Why Get Ready At Home?
The best protection before a disaster happens is to get involved and be prepared in your community. During a serious disaster, all of the resources and services we take for granted may be shut down. How a community comes together to help one another during a crisis all depends on preparation! Do one thing to get ready today.
To help you prepare at home, it's helpful to imagine that you have no telephone service, no electricity, no gas, no water, and no sanitation service. Imagine that all businesses are closed and all services are shut down. What will you do? What will you need at home until help arrives?
Use the following checklists to help you get ready:
Your Vital Info
COMMUNICATION, RELATIONSHIPS, IDENTITY, VALUABLES
An out-of-state emergency contact person can help you in two important ways: storing your vital documents and helping you communicate with loved ones during emergencies.
Checklist for Communication and Relationships
- Local phone lines, cordless, and cell phones may not work. Plan ahead and take the following steps to prepare:
- Designate an out-of-state contact person that everyone will contact after an emergency.
- Give your out-of-state contact person a list of the other important people to contact with updates.
- Give every member of your family an emergency contact card and a prepaid phone card to carry with them at all times.
- Use your emergency out-of-state contact person to help reunite separated family members and communicate special medical needs of family members.
Checklist for Vital Documents
Make a backup copy of all your identity cards and vital documents that could be lost in a fire or other disaster. Store them with your out-of-state contact person or in a safety deposit box.
- Birth certificate
- Driver's license
- Social Security number
- Bank account information and stock/bond certificates
- Will and other legal papers
- Medical data, allergies, medications/dosages, doctor contacts, and health history
- Deed or mortgage documents
- Insurance policies and cards
- Inventory and photographs of your valuables (prints or on a CD)
- Family photos for identification purposes (prints or on a CD)
- Any other document that would be difficult to replace (auto pink slips, adoption papers, etc.)
Checklist for Valuables
- Work with a family member or friend to inventory and take photographs or a video tape of your valuables.
- Make duplicate copies of the inventory list, photos, or video tape.
- Store your inventory and photos with your vital documents out-of-area or in a safe deposit box.
- Check with your insurance company to see if they have any inventory requirements.
CREATE A HOUSEHOLD EMERGENCY PLAN
Households can – and do – cope with emergencies by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Create a family disaster plan that includes emergency communication, supply kit, and home evacuation. Being prepared is your best protection and your responsibility to your family. Discuss as a group what you need to do to prepare for an emergency. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.
To help you prepare at home, it's helpful to imagine that you have no telephone service, no electricity, no gas, no water, or sanitation service. Imagine that all the businesses are closed and all services are shut down. What will you do and what will you need at home until help arrives?
Your household may not be all together when a disaster strikes. Ask an out-of-state friend or relative to be your emergency contact. Everyone should contact this person to check in after a disaster. Be sure everyone carries an emergency contact card. Discuss what to do if you need to evacuate your home, and consider the special needs of seniors and disabled family members. Don't forget to include pets in your plan.
Pick specific places to meet for different situations. Meet right outside your home if there is a sudden emergency, such as a fire. Parks or outdoor areas are good places to meet if you cannot return home after an earthquake. Choose an out-of-town meeting place in case of evacuation.
- Print and fill out the handy Family Emergency Plan Form from Ready.gov.
- Post emergency telephone numbers by your telephones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
- Make copies of vital documents and store them with your out-of-state emergency contact.
- Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local number for emergency help.
- Look for possible hazards in your home, particularly things that might fall from high places.
- Make sure you have adequate, up-to-date insurance coverage.
- Determine the best evacuation routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
- Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.
- Buy emergency supplies and assemble a supply kit.
- Buy ABC-rated fire extinguishers and show able family members where they are and how to use them.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
- Teach able family members when and how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity.
- For extra protection for your family, take a Get Ready class, CERT training and Red Cross first aid/CPR classes.
Practice Your Plan
- Quiz your kids every six months so they remember what to do.
- Review evacuation plans with seniors and family members with special needs often.
- Replace stored water and food every six months to a year.
- Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
- Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer's instructions.
