It has been almost one year since the anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, and those horrific events offer a stark reminder about the urgent importance of preparedness.
You should always plan ahead for emergencies, big and small, that could rock your business and your personal life. If you don’t yet have a plan, don’t let another day pass without one.
One of my dearest friends used to always say, "Pray for sunshine, be prepared for rain." Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, most of us have a tendency to put off preparing for the rainy day.
The challenge with most emergencies is that we simply don’t see them coming and, as a result, aren’t really well prepared for coping with them.
For example, when I lived in Los Angeles, I was evacuated from my home twice due to brush fires. I also lived through three major earthquakes, including the 1994 Northridge earthquake, where the epicenter was just six miles from the college where I taught.
Last summer, we thought we were going to have to evacuate here in Austin due to the Steiner Ranch fire. I wasn’t prepared, and was frantically shooting a quick video of our home’s contents as the ashes landed on our roof and back patio.
The people who lived in Steiner were evacuated with just the clothes on their backs.
Read through the list below and see how ready you are for a major emergency. For any items that you lack, why not address them now instead of putting it off? A fire or other disaster can strike at any time.
Disaster preparedness checklist
1. Enough food and water for at least three days for an emergency evacuation, or two weeks’ worth of food and water if you are confined to your home.
The Red Cross recommends at least one gallon of water per day per person, and easy-to-prepare food items that do not require refrigeration. Canned goods, dehydrated fruits, nuts and vacuum-packed foods are good choices.
Also, be sure to remember baby formula, bottles or any other special needs anyone in your household may have. Stock up now. If you don’t use the food, you can give it to your local food bank and take a tax deduction.
Furthermore, be sure you have knives, a pair of scissors, and an old-fashioned can opener that doesn’t require electricity. Don’t forget to include eating utensils for each person.
2. At least $500 to $1,000 of cash on hand in case you are unable to access an ATM and have to evacuate to a safer area.
If the power is out, chances are that your Internet service may be down, as well. This means that your credit cards and your local ATM will probably not be working. Even if food and other supplies are available after the disaster, you may have to pay cash.
3. A first-aid kit, medications, and personal hygiene items for each member of your household. A smart way to prepare these items is to pack a backpack for each member of your household, including your pets.
If someone in your household requires refrigerated medications, make sure you have an ice chest with cold packs ready to go. Be sure to include glasses, hearing aids, contact lenses and solution, syringes, and any other necessity. For children, include games and activities to keep them occupied.
Also, remember to include personal hygiene items such as diapers, soap, shampoo, baby wipes (in case there is no water), pillows, and blankets or sleeping bags. For your animals, include a collar, leash, ID tag, carrier, and food and water bowls.
4. A way to keep the lights on. While a generator may not be a practical option, a flashlight, candles, matches and extra batteries are within everyone’s reach. Even if the power is out, you can use a solar charger for your cell phone or a battery-charged recharging station.
It’s also smart to have a battery-powered radio or crank radio so you can hear details about disaster response and aid while the emergency is taking place.
In terms of your computer or other devices, be sure you have all the cables, the charger, and any other hookups necessary to run your computer from a remote location.
5. Your personal documents stored in a single place. The Red Cross recommends that you pull all critical personal documents together in one place so you can quickly grab the package if you need to evacuate on a moment’s notice.
Items to include: proof of address, insurance policies, medical ID cards, credit cards, deed/lease to your residence, passports, birth certificates, and pertinent medical information and medications. To be doubly safe, scan these documents and back them up in the cloud.
6. Specialized survival items for your home. Surgical-style masks can prevent inhalation of dust after a major quake or building collapse, for example. In the aftermath of the Northridge quake, a number of people contracted a serious lung condition that was triggered by the spores in the dust that the quake stirred up.
It’s also smart to have sturdy shoes, rain gear, plastic sheeting, duct tape, and household bleach for water purification.
7. Items you can’t replace should be stored so you can quickly access, pack them. Whether it’s family heirlooms, junior’s golf trophies, or grandma’s favorite quilt, decide which items are irreplaceable and have those stored in a single place where you can quickly reach and pack them, if need be.
8. A plan for being in touch or going to a safe place. It’s smart for your household members to have two or three options as to where they can go in an emergency. The Red Cross also offers a way to notify friends and loved ones through their organization, even if the power is out.
9. A plan to help others. To make sure that your friends, clients and acquaintances are prepared, you can send out the Red Cross guidelines for disaster preparedness as a prospecting tool.
After the Northridge quake, my homeowners association handed out earthquake preparedness packages for every homeowner in our subdivision.
The biggest obstacle to preparedness is procrastination. The smart move is simple: Prepare now — don’t wait.