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Question of the Week: How have you prepared for emergencies?

2008 September 8

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Hurricanes, spring floods, and other incidents can all wreak havoc with our daily lives. Here at EPA, we’re ready to respond in an official way. For individual people, preparing can range from keeping extra food and water to making evacuation plans. Either way, it pays to think ahead. In fact, September is National Preparedness Month.

How have you prepared for emergencies?


En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Huracanes, inundaciones y otros incidentes pueden arruinar nuestras vidas cotidianas. Aquí en EPA, estamos listos para responder de manera oficial. Para los individuos, los preparativos pueden comprender el almacenar alimentos y agua adicionales, así como hacer planes de evacuación. De cualquier manera, es bueno anticipar las cosas. De hecho, septiembre es el Mes Nacional de Preparación.

¿Cómo se ha preparado para las emergencias?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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35 Responses leave one →
  1. Gershon Schwartz permalink
    September 8, 2008

    I like the style of the new web site and the idea of the question of the week is fantastic . I found the interface way too complicated (and I work in the field of Environmental Science) . The average person will not be able to navigate the interactions and needs more of a checklist for the basics ie do you have an emergency kit, good , then does it contain such .At the end of these interactive questions then you could put a link for the more intelligent wizz kids who want to read on. Your ask a question site should be designed for the 12 year old ( and I am not mocking anybody) .
    Very intelligent professional don’t need your help , they can easily get along . In my opinion , its the young, poor and undereducated that you want to target with this type of appraoch
    What I am saying is that you should have the basics at a lower level and more interactive , the rest is for geeks.
    Great Site and definately a large step in the right direction.

  2. CINDY UPCHURCH permalink
    September 8, 2008

    I agree with the previous reply. I taught school (high/college) and in the field of biology/ env.sci. and my philosophy was always KISS. Keep it simple/short. At times it was Keep It Simple Stupid!, but I digress!
    As a hurricane survivor (too many to count) in Texas, I always have a kit in the back end of my Prius. Flares/safety triangle, water, tire gauge, fix a flat, small meal kit (tuna/cheese/crackers), first aid, small blanket, pry bar/tire tool, and leathermans tool. Fits into a small flat plastic box that fits in the back end perfectly. I “schedule” an email reminder to check on kit/plus put on the calender.

  3. Bridget B. permalink
    September 8, 2008

    …by keeping an emergency kit in a new 5-gallon bucket with a lid and crank-type flashlights (wind-up type that do not need batteries). The kit includes: an emergency blanket, hydrogen peroxide, whistle, water, dust masks, duct tape etc.

  4. Sara B permalink
    September 8, 2008

    As a family we have worked to prepare for several different types of emergencies. Our efforts have concentrated on food and heat / staying warm & dry. We have a supply of fresh water, soy milk, canned goods, pet foods, and other supplies to live with for a two week period. We have a supply of wood saved that we could burn and plans on where to stay during different types of emergencies. We have talked about travel, cooking, and etc. We are planning on buying a generator in the next month. Our biggest concern would be prescription medications for our selves and pets.

  5. Ted permalink
    September 8, 2008

    I stock the standard supplies, extra food, medicines and first aid, batteries, gasoline, etc. However, I also stock something that many people don’t think of. In this credit card world, if the power and phone lines go out making purchases will require barter – namely cash. I always keep a couple hundred dollars, in small bills, hidden away for an emergency.

  6. Scott permalink
    September 8, 2008

    I developed an emergency plan for the subdivision I live in and gave it to the management company for use by everyone in the neighborhood. It discusses the need for a plan, how to prepare, communications, pets, medications, checklists, child security, etc. I believe in the axiom “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” I harassed friends to complete the plan for themselves until they are complete and it has proved its worth. Although they may get angry, when they have to respond they are glad they have it. It is about 15 pages but can quickly be used in an emergency.

  7. John Paul permalink
    September 8, 2008

    I am prepared for different areas of my resposibility. At work, we have well rehearsed thought out plans. They are reviewed after emergencies and modified if required. Many responses share the same basic resources, when the trigger event is weather or an accident. At home I use the Federal and State websites for checklists and refresher.

