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My Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Updated on October 6, 2013

If you don't already have one, I suggest you take the next 30 minutes and create an Emergency Preparedness Checklist.

In very little time, you can create something that can pay big benefits to you and your family next time disaster strikes.

What is an Emergency Preparedness Checklist? It's a simple to-do list, designed especially for you, to help you prepare when emergency conditions are imminent, usually from bad weather.

But an Emergency Preparedness Checklist is more than a to-do list. It's a way to help you stay positive and focused on useful things. And by making the best use of your time before disaster strikes, you'll be in a better position to 'ride out' what comes your way.

First Step

Each Emergency Preparedness Checklist should be unique. A family living near an ocean coastline would have a completely different list from a rancher living in an area prone to wildfires.

The checklist should be based on such things as: where you're located, your skills and resources, who you have to help you, your mobility, the type of events you're likely to face, and how long the event might last.

So the first step to writing your own Emergency Preparedness Checklist is to evaluate your own situation, based on the emergencies you're likely to encounter.

Our Emergency Preparedness Checklist

For our family, an emergency is usually related to the weather -- typically a hurricane, groundwater flooding, large blizzard or ice storm. We usually go into 'emergency mode' once or twice a year. And during these times we can lose power and phones for 1-4 days, although we've gone as long as 2 weeks during a hurricane about twenty years ago.

For us, if we lose power from our utility, then we lose our water from our well -- our 5kW portable generator isn't strong enough to power our well pump. Another factor for us: we have a horse, and that means extra items for our checklist.

Although we haven't yet had to evacuate our home, it's part of our checklist to be ready for that, too.

Done properly, we'll need at least four days to go through each of the items on the checklist. If we don't have four days, then we prioritize what we need and decide how to improvise given the situation.

The Checklist Itself

Here is our family Emergency Preparedness Checklist (somewhat in order of events):

  • backup the computer: use multiple media (USB memory stick; cloud storage; removable disks)
  • withdraw some cash from bank
  • mail payments for bills; schedule online payments and transfers
  • charge batteries
  • charge cell phones
  • charge portable power tools
  • do laundry; run dishwasher
  • cancel deliveries
  • pickup prescriptions at pharmacy
  • park cars away from hazards
  • raise items prone to floods
  • lower items prone to wind
  • take down flags
  • fill propane
  • get fresh batteries for flashlights and radios; pre-position flashlights
  • stock up on heating oil; wood pellets; fire wood (in colder weather)
  • camp stove sterno and charcoal for cooking
  • fill-up gas in cars
  • fill gas portable gas canisters
  • get hay for horse
  • get pet food
  • pour extra water for horse into reserve barn tub
  • water all indoor plants
  • do food shopping: especially bottled water, tuna, bread, peanut butter/ jelly, canned soup, canned fruit, milk and dry mik, cereal, coffee, paper plates and cups, hand sanitizer, wooden matches.
  • be sure to have manual can opener and bottle opener for kitchen
  • check your Go Kit -- a Go Kit is what you take in case you need to leave quickly (see more about this below). Ours should contain: family contact info, the family photos, maps, important docs (prescriptions, tickets, credentials, insurance papers) and valuables (stocks, jewelry, safety deposit box key), list of account numbers, web sites, and phone numbers for bank, brokerage; toiletries; Swiss Army knife; foil blanket; bottled water, medicine, some food and hand sanitizer.
  • pick fruits and vegetables in garden; stake up plants (warm weather)
  • make ice; fill freezer
  • prepare buckets of water for toilets
  • crank radio
  • good books and other reading material
  • clear outdoor hazards: bbq grills; propane tank behind remote wall; patio furniture; potted plants behind barrier; remove garden decorations and any tools left outside
  • tune portable generator and preposition
  • check sump pump; check discharge line and discharge area
  • check and tune chainsaw
  • check and tune snow blower (winter)
  • hook up plow; pre-position plow (winter)
  • clear gutters; drains away from structure; storm drains; culverts
  • close doors and windows
  • remove outdoor awning (warm months)
  • hook up non-electronic telephone ("Plain Old Telephone")
  • solar panel with charge-able battery and converter
  • ac-dc adapters
  • board up large glass surfaces
  • pots for cooking; making coffee
  • heavy duty power cords
  • clothes for the climate: raincoats, boots, parkas, sweaters, gloves, hats, sunglasses
  • fill bathtubs with water
  • first aid kits
  • know shelters, routes
  • arrange family communications using central Internet location like Facebook
  • unplug computer and other sensitive electronics from grid before bad weather arrives, to avoid power surges

