phone numbers including the number of your out of state phone contact.

Keep the area under your desk free of waste-paper baskets and the like. This 6 square foot area might be home during a few traumatic moments.

If you are not at your desk when something happens, don't count on being able to make it back. Store additional supplies in your car (see below).



At home:

Home is where you can do the most to be prepared. But remember that you are only home for about 1/2 of the hours in a day. You must also be prepared at work, and have additional supplies in your car.

Strap gas appliances to walls or floor, especially the water heater. Remember your water heater is a large source of water, and weighs several hundred pounds when full. A four hundred pound water heater will break gas lines on its way to the floor. Gas appliances are a real danger in an earthquake, and are the cause of most fires after a quake.

Verify your house is bolted to its foundation.

Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.

Brace overhead light fixtures.

Replace solid gas lines with flexible lines on stoves, water heaters, and dryers.

Nail plywood on top of ceiling joists inside the attic to protect people from chimney bricks that could fall through the ceiling.


Know your house:

Find out where the utility shutoffs are for water, power, and gas.

Place a flashlight or an emergency light next to your breaker panel.

Place a wrench in your water meter box located near the street.

Place or attach a tool on your gas meter for turning off the gas.

Evaluate each room in your house. Ask yourself: what will fall on my head, or will keep me from getting out if it fell? Secure anything you find. Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.

Fasten shelves securely to walls and place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.

Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.

Store household chemicals on a bottom shelf of a closed cabinet.
Never store bleach and ammonia in the same cabinet. These chemicals, when mixed, will create a toxic gas as deadly as any ever created.

Identify the best and worst places to be in your house. Remember that you might not have any choice as to where you will be located when a disaster strikes. The best places inside the house are under major beams that are secured to the rest of the structure, or in strong doorways, or inner structural walls. The worst places are in front of windows, or near fireplaces and chimneys.

Make an emergency plan including escape routes and meeting places. Choose both a nearby meeting place and an out of state relative to be your check in contact for the family.

Test your emergency plan with all members of the family present.

Plug emergency lighting into selected outlets. (These flashlights are constantly charged, and turn on automatically when power fails, or when the units are unplugged.)

Keep all tree and shrub limbs trimmed so they don't come in contact with wires.

Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying wood.

Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.

Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.



Know your neighbors, and neighborhood:

Contact your school district to obtain policy regarding how children will be released from school.

Know the location of the nearest police and fire stations, as well as the route to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Meet with neighbors and find out who has medical experience.

If you are taking this preparedness thing seriously, share this information with the households next to you. The more people you can convince to prepare, the greater your group resources. Remember that you will be called upon by all around you for help, especially by those who didn't take warnings seriously. (Remember Noah?)

Give spare keys to your trusted neighbors. Show them where the utility shutoffs are and provide them with a list of contact phone numbers.

Ask how to turn off your neighbors utilities.



Know your family:

Hold a home evacuation drill to test your emergency plan with all members of the family present.

Teach your children how to get help from neighbors and 911.

Keep photos of family members in wallet in case they turn up missing.

Teach household members how to turn off utilities.

In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster.

Ask an out of state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.



In your car:

Always keep your gas tank full! Fill it when it reaches 1/2 a tank. You will thank yourself the first time you are stuck in a traffic jam in the dead of winter. (A few years ago in my home town of Seattle, a winter storm took us by surprise and crippled the city with abandoned vehicles. Most of them ran out of gas while waiting for accidents to be cleared from the roads.)

Think of your car's trunk as a big steel supply cabinet. Keep your supplies in the trunk along with other items like tools, jumper cables and spare tire.

Even if you are at home when a disaster strikes, and your home is well stocked, you may still need the supplies in your car. Your house may not be safe to enter, or may catch fire after a disaster like an earthquake (like many houses in Kobe, Japan or the Marina District of San Francisco).

Your car will be one of your most important resources after a disaster strikes. Keep it mechanically sound, and pay close attention to the exhaust system. A leaking exhaust system could kill.

Replace your battery every 2-3 years. In an emergency, your car battery will need to run the radio and heater for extended periods.


Have a mechanic check the following items on your car to keep it ready:



Wipers and windshield washer fluid

Ignition system


Lights and flashing hazard

Exhaust system




Make sure the tires have adequate tread


Recommended supplies:

The following list of supplies are slanted to items for your home. After all, home is where you have the largest space available for your supplies. This is an ideal list and we atEpicenter realize that some of these items might be a bit out of reach for many. Look the list over, and try to understand why some of the items are listed. What we all really need to survive is food, water, and shelter. Beyond these three categories, everything else is just for comfort. But again, anything you can put away will be greatly appreciated in time of need!


