Simple Home Disaster
Simple and convenient
steps you can take to protect a household with people who won't cooperate
with readiness efforts.
One person can make a difference.
Power outages, fires, floods, earthquakes, wind, and storms can interrupt
utilities, phones, stores, ATMs, and travel. You can be forced to leave
your home because of flooding, sewage backflow, fire, chemical accident,
or terrorist threat. These things occur when you are least prepared. This
is an inexpensive common sense preparation document. It will help your
commute and vacations.
The large disaster relief organizations can provide basic relief for a lot
of people, but need a few days to get set up. Wise people are prepared to
handle problems on their own for at least a week.
Don't buy any survival kits or anything you are not familiar with. After
the power goes out is not the time to try something out. Don't waste your
money buying "special survival food". It will probably get old before you
need it. Just keep your regular canned goods stocked.
This is not a complete guide to preparation; it is only to give you a
starting place. Experience, training and special equipment provide better
preparation. And nothing is better than common sense (which doesn't seem
to be very common).
The most effective way to prepare is to have good friends and neighbors.
And that means being a good friend to your neighbors. The people who are
well connected socially to those nearby do the best when disaster strikes.
The only thing better is to be part of a neighborhood group that prepares
for disaster together.
Copyright 2005-2024 Ken Young
This document may be freely
redistributed for educational purposes at no charge in unaltered form.
This information is for
educational purposes only. There is no guarantee of any kind that it is
accurate, or that no harm will come to anyone who uses it.
This information is provided
on an "as is" basis with absolutely no warranty or guarantee. The
information is not necessarily correct, complete, or suitable for any
particular use. The entire risk is with you. Should harm arise from
using this information, you assume responsibility for all damages and
injuries. In no event shall the copyright holder, or any other party, be
liable for compensation or damages arising from the use, misuse, failure
to use, or inability to use this information.
Why most planning is simple
Most people do the wrong thing when
confronted with a disaster. This is their first time in the situation,
they aren't ready for it, and they need to decide what to do under stress.
Most often, they choose incorrectly, compounding the problem.
Making simple plans and preparations that
can be used for any disaster, large or small improves your situation a
- Buy appropriate insurance.
- Locate the cutoffs for the water, gas, and electricity. There may be
special tools to operate them, know where they are.
- Make sure children can recite their name, address, & phone number.
- Pick two out-of-area relatives who messages could be left with in case
of separation. Pick relatives most family members would know the phone
number of. Tell the family members to leave messages there in case of
- Identify a "back-road" route to use to get out of the area when the
highways are clogged. This is handy to know about on holiday weekends.
The route does not have to be fast, just less likely to be completely
- Identify an auxiliary source of water, such as a pool, hot tub, or
creek ahead of time to flush toilets.
- Dry ice can keep your freezer cold in an extended power outage. Yet it
can be hard to find. Locate stores that sell it before
the power goes out.
- Motivate everyone to make a travel bag. This is everything they need
for an overnighter or a week-long vacation (except clothes) in one small
bag. Travel bags save a frustrating hour of rounding stuff up
every time someone wants to spend the night somewhere.
- Some emergency management offices keep lists of people with functional
needs. Make sure they know about your loved ones if appropriate.
- Educate yourself about insurance issues before a crisis occurs. If you
need insurance, you probably won't be in the right frame of mind to
carefully research how to not be taken advantage of. One web site
dedicated to this is http://www.disasterprepared.net/
(this listing is not an endorsement).
the home ready
- Install a smoke detector and
a carbon monoxide detector. Keep the batteries fresh. Most houses have
smoke detectors; the ones that do not have most of the fires. Inspectors
find that 1/3 of all smoke detectors have missing batteries.
- Test your smoke alarms regularly to ensure they make a loud beep when
needed. Fire departments recommend doing this monthly.
- Keep two pocket flashlights and spare batteries. Hide them if
necessary. Keep a flashlight by your bed where you can find it without
fumbling around in the dark. Keep the batteries fresh.
- Rechargeable flashlights have limited utility because they are
difficult to recharge in an emergency.
- Make sure there are enough blankets for a cold night with no heat.
- Own some basic tools, like a claw hammer & nails, screwdrivers,
big pliers, and an adjustable wrench.