  8. Jim Kitchens permalink
    September 8, 2008

    Perhaps it’s from previous experiences; but, I try to be prepared for most emergencies. I keep several drop bags for my official duties as a first responder (fire, bio, wildfire, etc.) Also, I like to keep at least two first aid kits handy, one for minor injuries, one for those not so minor (with oxygen, including O2 driven aspirator), minor surgical kit, general meds and at least two weeks supply of individual prescription meds. I keep at least one dependable flashlight in each kit and two extra in the house (one should be long lasting multiple diode light) with extra batteries for all. I keep a radio (am/fm) that can be operated off of batteries, ac house current, or vehicle dc). I have a two way handheld radio programed for fire, police, and EMTs, with mutual aid and MRT access. A Scanner that can access emergency weather alerts and am/fm. I keep five gallons of regular gas with two cycle oil (for the two chain saws and boat motors). I like to have 5 gallons of kerosene for lighting anf heaters and I keep two coleman lanterns (with two gallons of fuel) and two butane lamps (with two cases of canisters). I always keep a couple of nomex jump suits and various weather related changes of clothes. Rubber shin height boots, wildfire boots, two pairs of mocassins, and good sturdy sandals (with both cotton and wool socks) protect the feet. I keep a box each of nitrile and triplex gloves and several pairs of leather and cotton work gloves along with the two pairs of firefighter gloves in my turn-out gear. We have about three weeks of canned food and MREs and preparation stoveware. A good 8 man tent with sleeping bags and inflatable mattress keeps me rested. I won’t go into the respirators and SCBA gear or the tyvex that I keep; but suffice it to say, I’m prepared.

    I keep first aid manuals, Red Cross and military Medic, etc. (I was a Red Cross instructor for a quarter of a century.) I keep pens, pencils and paper and a set of 26 mile GMRs radios and my sturdy ole aluminium canoe with its 1 3/4 hp out board, 100 feet of static kermantle 1/2″ rope and 100 feet of general use rope.

    This is the point at which many want me to shut up. Just leave it at the point at which I could pack up and live for several weeks without assistance save for my handy knife and firestarter.

  9. sharon permalink
    September 8, 2008

    We live in earthquake country so, we have dried and canned foods, drinking water and butt wipes (to clean the body), garbage bags to put in the toilet (because it will not flush), to name a few. Still we must do more. For those with small children they can get powdered milk. We learned how to read the product spoil dates because some companies like Carnation has a special code. For these companies you just use the contact number from their packaging and call them. They will gladly explain the system to you.

  10. Maurice permalink
    September 8, 2008

    At home I keep enough water and dry food stored (occasionally swapped out for fresh) to keep me and the pets from starving for 2-3 days. I also keep some cash in small bills in a little fireproof box, until they get the money machines working again.

    But work worries me more. I work in downtown DC and I fully expect there would be instant gridlock again, like there was after 9/11/2001. I have no confidence in DC or Federal government to get anyone out of DC quickly – except themselves, of course. Top-level government people have a place to escape to (Aberdeen, I think) in case of emergency but the little people will be left behind to burn.

  11. Bill S. permalink
    September 8, 2008

    Realistically, there are very few natural disasters that could cripple our area for more than a couple of days. The only things I can think of are an enemy attack or a 1,000 year snow blizzard several times bigger than anything I have seen in my lifetime.

    What we (2 adults) have:
    10 gallons bottled water
    Bleach for water purification
    Wireless crank-powered radio
    About two-weeks worth of non-refrigerated food (which we regularly rotate)
    Two flashlights
    Cell phone
    Plastic carriers for three cats
    Backup cat food supply
    First aid kit

    What we need:
    Better battery management!
    Additional source of light, maybe gas powered. (I also like the idea of manual crank-up lighting.)
    Stand-alone heat source should electricity and oil not be available in cold weather crises.
    Making sure the car gas tank is always at least half filled.
    Better first aid kit
    A form of self protection. I hesitate to add this, but if civil society breaks down (and we see it around the world as well as in our own country), I don’t want to be a victim.

