Tag: emergency supplies

Totally unexpected? Not!

explosion and fire in urban setting
OMG! What’s happening in Ukraine???

This past year we’ve seen image after image of people emerging from the debris after tornados, trapped in long lines of cars to avoid a hurricane, escaping from a burning building in the midst of alarms and smoke. Were all these disasters totally unexpected? No!

Today, we are seeing more disaster images – people trying to escape sudden danger in Ukraine. And yet, that situation wasn’t totally unexpected, either. Let’s take a look.

The first images I saw yesterday were of Ukrainians who had rushed into underground subway stations to avoid explosions.

They were jammed in but seemed warm enough, and calm. Still, I didn’t see any supplies that would keep them comfortable for hours. Did you have the same questions I do?

  • Do they have anything to eat?
  • What about water?
  • What about babies with no formula?
  • How were hundreds of people able to use the toilet?
  • Did they have any idea of what was going on above ground?

Today, the next day, the danger is no longer totally unexpected. People are taking action to protect themselves.

Today the news shows people fleeing Ukraine for neighboring countries. Some are walking across the border, abandoning household and pets “just to get somewhere safe!” Some are running out of gas in long lines of cars stretched across the countryside. Others, deeper inland in Ukraine, are crowding onto train station platforms, hoping to get a place on an outbound train.

Today, most of these people have a suitcase or backpack. But what about their future?

  • How long will it take for them to get across the border?
  • What will happen when they arrive?
  • Where will they go? Or where will they end up?
  • What about family members who have gotten separated?

I have questions about the people we don’t see in the news.

Those left behind. Those who are unable to walk or who have no money for trains or simply no place to go to. How are they faring now? What will happen to them in coming days?

Most of these questions remain unanswered as of right now. But the message for this Advisory is . . .

Emergencies aren’t always “natural disasters.” And they seldom are totally unexpected.

What’s going on today in Europe is a good reminder that there are many, many events that can result in emergencies. (In our business books we list 97 different threats!) But few of them should be totally unexpected.

It’s also a good idea to remember that many emergencies require the same or a very similar immediate response.

Of course, we can’t possibly be prepared for everything, but we can surely be prepared for an immediate response to whatever hits.

Here at Emergency Plan Guide we’ve examined that immediate response many times. A quick summary:

  1. The more we pay attention – to the weather, the news, political developments, etc. – the more likely we’ll have time to pack up some essentials in case things come apart. Having a Go-Bag already packed keeps you from being one of the victims that ends up stuffing some clothes into a pillowcase or plastic bag and having to make do with that!
  2. Having a family plan for re-connecting during or after an emergency can keep family members focused on immediate needs instead of spending valuable time worrying.
  3. Building a store of essential emergency supplies means that empty shelves in stores won’t terrify you. (We’ve heard that stores in Kyiv are already empty . . .) Supplies need to include non-perishable food, water, warm clothing, lighting, prescriptions, list of emergency contacts.
  4. If you have imagined and talked over how you might respond to expected emergencies – power outage, storm, riot, nuclear accident, hazardous chemical spill, whatever – you’ll have more confidence that you’ll be able to respond. Practicing with your basic emergency tools – radio, lantern, cookstove – will add more confidence. So will having a tank full of gas.
  5. Should you take some basic preparedness actions now?

Mindset makes all the difference to effective preparedness.

The more Joe and I are active in the world of emergency preparedness and response, the more importance we give to mindset or attitude! What a huge difference between a wild-eyed “What shall we do???” and a firm “We can handle this!” 

Emergencies are part of life, to be expected. When they are anticipated, you’ll be far more able to get through them without them turning into a disaster.

Let’s treat the current situation in Ukraine as a valuable reminder of preparedness essentials.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. I know you know, but if this is a good time for a review, don’t forget our mini-series booklets.  They’re laid out with questions and answers. Easy to read, easy to get ideas from. Here are a few that might be particularly helpful for this review:

Pre-Disaster Plan. Number 1 in our series because it deals with the toughest challenge of all – getting started on a plan. Major emphasis on coping with disaster when you or other family members are not at home. https://amzn.to/3aEswjk

Emergency Cash. How much cash do you need to shelter in place? To evacuate by car or train? Where to get cash/money and how to store it? https://amzn.to/2VNLm2X

Custom Go-Bags. Able to take you and your family through the first 3 days of an emergency – as long as the bags are customized AND ready to be grabbed. https://amzn.to/2vEmrow

There are 10 more titles in the series. You can see them all here.

Positive Progress on Preparedness


So many disasters happening this week! Where’s the positive progress???