- Keep a fire extinguisher rated for grease in the kitchen. Shake the
fire extinguishers every 6 months to keep the powder from caking.
- Keep an escape ladder in every upper-story bedroom. Make sure they are
stored for easy access and everyone knows how to use them.
- Clean your gutters annually.
- Install a sump pump and flood alarm in the basement. Make sure the
battery backup can run for at least an hour.
- Anchor water heaters, fuel oil tanks, bookcases & cabinets to the
wall to prevent toppling.
- Put foam sleeves over exposed exterior pipes.
- Keep 10 gallons of gasoline in a non-sparking can if possible. Put
stored gasoline in your tank and buy new gasoline every year.
- Keep a home
box hidden away for riding out disasters at home.
- Keep an evacuation
pack hidden away in case the disaster makes you leave home.
- A lot of disasters rip stuff off the wall. A moderate earthquake can
hit anywhere on the planet and make an entire city want wallboard
fasteners, and the first one to the hardware store wins. Keep a supply
of wallboard fasteners on hand, in several kinds. A ripped-out fastener
leaves a hole bigger than a pencil, so keep fasteners that can re-use
those holes. Also keep fasteners for virgin wallboard.
- Many modern gas-powered appliances will not work without electricity.
Most have a simpler and less expensive equivalent that does. Take this
into consideration when selecting an appliance.
everything else ready
- Put a family zip-kit
in every car. If some people get around without cars, motivate them to
put a personal zip-kit in their backpack or bike-bag.
- Own a safe deposit box. Store deeds, birth certificates, documents,
insurance information, photos documenting the house, and computer
backups in it. Leaving copies of these items with a relative in a
distant city instead also works. Open safe deposit boxes annually or
some states will gleefully seize the contents. Keep the information up
- Collar, tag, and/or chip your pets. This way you can be re-united with
your pet if someone rescues it.
- Make sure you can receive local alerts. Do an Internet search on
"emergency alerts" and your city name to see what's available and how to
- Use a USB thumb drive as a key fob. Load it with emergency
information, your contact list, photos of your loved ones,
prescriptions, insurance information, automobile information, medical
equipment information, and so forth. It has lots of room, load it with
everything you can think of. It should not have your car description,
licence plate number, or home address if it is a key fob.
- You can download disaster readiness and notification apps for your
mobile devices. Be aware that wireless communications are brittle and
easily disrupted once trouble starts.
- Do you have any important information on your computer? Back it up
regularly, because your computer and its hard drive will
fail. Put every other backup in a different building (your drawer at
work, your safe deposit box, your relative's house, upload it somewhere,
etc). Fires and thieves take both the computers and the backups.
- Losing a purse or wallet while traveling can have serious
consequences. You and your spouse should each have a credit card that
nobody else has. That way you always have a working credit card.
- Organize a camping kit. This is great to have in case you must leave
home. Organize a family camping trip for whoever you can get to come at
least once per year and make it fun.
- Own a cell phone and keep the batteries charged.
- Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers - police, fire, and rescue
agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends and
co-workers; etc. - and program them into your phone. Other good places
are a USB key-fob or a fireproof box, where you can include account
- Store the number of a person to contact in your phone book under ICE
(In Case of Emergency) so authorities know who to call in an emergency
should you be unable to.
- Your cell phone provider may offer a free backup service to preserve
your contact list.
- You may be able to get locator service for your family's cell phones.
- Women should always have a scarf. Most people on the planet always
have some sort of scarf or bandana, except for urban/suburbanites in
safe industrialized countries. Scarves have hundreds of practical and
fashion uses. See the separate pictorial scarf research document.
- Establish good relations with your neighbors. They are priceless in
emergencies. Good neighbors can make your life easier in the best of
- When you interact with a contractor, plumber, or hardware store
manager, maintain a simple long-term relationship. They are good to know
when problems occur.
- The most important thing to have after a disaster is help from others.
The way you get it is to help others as much as you can when they have
- Don't be out of shape. Exercise daily.
- You can prepare if the disaster is coming, but hasn't arrived yet.
Weather and fire related disasters can provide several days notice. The
problem is that the hardware store will be sold out of what you need.
You can order anything on the Internet and have it shipped next-day-air.
Your preparation needs will differ. Go
over this list once a year to make sure you are still prepared.