3 Things You Need to do Today to Prepare for an Emergency


This isn’t the type of post I normally do; however, if you are like me, last week’s article in The New Yorker entitled “The Really Big One,” detailing the volatility of the Cascadia subduction zone, struck a cord.  A 9.0 earthquake possible in the PNW?  Not a pretty picture!

If you missed out on the article, you’ve either been off the grid or you don’t live in the PNW.  Read the article.  It’s sobering.

If you’re also like me, you’re woefully ill-prepared for such an event.  I’m a worrier, but that doesn’t always translate into action. In fact, I’ve found that worrying often tends to be enemy of action. However, this week, I researched emergency-preparedness and took some steps to being a better able to weather a disaster. After reading this post, I hope you do too.

After slogging through the Washington State Department of Health’s Emergency Preparedness E-Books, I decided to contact a college friend of mine, Anthony Vendetti, who has worked in the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief fields since 2010.  I figured that Anthony could give me some “insider” information, and I was not disappointed.

So, without further ado, here is the countdown of the 3 things you need to do today to prepare for an emergency:

3. Create a plan for what will happen if there is an emergency, particularly if you get separated from your loved ones.

Designate a family member or friend in another part of the state or country as the communication “point person,” just in case your immediate family can’t get in touch with each other.   For us, this is my sister.  Designate a rendezvous location in case of separation as well.  Make sure all family members are aware of who the communication point person is (have them memorize the phone number!) and how to get to the rendezvous location.

Time: 10 minutes

Cost: Free

2. Learn to shut off your water, gas, and electricity.  

The last thing you want in an earthquake or other emergency is added danger to yourself and family and damage to your house.  Preferably, more than one person in the family should know how to do this so that if that person is injured, it can still be done!

Time: 15 minutes

Cost: Free

1. Create a Portable Emergency Kit.

We’re calling ours  the “Go Bag.”  Basically, the emergency kit is going to have everything that you might need if you have to evacuate your house in an emergency setting.  We attempted to fill our bag with everything we would need for 72 hours.  I was going to put it all in a plastic tub, but Anthony recommended putting it in a camping backpack or a rolling suitcase. What a great idea!  It makes it much more portable!

Here’s what we put in our Go Bag:


First of all, let’s address the water situation.  In our Go Bag, we have 2 gallons of water.  That’s pushing it for two people for 72 hours, but we keep several gallons of water in our garage next to our Go Bag.  If we had to get away from the house, we could hopefully grab a couple more gallons of water on the way out.

I told you she’s little!

When choosing food, we tried to pick items that we know are filling, calorie-rich, and low in sodium (Thanks for that tip, Anthony!).  You’ll notice the plastic container of Chia seeds in the front row.  Stirred into applesauce, it’s a perfect example of a food that fills you up and gives a lot of energy.  I hope you also notice the bag of dog food.  In an emergency situation, I don’t want our dog to be hungry either!  If you’re thinking the amount of dog food is too little, don’t worry!  She’s a chihuahua and eats about 12 kibbles per day.  That might be a little bit hyperbolic, but not much!

First Aid Kit

As Anthony pointed out to me, during a crisis, hospitals may be overwhelmed with patients, so it’s important to have a well-stocked first aid kit.  This kit is loaded with bandages, scissors, gauze, pollution masks, antiseptic wipes, and even a whistle.

Now is a good time to buy a first aid kit if you don’t already have one because a lot of camping supply stores are unloading summer merchandise.  Ours was on sale.


Make an extra copy of your house key, just in case. Cutlery could come in handy, and — of course — duct tape and plastic bags can help out in a multitude of situations!  Obviously, a lighter or waterproof matches are a must.  I chose to get a package of lighters because I figured that if I needed to start a campfire, I could break one open to use as an accelerant.

Hygiene Products

Here’s where Chris and I had a tough time separating the “Need-to-Haves” from the “Nice-to-Haves,” but we had enough room in the bag to throw in a few nice-to-haves.  Need-to-Haves: toilet paper (in a plastic bag in case of rain!), tampons, toothbrush/paste, and hand sanitizer.  Nice-to-Haves: everything else.

Comfort Items

To protect against weather, we packed extra socks, gloves, hats, and a blanket.  If you have kids, you might want to pack a couple of books or card games.  I packed a Bible.

Family Docs

We made copies of important documents, such as driver’s licences, health insurance cards, car and homeowner’s insurance policies, and marriage license and packed them in a sheet protector.  The WA Department of Health also recommends making an emergency card with contact information, etc. for anyone in the family who doesn’t speak English or can’t communicate.  They don’t have a template for it, but you can download my editable template for a card by clicking on this link: Family Documents Template.

Now that you’ve done all of that it’s time to…

Pack it Up

and you’re done!  Yeah!

Time: 2 Hours

Cost: $60 (for two people)

All Done

If this all sounds a bit daunting or it’s cost-prohibitive to do it all at once, Anthony recommends buying one or two supplies each time you go to the grocery store.  After all, as he pointed out, “each little step is a step forward.”

Once you’ve packed everything up, Anthony recommends keeping your Go Bag somewhere that is “easy to access and near an exit.”   For us, this is right next to the garage door.  Although the Go Bag contains three days of supplies, Anthony suggested keeping a whole week’s supplies and extra equipment (like a tent, sleeping bag, etc) on hand in  your home.

After you have your main Go Bag ready, you may make an abbreviated kit for your car, workplace, etc — wherever you spend most of your time.

As parting words of wisdom, Anthony offered this advice:

“Make the process fun. Try cooking with the food you normally keep in your supply kit to see how creative you can get. Go on camping trips and put some of your survival skills to use around the camp site. It is important to have the whole family involved and you can take steps to make it fun.”

There you go!  Survival is fun!  Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by worry or “it-will-never-happen-to-me” thinking.  Take some baby steps to get prepared!


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