Your Supply Kit
ASSEMBLE YOUR FIVE-PART SUPPLY KIT
Your experience after an emergency can range from inconvenient to disastrous. Being prepared with the right supplies can make all the difference. You can add extras that match your family's needs. Supply Kit Checklist
Store a one-week supply of water. Water is more essential to survival than any other supply. Replace supply every six months to a year.
- Store one gallon per person per day for drinking (extra for sanitation and pets)
- Store water tightly in clean plastic containers such as soft drink bottles; avoid glass containers or gallon water jugs which are likely to break
- Store in a cool place away from sunlight
- Whether you store tap or bottled water, replace your water supply with fresh water every six months to a year
Store a one-week supply of non-perishable food that doesn't need refrigeration, cooking, or water. Every six months, pick up a few replacement items for your kit every trip to the store.
- Precooked food in a can or package, including beans, pasta, vegetables, fruit, juice, milk, meat, fish, peanut butter, dried fruit, unsalted nuts, and crackers
- Manual can opener for canned food
- Staples such as sugar, honey, tea, coffee
- Vitamins, protein energy bars, comfort snacks
- Special food for infants and those with allergies
These are essential supplies to have ready for use after an emergency. Put contents in a large plastic garbage can with wheels or other container that you can easily move.
- Battery/solar-powered/hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Battery lanterns or flashlights, extra batteries
- First aid kit and instruction guide
- Moist towelettes, sturdy garbage bags, twist ties, and plastic bucket for emergency toilet
- Empty garbage can to store waste
- Extra warm blankets or sleeping bags for each person in case of cold temperatures
- Sturdy gloves for cleaning up broken glass or debris
- Scissors, duct tape, and plastic sheets/bags to cover broken windows or create shelter
- Bungee cords, utility knife, crowbar, and other tools to help repair damage or create shelter
- Wrench or pliers to turn off gas, water, electricity
These are supplies you can use at home or to take with you in case of a home evacuation (keep to-go bags under your bed or close to an exit). Make extra to-go bags to keep in your car and at work.
- Local street maps and shelter information
- Copies of vital documents ID in a waterproof bag or wallet (passport, emergency contact list, insurance/bank info, and family photos for identification purposes).
- One-month supply of prescription medicines, refilled before the expiration date
- List of allergies/medicine/dosages for entire family
- Emergency cash and change
- Pocket flashlight and batteries
- Pocketknife, tape, permanent marker, notepad
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust masks to help filter contaminated air
- Sturdy shoes, warm coat, compact rain poncho, and a hat with a brim/visor for warmth and sun/rain protection
- Toothbrush, small container of sunblock lotion, tampons, lip balm, mints
- Energy bars and small bottle of water
- Emergency reference information or printouts from www.ready.gov
- Household unscented chlorine bleach for water purification
- Extra pair of prescription glasses
- Books, games, puzzles for children
- Special care items for infants, children, seniors, and people with disabilities
- Family camping tent if you have to sleep outside
- Camping mess kits or paper cups/plates, disposable utensils, and paper towels
- Camping or Sterno stove, fuel, and matches to use if you are sure there is no danger of gas leaks or fire
- Disposable camera to record damage
- Food, water, blankets, and medicine for your pets
STRUCTURAL AND NON-STRUCTURAL HOME SAFETY
During an emergency, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. However, there are simple things you can do to make your home safer. Start by viewing each room with an "emergency eye" and look for hazards, particularly things that might fall from high places during an earthquake.
Home Safety Checklist
- Be sure your house number is visible from the street so emergency vehicles can find you.
- Know how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity.
- If you use propane, and suspect a leak, turn off the shut-off valve on your storage tank.
- If you have no experience relighting, you should call your local propane dealer to restart your pilot lights.
- Propane is heavier than air. If it leaks, it will sink to low spots in or under your home. Be sure to ventilate low areas, if you suspect a leak.
- Consider replacing brick chimneys with a modern stud-frame chimney.
- Bolt foundations and reinforce walls. It's cheaper to retrofit a house than repair it after an earthquake.
- Note the location of the closest emergency exits.
- Be sure you know two ways out of the building in case your first choice is blocked.
- Locate stairways, avoid elevators in emergencies.
- Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together during an emergency.
- Find out if anyone has specialized expertise, such as medical knowledge that might help in a crisis.