Checklist Tidbits

Here are some noteworthy pieces of info about the items on our Emergency Preparedness Checklist:

Fresh Batteries - Use fresh batteries if possible; try not to mix old and new batteries, and try not to mix alkaline and other types of batteries. Need to buy batteries? Get them at least 3 or 4 days before the emergency, to ensure the stores have them. Remove batteries from an appliance if you don't plan to use it for several days.

Portable Crank Radio - A radio provides news and weather info to help keep you connected to the world. And it provides music to help you remember what civilization is like. Our radio has a rechargeable battery and a hand crank on its side: 180 cranks gives 90 minutes of radio energy. Some newer radios can be used to charge a cell phone using the USB port.

Water - Have plenty of water and other (powdered) drinks available. Dehydration can lead to serious problems. As a rule of thumb, the average adult should have 2-3 liters of water/ fluids per day. Plan to have enough water for you and your family, for the entire time of the emergency.

Go Kit - It's always good to have a Go Kit around. If you need to leave your home quickly, gather up your family, grab this kit, and go. For some useful ideas for creating your own Go Kit check the FEMA website.

Strawberry Pop Tarts - OK, these are not actually on our list. But it turns out that Walmart looked at what items were popular after weather disasters hit a community. The list was basically: paper plates, flashlights and strawberry Pop Tarts. Who would believe it?

Keep Your Checklist Fresh

As you go through emergencies you'll undoubtedly come across an item that needs to be added to your checklist. So add it, before you forget it.

Think of your Emergency Preparedness Checklist as 'a work in progress.' Keep it on your laptop or your Blackberry so you can change it easily. When bad weather is in the forecast, review it and revise it as necessary. Keep a printed version with your Go Kit.

Now More than Ever

If your emergency strategy is simply to dial 911, then you probably need to find a new strategy.

Local governments are being asked to do more, and many are in deep financial trouble. Power companies and other public utilities have scaled back their workforce, even while expanding their service areas. The public's emergency safety net is stretched thin.

And these days, there seems to be a trend of more extreme weather, not less.

The best strategy when things get tough is to be able to take care of ourselves and our families. We all need to become better at being self-reliant.

Next Step

The good news is that the Web has lots of useful ideas about planning for emergencies. Check the website at your own municipality for ideas that are relevant for your area.

Here's an example from Montgomery County, PA .

Also, check out these Hubs with extra ideas to consider:

Sam Survivor's: 7 Survivalist Foods Every Family Should Stock Up On

Marye Audet's: Emergency Preparedness for Disaster Survival

Webismine's Question: What is supposed to be in a First Aid Kit?

Have some good ideas that might help others with their checklists? Please consider adding them as comments to this Hub.

Start your checklist today. When a disaster hits, a good Emergency Preparedness Checklist may be the only thing you can depend on.


Submit a Comment
  • Clarke Stevens profile imageAUTHOR

    Will Mays 

    7 years ago from North Kingstown, RI, United States

    With a storm approaching millions of folks on the US east coast, now might be a good time to dust off this list...

  • Clarke Stevens profile imageAUTHOR

    Will Mays 

    8 years ago from North Kingstown, RI, United States

    JBurgraff: Google shows 35.5 million results for a strange word like 'preparedness'. This Hub just scratches the surface. Thank you for your compliment.

    Enlydia Listener: Glad you found this list helpful. Thanks for your kind words.

  • Enlydia Listener profile image

    Enlydia Listener 

    8 years ago from trailer in the country

    That was an exceptional list, and has provided me with some new ideas that I never thought of. Thanks for the information.

  • J Burgraff profile image

    J Burgraff 

    8 years ago

    Incredible. The most prepared person on the planet!


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