Disaster preparedness doesn’t happen overnight. It takes careful thought and planning to be ready
for an incident.
To make it easier, break it down into small chunks that can be spread out over a year. Mark it on your calendar to spend one hour each month with your family and discuss/practice one topic, using our tip sheet Your 12-Month Plan [PDF, 183Kb]. More information on many of these topics can be found using the links to the left of this page. There are also other ways to prepare, such as taking a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class.
Remember, doing just a little bit each month is a little bit more than doing nothing at all!
Month 1: Disaster kit
• Begin assembling your disaster kit. Plan out the items you will need, using our suggestions as a minimal guideline, and make a list.
• Determine where your kit will be kept. It should be in a readily accessible place where it's not likely to be blocked by other items that may fall on top or in front of it (garages are a bad idea unless you have no other options). Examples of ideal places are under your bed or by the front door.
Month 2: First aid/CPR
• Review or learn first aid and CPR skills, and have all responsible members of your household do the same.
Month 3: Utilities
• Learn where your utility shut-offs are, and learn how to work them properly (this goes for barbeque propane tanks too!). See our page on utilities for more information.
Month 4: Family plan
• Create your family plan. Determine where your meeting place will be, and establish an out-of-state contact. Plan for all possibilities, such as the kids being at school, you being at work, the whole family being out shopping, etc.
Month 6: Drop, cover, & hold
• Review "drop, cover, and hold" procedures with your family, and identify places in your home where you can do just that. Practice "drop, cover, and hold" with your family.
Month 7: Hazard hunt
• Identify hazards in your home, such as water heaters, electronics, heavy furniture, fragile items, etc., and make sure that they're properly secured. See our page on hazard mitigation for more information.
Month 8: Insurance
• Review your homeowner's or renter's insurance coverage, if you have it, and make sure that your information and inventories are up-to-date. If you don't have coverage, consider purchasing some.
Month 9: Documents
• Collect all your family's important documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, immunization records, immigration documents, insurance policies, etc., and keep them in a safe place such as a safe deposit box or portable fire safe. Keep at least one set of copies in a safe place outside your home, such as with your out-of-state contact.
Month 10: Immediate response kit
• Create an "immediate response kit" for each member of your family. These simple kits contain critical items for the first moments after a disaster event. At a minimum include in each kit sturdy shoes or boots, work gloves (for protection from broken glass or other hazards), a flashlight with fresh batteries or glow sticks, and a "OK/HELP" card and tape or bandaids to attach to your front door (to let response workers know if you need help or if they can go to the next home). Consider hard hats or helmets as well (good, strong bike helmets will work for kids) to protect from falling debris. Keep one of these kits next to or under each bed in the home, one per person, and teach your kids to use their kits right away if a disaster occurs.
Month 11: Plan for the aftermath
• Make a plan for extended events, such as the weeks or even months after a severe earthquake. Decide what your family will do for shelter, food, and other basic supplies, and have a contingency plan in place in case those options aren't available.
• If you haven't already, begin assembling disaster kits for each of your vehicles, as well as a personal kit for your workplace. These kits may not have all of the items in your home kit, and may even have some different items, but should at a minimum include enough water and non-perishable food for each person for 3-5 days, blankets, flashlights and spare batteries or glow sticks, and sturdy shoes. This way, not only will you be prepared no matter where you are when disaster strikes, but the kits can be combined with your home kit to create an extended survival kit that will last a week or more.
Month 12: Shelter-in-place
• Learn how to shelter-in-place. There may be situations in which it is better to stay put and seal yourself off temporarily from the outside world than to evacuate and expose yourself and your family to danger, such as in a radiological accident, chemical spill, or terrorist event.
For more information, visit the following websites (links will open in a new window):
American Red Cross
Are You Prepared?
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
Emergency Survival Plan