- Discuss special needs with disabled neighbors.
- Move beds away from windows.
- Move mirrors and heavy pictures away from couches or places where people sit or sleep.
- Secure pictures and wall hangings and use restraints to secure heavy items such as bookcases and file cabinets.
- Do not sleep close to brick walls or chimneys, even if they are reinforced.
- Store heavy items on the lowest shelves.
- Clear hallways and exits for easy evacuation.
- Make backup plans with neighbors regarding your children in case you can't get home.
- Keep an ABC-rated fire extinguisher on each floor level and know how and when to use them.
- Strap down your water heater and fit all gas appliances with a flexible gas supply line.
- Ensure that all window safety bars have emergency releases.
HOW TO SHUT OFF UTILITIES
Natural Gas Checklist
Natural gas leaks can cause an explosive and flammable atmosphere inside a building.
- If you smell gas, hear gas escaping, see a broken gas line, or if you suspect a leak, shut off the main valve and open all windows and doors.
- Never use candles or matches if you suspect a leak. Do not turn on electrical switches or appliances.
- Identify the main shutoff valve, which is located on the gas line coming into the main gas meter. This is usually on the exterior of your home or building, or in an external closet. Your main valve may look like the image on the upper right.
- To turn gas off, give the valve a quarter turn in either direction. When the lever crosses the direction of the pipe (see image on lower right) the gas is off.
- Keep a crescent wrench or gas shut-off tool nearby to turn the lever.
- Once you turn off the gas, never attempt to turn it back on yourself. Wait for your utility company to do it, but be aware that it may take several days for it to be turned back on.
- If you use propane, you will have a shut-off valve on your storage tank.
- If you have no experience relighting, you should call your local propane dealer to restart for you.
- For more info on propane safety, refer to Propane Consumer Safety Information.
Locate your home's main electric switch, which is normally in the garage or outdoors, where the power lines enter the home. The panel box may have a flip switch or pull handle on a large circuit breaker. Electrocution can result from direct contact with live wires or anything that has been energized by these wires. Shut off electricity when:
- Arcing or burning occurs in electrical devices.
- There is a fire or significant water leak.
- You smell burning insulation.
- The area around switches or plugs is blackened and/or hot to the touch.
- A complete power loss is accompanied by the smell of burning material.
PG&E: 800-743-5000 or PGE.com
Water leaks can cause property damage and create an electrocution hazard.
- Shut off the water when there is a leak inside the building.
- The water shutoff is usually located in the basement, garage, or where the water line enters the home. The water shutoff is located on a riser pipe and is usually a red or yellow wheel. Turn wheel clockwise to shut off.
WHAT KIDS AND PARENTS SHOULD KNOW AND DO
Include your children in planning for an emergency. Teach them how to get help and what to do in different situations. Practice your household disaster plan with your children and quiz them about preparedness information.
Checklist for What Kids Should Do
- Practice how and when to call 911.
- Memorize family contact information and carry an emergency contact card clipped inside a backpack or a pocket.
- Never touch wires lying on the ground or hanging from poles because of electricity.
- Learn how to identify the smell of gas. If you smell it, tell a grown-up or leave the building.
Checklist for What Parents Should Do
- Include your children in family discussions and planning for emergency safety.
- Find out details of your child's school emergency plan.
- Find out where you should pick up your child during a school evacuation.
- Pre-authorize a friend or relative to pick up your children if you can’t be there.
- Ensure that the school has up-to-date contact information for you and designated relatives or friends.
- Role-play with children to help them remain calm in emergencies. Practice basic emergency exercises such as Drop, Cover and Hold and Stop, Drop and Roll, and go over evacuation routes.
- Role-play with children as to what they should do if a parent is suddenly sick or injured.
- Role-play with children on what to say when calling 911 in an emergency.
Checklist for Emotional Reassurance
Disasters cause fear and anxiety in everyone, but children feel these emotions more strongly. If you react calmly and reassure your children, you provide a model for how they might feel and react.
- Make sure one adult will always be with children.
- Maintain daily routines as much as possible to help reduce your child’s fear and anxiety.
- Verbally reassure your child often with firmness and love.