Store at home:



30 gallons per person (2 gallons per person per day for 1 week). This might sound excessive, but look at your water bill this month! This figure assumes that when at home, you will occassionally want a sponge bath, or to cook something like pasta or rice. You might even wash your hair or clothes, and will eventually flush a toilet. Large food grade 55 gallon plastic drums are ideal for bulk water storage. A good location is in your detached garage. Remember that your water heater in the house is typically 50 gallons, and may be used if your dwelling survives. Additional water may be purchased in single use plastic bottles, and should be stored away from the house or garage. Remember that these water bottles will need to be rotated out since they have a limited shelf life unless water treatment is used. Another, perhaps better solution is to store coast guard approved water rations which are also available from Epicenter.



Canned goods - ready to eat soups, meats, veggies and fruit. The same type of food you normally have on hand. Make a point to start buying extra of whatever you normally buy, to dedicate to your supplies. Date the top of anything you buy with a black permanent marker.

Plan for a minimum of 3 cans per person per day for a week, about 2 mixed cases per person. Store these items in suitcases near corners of the house. Additional food should be stored in the garage, and at another location away from the dwelling. Pay close attention to how the packaging will hold up to damp environments. Cans will rust unless you protect them. A good way to protect an item for damp storage is to put it in a zip lock bag, then pack it inside a food grade plastic bucket (with lid). Remember to maximize canned goods with moisture content like ready to eat soup. Don't forget a manual can opener! No power, no way to open cans!

MRE's - Meals ready to eat. These are ideal for outside storage. Remember, the key is to distribute your supplies at various locations. These may be stored in the worst of conditions. Long shelf life with no rotation. Click here for more information on MRE's.

Long shelf life Freeze dried or Dehydrated foods. But remember, these items require water.

Pet foods (as needed).



Barbecue, 40 pounds charcoal, and two cans of starter fluid. Or a propane unit with two 20 pound containers of propane. A propane camp stove may also be used.

Store the following items for use with above:

Pot and pan for cooking

Kitchen knife

Silverware. Spoon, fork

Styrofoam cups

Water proof matches or lighter

Zip lock bags

Can Opener!

Aluminum foil. A must! Can be formed into just about anything you might need.



Two person tube tent minimum (larger size better)

Wool blanket or sleeping bag

Emergency Space blanket

Instant hand/body warming pads

Propane powered Heater, 20 pound cylinder mounted



First aid kit. Epicenter has several First Aid kits available. One is ideal for your car supplies and another is ideal for the home. We also recommend taking a first aid class including CPR.

Also store the following items:

First aid manual

Extra prescription medications

Aspirin or Ibuprofen



Flashlight with 2 sets of spare alkaline batteries and one spare bulb. Newer LED flashights are also available and run much longer on a set of batteries.

Lantern battery, kerosene or propane powered. Store fuel or batteries, but never use fuel based lighting until you are sure gas leaks are eliminated.

Long life candles

Water proof matches or lighter



AM/FM radio. Store at least 3 sets of alkaline batteries for standard units. Inexpensive radios are available from your local Radio Shack. The best radio is one that has rechargeable NI-cads built in, and may be charged with the built-in solar cell, or by cranking on a built in generator handle. This solar/generator survival radio is available from Epicenter. We recommend this radio for your supplies in your car as well.

Pen, pencil, and paper pad. Store in zip lock bag.

Stamped postcards. Store in zip lock bags. Your house might be gone, but if you still have a mailbox, the mail will continue service. An easy way to stay in touch with family far away.

List of important phone numbers, including your out of state focal

Weather radio or police scanner. A bit expensive, but a weather radio is a must in tornado or hurricane country.



Fire extinguisher large 5-20 pound, type ABC

Crow bar, 1 ft min.

Leather gloves

Multi-function pocket tool or knife

Plastic tarp, 9x12 ft min

Nylon rope, 100 foot

Duct tape

A multi-purpose tool for shutting of gas and water main valves

Portable generator. Make your selection based on what really needs to be powered and the run time of the model. Our recommendation is for a maximum size of 5 HP, 2250 Watt 120 vac only. To get a 230 vac generator will require an 8 HP motor, and your run time will drop in half. Typically, the only items in your house that will require 230 vac is an electric heating system, an electric water heater, or an electric range. What you really need to power is a refrigerator, a few lights, and a radio.

Power converter for running 120 volt items from car battery.



Portable chemical toilet and disinfectant crystals. Store in garage away from house. You will only need this if your dwelling is damaged, or if your water supply is limited.

Toilet tissue rolls. Store inside portable toilet.

Garbage bags. Can also be used as toilet liners.