  12. Karen permalink
    September 8, 2008

    I’m feeling very unprepared after reading the responses above. I thought we had done quite a bit before I saw what others have done.
    We keep bottled water, many canned and packaged goods, and pet food(and extra dish) in the basement. We have flashlights and many new batteries stored there as well. We have a battery powered radio. We have many tools there cause that’s my husband’s workshop area. I will add some medical stuff now. We also keep some hidden cash.
    We do keep an emergency kit in the car, but not food or a blanket. I think I’ll add those items. Thanks for the tips.

  13. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    September 8, 2008

    Well, I’ve lived in Florida pretty much all of my life and have been used of hurricanes the whole time. We used to do hurricane drills and tornado drills in school, I’ve done the hurricane chamber at MOSI and Kennedy Space Center, and I’ve lived through many hurricanes. May parents used to buy wood, I think, and at least tape up the windows. They’d also make sure the batteries were good in the flashlights, stock up on some canned good and peanut butter and jelly, and some bottled water, and take little preparedness cautions like that.

    Unfortunately, I am slightly different. I mean, I have stocked up on the food stuffs and batteries in the past, and I’ve weighed alternatives just in case because of my dogs, but still nowhere NEAR the preparedness of my parents. I’m too far stuck on the excitement of the hurricane, getting some film for the camera, getting the camera set up. I LOVE the winds and what it looks like, the trees swaying, the ripples of the water, the wind blowing the rain around, the sound of the storm.

    Basically, my focus has been on EXPERIENCING the storm more than preparing for it.

    But, once again, don’t get me wrong, I mean, I always have back-up just in case of an emergency, even when there isn’t a storm, and I know my routes of exit for the dogs and my child and I. Its just, who can focus on that when there’s going to be an awesome STORM coming through??????????

  14. jeetendra solanki permalink
    September 8, 2008

    Hello…….. I m from Gujarat, India………i read all responses given above………i found Gerhason Swartzh, first one, and Cindy Upchurch’s response the best among all………(Pls. note that i m not good at english)…….
    Perhapsyou all know….India, Gujarat is most hit area of natural disaster like floods. storms.rain, earthquake ,epidemic etc…..
    So what I really want to say, Advice you by my, our experience is that Mutual help more worthy than any other form of help……….No doubt first aid kit is the basic one…..but by our many……..many,………experience like flood in surat, quake in Kutccha, recent flood in Bihar etc… we found that on primary base govt. help prove imp. …but along with gov. machinary….in back ground many……many…….NGOs…..religious trust particularly., according to your country you may call missionaries’ help . coordination,, planinng proves very…..very….IMP above all……….We done it in Kutch, Gujarat, after quake in 2001………
    My point is that without putting 100% trust on eloctronic machinary………(although all are very IMP….we too depend and use it…) like atm machine , car,radio, ham radio, and many others……..We should plan for mutual help in advance stage, like Mitigation prog. …..and focus upon social help….when above problem arised, other nearby cities, villages, states’ people and citizen prepares food packet in their home , pack it,and send it via govt,./ other means………Govt. , even need not to appeal for these……….All came out for any type of help voluntarily……like Doctors, food suppliers, water suppliers.,shelters supliera, corporate houses too……… so many people come together……it provides people a social, psychological help,sympathy too, to recover better……….although there too w have many problem in distribution, managment etc……..sometime carelessness is also seen……….but it is not single case it happens everywhere in all countries of the world………
    Although it is my gentle advice, depends upon our experience and success……….Yours approach,is also very good and I appreciate it all the way……….Best luck………

  15. Sue permalink
    September 8, 2008

    We live in Florida so hurricanes, flooding, tornados are the worst of our natural threats. We have all of the above stuff (water, canned food, lots of flashlights and batteries, wax and oil candles, first aid kits, battery radios, land line telephones if the power is out, and lots of bleach, paper towels, and plastic bags) but I also did something else not mentioned. I did a photo record of our home inventory. I used my digital camera to take pictures of every room and all the big expensive stuff like electronics etc. I opened closets, drawers, the outside of the house, the cars, garage, etc. I ended up with over 200 pictures. I have them stored on a disc but also have them on an online photo album I can access from anywhere. The disc will go into the safe deposit box. They will prove valuable if we have to go to our insurance company with a list of what we had. While the photos aren’t as complete as a written inventory, they will certainly jog our memories and be visual proof to an insurance adjuster.

