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How to Prepare for Unexpected Emergencies

Updated on August 8, 2013

Everyday life is fraught with any number of unexpected dangers that can shake our complacency and make us realize how fragile life is. In preparing for the unexpected, we need to walk a fine line between sensible precautions and unnecessary paranoia that can affect our quality of life. The following steps will take the cautious, but sensible approach to preparing for some of the unexpected emergencies that can occur while having an emergency action plan in place.

Smoke Detector
Smoke Detector
First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit
Fire Extinguisher
Fire Extinguisher
Portable electrical generator
Portable electrical generator

In the Home

Practice emergency planning and start with some of the basic emergency survival kits no home should be without.

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are two of the most basic and essential items of emergency equipment. These potential life savers should be strategically placed throughout your home. Remember to test them periodically and replace the batteries when needed.
  • First aid kit and emergency medical supplies such as a supply of prescribed medications that will last for at least a week.
  • Candles. Keep a good supply of candles and matches in case of an electrical failure.
  • Fire extinguisher. Every home should have one, and a second if you have a garage.
  • Flashlights. Keep at least two in your home with fresh batteries.
  • Portable radio that can be used to listen to emergency broadcasts when there is a power failure.
  • Food and water. Store a good supply of non-perishable food items and canned goods, and at least 5 one-gallon jugs of bottled water if your water supply is cut off.
  • If you live in an area that is prone to power outages, you might consider purchasing a portable electrical generator that can keep lights and appliances running. This is especially important if you experience an outage in winter and have no way of heating your home. It is also important if you keep a large store of frozen foods in your freezer which can be lost if there is a prolonged power failure.
  • Child-proof your home. If you have young children, make sure they don't have access to any harmful solids or liquids they can touch or ingest.
  • Prepare an emergency notification system by having an easily accessible list of emergency telephone numbers, such as fire and police departments, poison control center and animal control. Program all numbers into your phone to make calling easier and quicker.
  • Teach your children how to call 911 and familiarize them with emergency procedures and basic first aid supplies in case of medical emergencies.
  • Know where the nearest hospital is and the quickest way to get there.
  • Have an evacuation plan in case of a fire, flood, tornado, or earthquake.

At Work

All we need to do is think of 9/11 to realize how important it is to know what to do in case of an emergency.

  • Always be aware of emergency procedures in the workplace and familiarize yourself with any evacuation plan.
  • Know where the emergency exits are.
  • Comply with periodic fire drills.

Jumper Cables
Jumper Cables
Roadside Flare
Roadside Flare
A mini rechargeable LED flashlight
A mini rechargeable LED flashlight

In Your Car

An accident or roadside emergency can happen at any time, so make sure your car contains the following equipment:

  • Jumper cables. Every car should have jumper cables if ever your battery goes dead.
  • First aid kit
  • Flares. Very important to have in case of a roadside emergency at night, especially when changing a tire. You want to signal your car's presence to other motorists when it may be difficult to see you in the dark.
  • Blanket. Keep one in the trunk in case you break down during cold weather.
  • Flashlight. Keep a flashlight in your glove compartment, but keep fresh batteries separate so they don't run down when not in use. Better still, get a rechargeable LED flashlight and you don't have to worry about dead batteries.
  • Bottled water. Keep several bottles handy for drinking or other uses.
  • Make sure your spare tire is properly inflated and you know how to change a tire.
  • Cellular phone. This can be the single most valuable component of your kit to call 911 in case of an accident. Even if you have roadside assistance coverage, or belong to an auto club that provides roadside assistance, you will need access to a phone in order to contact them.
  • Make sure you keep a cell phone car charger handy to prevent your cell battery from running down. They can be powered from the cigarette lighter or auxiliary outlet.

Undercover money belt
Undercover money belt
Medical alert bracelet
Medical alert bracelet

When Traveling

Whether you're traveling at home or abroad, there are certain precautions you should take to protect yourself and family from injury or property loss.

  • If you're traveling abroad, always carry travelers checks instead of cash. If lost or stolen, you can always get your money back.
  • Never carry money or credit cards in your wallet or bag when in a foreign country. Tourists are easy marks for pickpockets. Use a money belt, or if you're a woman, carry money or cards close to your chest.
  • If you have a medical condition, always carry a medical emergency bracelet or medical alert I.D. so that EMT or hospital personnel know how to treat you in case of a medical emergency.
  • If you have expensive jewelry or items of value, always keep them in the hotel safe.
  • Know where and how to get in touch with your country's consulate in case of any emergency.
  • You should always have travel insurance to cover any contingency, especially emergency medical travel insurance if you're traveling abroad.


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