Pre-moistened towelettes

All purpose liquid soap

Tooth brush and paste

Disposable razor

Feminine hygiene items

Latex gloves

Gallon of disinfectant


Baby stuff (if needed):

Baby formula and plastic bottles

Large box disposable diapers

Pre-moistened wet wipes

Baby blanket and knit cap

Two or three complete change of baby clothes



One complete change of clothing for each person

Emergency poncho

Pair of boots each person

Phone change. $6.50 in quarters fit in a plastic 35 mm film container nicely

$50 cash min, in ones, five's, and tens

Duplicate credit cards

Photo copies of ID

Spare checks

Playing cards

Spare keys


Store in car:

Components should be placed in a good quality backpack. Epicenter has developed several backpacks with many of the items below. Additional items may be purchased from local sources. Store backpack in trunk of car.

Emergency water rations. Six 4 oz minimum

MRE's - Meals ready to eat, three minimum

MRE chemical heaters, three minimum

Emergency poncho

Tube tent

AM/FM radio with batteries

Flashlight with batteries

Matches or lighter

Emergency space blanket

First aid kit

Can opener.

Multi-purpose pocket tool or camp knife

Hand/body warming pads

Iodine based water purification tablets or giardia filter straw

Multi tip screwdriver


Leather work gloves

Map of local area

Phone change. $6.50 in quarters fit in a plastic 35 mm film container nicely.

$50 cash min, in ones, five's, and tens

Two garbage bags

Latex gloves

Pen, pencil, and paper pad. Store in zip lock bag

List of important phone numbers, including your out of state focal

Rain gear and extra clothes

Small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels

Small shovel

Booster cables

Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag


Take a look around your work site. You will find that state and federal regulations have required your employer to have fire extinguishers and first aid kits at key locations. Some employers are beginning to place chemical light sticks in some areas, but you need to plan for the worst. You need the supplies to be on your own for three days. It may take you that long to get home, and don't count on your car being accessible if you park in a parking building. Epicenter has several basic supply kits that are ideal for your desk.


Store at work:

Emergency water rations

MRE's - Meals ready to eat, or coast guard food rations

Emergency space blanket

Flashlight with extra batteries or chemical light stick

First aid kit


The following list is tailored to responding to a disaster that gives no warning like an earthquake. Some responses may not make sense if you are going through a hurricane for example. Look over the list and see what applies.

What to do during an Earthquake!

You are inside:

Stay inside. The most dangerous thing to do during the shaking of an earthquake is to try to leave the building because objects can fall on you.

Duck under a sturdy table or desk. Cover head, neck and face.
Hold on to a table leg, so you're not tossed free of cover.

If a table is not near by, drop to the floor and move toward the nearest inside wall avoiding all windows and objects that could fall. Cover head, neck and face.

Go nowhere else until the shaking stops! Where ever you are when it hits is home for the duration!

If you are inside a large and crowded facility like a stadium, stay put! Thousands might trample you on the way to an exit. Cover your head. You have a better chance of riding the quake out where you are.

You are in your car:

Stop your car away from buildings, overpasses and power lines if possible.

Stay in car until shaking stops.

Turn off the engine, but not until your car is stopped. Many cars will lock the steering wheel if you turn off the ignition.

Turn on your radio.

Occasionally run the engine to keep warm if needed. Turn on the car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater when the car is running. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning, and keep a downwind window slightly open for ventilation.

You are outside:

Drop, and cover. Move toward an open area if possible away from power lines and structures.

Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.

Move away from cliffs, or embankments.

If you are near tall buildings, duck under doorways. It is estimated that the streets of Seattle will be covered by 12 feet of broken glass in some areas after a major quake.

Get away from power lines!


What to do after a quake!


Move away from rivers. A major quake may send mud and water down river beds, or worse yet might breach dams upstream.

If you are near body of water, move to higher ground. A tsunami is a real threat!

Stay off 911 unless life threatening.

Hang up any phones that are off the hook.

Check for hazards like precarious structures, downed power lines and gas leaks.

Turn off gas mains first. Turn off main power breakers only if no gas is smelled.

Fill your bath tub, and any pots and pans right away.

Look for broken water pipes and turn off main.

Give aid to anyone who is injured.

If electricity is out, stay out of refrigerator and freezer.
Freezer items will be OK for up to 3 days if the door is not opened.
Items in the refrigerator will be OK for about 8 hours. Use the items in the refrigerator first, and trust your nose. If it doesn't smell right, throw it out.

If you use a generator, use extension cords unless you have the proper cutout wiring installed by a qualified electrician.

Prepare for after shocks. Anything you thought might fall and didn't, will fall!

Turn off power to your hot water heater if you plan to use the stored water it contains. Use a hose to obtain water from the drain spigot.

Eat food from the refrigerator first, then from the freezer. Eat canned food and MRE's last.

Inside or around the house:

Open closet and cupboard doors cautiously.

Inspect the entire length of chimneys carefully for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.

Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.

Check for sewage and water lines damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes, or from your water heater.