    Also, I have a list of important papers to safeguard with us. Insurance information, medical records, presc., jewelry, warrantees or information on specific items (like that new tv purchase). Anything we need to keep safe, we can put in one of those plastic Space bags, seal and then place in either our dryer, washer, stove oven or convection oven. These are large heavy appliances that are mostly water tight and more likely to be spared than say something like a filing cabinet. Doing all this took about 5 hours of preparation but would be worth so much more if needed.

    No matter where you live, a home inventory is an important document to have on hand. This is true for not just natural disasters. There are also things like home fires, theft and the like.

  16. Sue permalink
    September 8, 2008

    I forgot to say that we also get a stash of cash to have on hand and fill our cars gas tanks. Because we get plenty of notice about hurricanes, we also have time to recharge any batteries (cells, tools).

  17. richard permalink
    September 9, 2008

    well as i am in the military and stationed on guam right now its mandatory for us to have extra flashlights, batteries, can food, water, blankets and the likes. Its difficult to plan though, because we have storm shutters but we also have a few precious antique pieces so we still have to find away to “strap” everything down.

    maybe we could think abour reinforcing the storm shutters, but i cant think of nothing strong enough to withstand a typhoon. what do you think??

  18. Kat permalink
    September 9, 2008

    I learned from riding out Hurricane Hugo to have everything ready to go. My early years were full of moves and, as a result, knowing what needed to be immediately available, I’ve spent a lifetime of being prepared. Tents, blankets, pillows, safety candles, flashlights, batteries, cookware, clothing, etc., are always set aside for emergencies. Canned food, dry goods, water…all ready to grab in an instant. Food items and batteries are routinely checked and rotated for freshness. Money goes to a secure location for quick and easy retrieval. Phone numbers, maps, emergency guides and plans, all accounted for. It pay to grow up camping out!

  19. Anonymous permalink
    September 9, 2008

    Do you have the authority to ask me these questions? This is a tremendous burden on me to take time out of my busy day providing information to the Government. How do I know it won’t be used against me somehow?

  20. Jeffrey Levy, Greenversations Editor permalink*
    September 9, 2008

    No one is required to answer our question of the week, so please don’t respond if it’s too much effort.

  21. Jeffrey Levy, Greenversations Editor permalink*
    September 9, 2008

    I work downtown in Washington, DC, four blocks from the White House. My wife and I have worked out two evacuation options, plus set up a relative in a very remote area as a communications relay if we can’t reach each other and end up separated.

    We both carry a small card in our wallets with all the info, plus the phone numbers of our kids’ schools, pediatrician, family members, etc.

    At our house, we keep 3 gallons of water for each of us. We always have quite a bit of food in the form of staples in the house, so we don’t specifically stock up. Same goes for radios: we always have batteries around. And we keep one corded phone in case the power goes out.

  22. adanna permalink
    September 9, 2008

    That is a good question. My family always have a supply of canned goods available to say that we have it stored for emergencies would be a lie. That being said we are not really prepared for any disaster considering that we live in the city.

  23. Ranger Man permalink
    September 9, 2008

    Thank you EPA for promoting preparedness awareness for the non-wacko survivalist types (a.k.a. normal folks). My blog ( seeks to achieve the same goal through humor and wit, but it’s nice having an official agency do the same. A prepared neighbor is a good neighbor, and it’s time to move preparedness into every American household. You don’t need to be a weird, live-in-the-woods, fear society person to appreciate a certain level of preparedness.

    – Ranger man

  24. Jimmy permalink
    September 10, 2008

    All great comments. I’m sure most people don’t do anything. Above all, eduacte yourself on what will most likely happen, not what happens “on TV”. I didn’t see any guns listed, but if it gets real bad you can hunt for food, or worse yet, protect all that cool stuff you stockpiled.

  25. Jarrod permalink
    September 15, 2008

    Mostly, I have prepared my family for emergencies by choosing NOT to live in known disaster areas where hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding and tornados will cause damage to my property and put my family’s life in jeopardy. In truly desperate times, I have excellent wilderness survival skills.