- Present a picture of the emergency situation that is realistic and honest, but also offers hope for improvement. For instance, “Tonight we will stay in a shelter. I’m not sure how many nights we’ll be there, but we will do our best to come home soon.”
- Imaginary fears are very real for children in emergencies. Be sure to take these feelings seriously and offer reassurance that things will get better.
- Encourage children to talk, ask questions, draw, or describe their feelings on a daily basis.
- Put a favorite toy, book, or game in your child’s to-go bag along with a family photo.
Your Special Needs
SET UP AN EMERGENCY SUPPORT SYSTEM
Emergencies can present additional challenges for seniors and people with disabilities or other special needs. Being prepared for any emergency can minimize these challenges. Designate a support system of caregivers, friends, and family and make a plan for them to check in and help you during an emergency. By planning ahead, you will feel more confident about protecting yourself following any emergency.
It's important to know how a disaster may affect you. Determine what resources and supplies you may need, and share this information with the people in your support system.
Checklist for Seniors and Special Needs
- Supply kit/to-go bag: Follow this supply kit checklist and include a month's supply of prescription medicines and medical supplies. Be sure to refill medications before they expire. Put them in your to-go bag and you can use them at home or take them with you to a shelter.
- Vital documents: Keep copies of your emergency contacts and vital documents in a waterproof container and put them in your to-go bag. Documents include: ID, will and legal papers, insurance cards and papers, medical records, and a list of your allergies/medicines/dosages/medical supplies/equipment.
- Benefits: A disaster can disrupt the schedule for mail service and government agencies. To make sure you get your social security or SSI payment on time, consider setting up a direct deposit through Go Direct (toll-free helpline 1-800-333-1795).
- Medical equipment: Teach members of your support system how to operate your equipment, and keep instruction manuals in your to-go bag.
- Shelter: Locate accessible shelters and keep a list of phone numbers, maps, and addresses. If needed, have someone in your support network accompany you to a shelter. Shelters DO NOT have special equipment (e.g., oxygen, mobility aids). Be prepared to bring your own.
- Evacuation plan: Work with someone in your support system to create an emergency plan and practice different evacuation routes. Practice dealing with unforeseen circumstances and situations, such as blocked paths or exits.
- If you must stay in your home during an evacuation: Ask someone in your support system to stay with you if possible. Ask them to place a note outside your home in a visible area advising that you are in the house and where you are located. Include emergency contact numbers.
Checklist for Scooter/Wheelchair Users
- Pack a tire repair kit and/or tire inflator in your to-go bag.
- Teach members of your support network how to operate your equipment in an emergency: how to disengage gears of a power wheelchair, how to lift or transfer you, and how to lift or collapse your wheelchair or scooter.
- Know the weight of your wheelchair or scooter and the people in your support system who can lift it.
PETS NEED A PLAN TOO
For many people, pets are more than just animals and they are a part of the family. If you can, keep your pets close to you during an emergency.
Checklist for Pets
- To-go bag: Pack extra water, food, blankets, medicine, favorite toys, and vet records for your pets. You can use these items at home or if you evacuate.
- Evacuation: Take your pet with you, if you can.
- Contact numbers: Create a list of important phone numbers for pets including vets, animal shelters, and rescue groups. Most importantly, decide where you will go if you have to evacuate and get phone numbers of friends, relatives, and motels or hotels that can accommodate your pets.
- Identification: Microchip your pet. Keep identification tags up to date and securely fastened to your pet's collar. If your pet gets lost, the ID tag is their ticket home. Make sure you have a current photo of your pet for identification purposes.
- Pet carrier: Make sure you have a secure pet carrier, leash, or harness for each pet. Whether you are at home or evacuating, pet carriers can help keep your pet warm and calm to avoid panic or escape.
- If you must leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take. Remember that leaving your pet at home alone should be your last option.
- - NEVER leave your pet chained outside!
- - NEVER let birds, hamsters, rabbits, or any other regularly caged animal out of their cage to fend for themselves. Their regular cage full of food and water is the safest place.
- - Leave cats in one safe room and dogs in a different safe room inside your home. They should be unrestricted inside the room with plenty of food and water.
- - Place a note outside your home in a visible area advising what pets are in the house and where they are located. Include phone numbers for yourself and your vet.