  26. malvin d steinback jr permalink
    November 21, 2008

    if you vegan freaks think you are going to impose your immorality on the rest of us think again. 1) global warming is not real step outside right now and feel the heat. 2)i don’t see anybody giving any medals to the buffalo hunters for stopping all of that release of toxic gas. 3) it is unconstitutional for you to force your religon on the rest of us. 4)it is uncontitutional for you to tax a specific object (swaggert vthe state of california) 5)you don’t win friends with salad. don’t even think about attacking our meats the price in the store is already to high because if you do i know many meat eating obama supporters who will complain and we will be rid of this monster that was created by nixon

  27. Vegan Eating Out permalink
    December 11, 2008

    Global warming is real. Look into the scientific studies – not your personal observations. Meat production is the #1 cause of CO2 emissions – higher than cars. Besides just animal poop you have to consider the refrigerated trucks moving the meat around as well as the factories themselves. No one is forcing a religion on you as veganism is not a religion, but despite that the US allows for any group to speak up and vote.


  28. RyanRichardson permalink
    March 3, 2009

    Disaster preparedness is incredibly important. People often get too comfortable with all of the modern conveniences that we have and they take things for granted.

    Even in our modern, technologically advanced time we can be sent back in time by a strong storm that knocks out electricity for a week. Or pollutes our water supply.

    We sometimes rely too heavily on technology and that leaves us unprepared for scenarios that may not happen often but very easily can happen.

  29. Jim permalink
    June 19, 2009

    Part of our preparedness is through study and education. Getting everything prepared is more than just stocking up on supplies. It is also knowing how to use them. Where we are located, there are some chemcal plants. We have to be aware of those things too.

    There is a lot of emergency preparedness that is needed on all levels.

  30. Matthew permalink
    November 26, 2009

    Personally I am always prepared for these types of situations. I specialize in wilderness survival and know how the environment can turn deadly without warning. Hiking trips can be turned upsidedown by flash floods or unexpected heat waves that will dehydrate you. Hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes are definitely something everyone needs to be prepared for if they live in a high risk area!

    Matthew Walters

  31. Nicola Jameson permalink
    November 27, 2009

    Being prepared for life’s emergencies is really a state of mind. In the developed world we tend to be lulled into a false sense of security in that we are largely so confident in the abilities of our official emergency services that we neglect to think for ourselves. This is a mistake. The challenge is to get the individual citizen to think for themselves in terms of their own security and ability to navigate their way through an emergency. If anything the effects of Hurricane Katrina should be a case in point. Parts of the US returned to the dark ages overnight and the official emergency services were overwhelmed. With global warming and climate change looming large on the horizon these sorts of events will become more commonplace and hence the need for people to be mentally and physically prepared. Perhaps a public education program is required?…
    Nicky Jameson

  32. Nancy Sanders permalink
    December 10, 2009

    Having lived in New Orleans and seen the devastating effects of Katrina, I couldn’t agree more with this article. I don’t think we, as individuals, do enough to cater for our own safety and security when such events occur. Planning is now part of my daily life. We keep emergency blankets, flares, food (tins – with tin openers of course!), a satellite phone (normal cellphones can go down as we experienced). I lost all my jewelry in Katrina (the robberies that occurred in the days following hit our house), so now keep most of my good pieces in a bank instead. Some people may feel we are being paranoid, but honestly, when you have been through such a thing, planning ahead seems like second nature.

  33. BIO ENABLE permalink
    April 1, 2010

    Emergencies in the workplace cannot be eliminated, but if you have an emergency action plan in place and have trained workers to respond quickly and appropriately you can optimize efficiency, relieve anxiety, and in some cases, save lives.

    Management commitment and worker involvement are essential to an effective emergency action plan. The action plan should be explained to workers and reviewed whenever the plan or responsibilities change. How good is your emergency action plan?

  34. micheal permalink
    April 11, 2010

    Whenever you hear about a natural disaster you might feel scared because of the effects it has on the homes as well as the lives of the people. It is very much essential to prepare yourself against the disasters because you never know what is going to hit your town or your country.

  35. July 6, 2012

    Yes, it is very important that we must always prepared for emergencies because tragedy will occur unexpectedly. So in order for us to be prepared, we must have a stocks in our house the basic necessities that is very important specially if there is an earthquake, floods or tsunami incidents. Aside from that, it is very important also that we must know the precautionary measures for those kinds of tragedy for us to be safe. We must to be aware of it.

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