My attention has been drawn from the incredible wildfires here in California to political blowups in Washington D.C. to the aftermath of a monster tornado hit in Texas. I’ve read about home solar battery explosions, the threat of Boeing’s 737 MAX, vaping addiction and deaths among high-schoolers, and tonight, to ever-wider PSPS’s . . .there’s just more happening than I can keep up with!

(Oh yes, PSPS is the newest acronym, standing for Public Safety Power Shut-offs. That’s the deliberate shut-down of power by the utility companies here in California in an attempt to avoid more fires during this hot, dry, and windy weather.)

So I decided to turn away from all the bad news and focus on some good news.

And I’m starting with a note from one of our readers that was positive progress personified!

Here’s what I received earlier this week from Suzi.

Hi Virginia! On my birthday in September I asked my family to lend me a hand to create a dedicated emergency supplies cupboard. We emptied a cupboard, built some shelves, and stocked it with all of our Go bags, a big first aid kit, an emergency radio, lanterns, gloves, etc. Nearby is a closet where we store sleeping bags, a tent, and canned food. I’m a CERT/CMAP member and I feel like I’ve finally made good progress on my preparedness to-do list. I enjoy reading your advisories and I continue to learn about how to react in an emergency. If you’d like, I can send you a snapshot of my new cupboard. Thank you!

Well naturally I responded to her invitation with an enthusiastic “Yes, please!’

So she wrote: Here is the dedicated cupboard! It’s a space we made under the stairs. On the door you can see the list of phone numbers for family members. We also have an extensive notebook with pertinent financial info, birth certificates, etc. One of the best items in this cupboard is an Icon Lifesaver Jerrycan which allows us to filter any questionable water (lake, pool, tap water under a boil water order). https://iconlifesaver.com/product/lifesaver-jerrycan-starter-pack/

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Storage cupboard built under staircase

Suzi’s note and photo have inspired a lot of questions and comments.

Such a good idea – finding useful storage space where there wasn’t any before!

Stairs and staircases are a perfect example of “lost” space that can be recovered.  Two-story homes often have whole strange-shaped rooms under stairs, perfect for storage. Any home with a porch may have space underneath that can be converted to emergency storage. Some of our neighbors have storage bins fastened to the roof in their garage (over the garage door tracks). We even use part of our Public Storage unit for storing emergency supplies. (The facility is located within walking distance of our home.)

Sometimes you have to create storage space if you want to make positive progress. What’s been YOUR most original and/or useful discovery?

What stands out for me in the photo of Suzi’s supply cabinet?

  • The list of important phone numbers and contact information fastened to the inside of the door! It looks as if it could easily be removed and stuffed into a Go-Bag, too, if necessary. (Joe and I have so many bits of “important information” that we have had to scan and store them on flash drives. But since we likely won’t have computers in an emergency, we have to have them on paper, too. The trick is to know exactly where they are.)
  • Items in see-through containers. This cupboard is awfully neat; as it fills up, as it is bound to do, having items in see-through plastic holders will make it so much easier to find what you’re looking for. I remember finding see-through soft zippered suitcase packing cubes at Amazon that might stack wonderfully on these irregularly-shaped shelves.
  • Duct tape. No need to comment about that except to be happy to see it! Do you have scissors and a knife? Not everyone can tear it easily. (This comment applies to all tools. Only collect and store tools that work and tools that you or family members can use safely.)
  • Icon Lifesaver Jerrycan for purifying water. I can’t identify it in the picture –  Is it hidden deep in one of the shelves? — but the more I hear about long-lasting outages, the more sensible a water purifying system sounds. (As you know from reading my Advisories, I have a number of small water purifying devices from LifeStraw, and have read good things about the family-size Berkey purifier.)
  • The full-sized First Aid Kit. One of my neighbors opened the trunk of her car today to get out a shopping bag, and I saw a small first aid kit fastened near the wheel well. I didn’t say anything but I wondered . . . How long had it been there – in the heat and cold? How much useful stuff could possibly be inside such a small box? I think we’re often too casual with our first aid supplies.
  • The LED light. That’s a great one – so compact!  (Here we have to be ready for an earthquake so we have a flashlight or lantern in every single room including one on each side of the bed.)

Suzi, your picture inspires one additional planning piece . . .

Just in studying the picture and in writing about all these emergency supplies I realize that at some point you may have to add another piece of paper to the door: a diagram listing everything in the cupboard and showing where it is located! 

As you know, I love lists and use them for just about everything, but I must admit to one challenge I haven’t solved. And that’s a good way to pack/store/keep track of my CERT duffel bags. We have a variety of them on the floor in a closet, and unfortunately I pull one or the other out for a different purpose – demonstration, first aid exercise, actual turnout to look for a missing person — add just what I want for that day, and then put the bag back at the end of the day. The next time I can’t remember what’s in which bag and find myself sorting through them all . . .  

Dear Reader, what’s your best suggestion for keeping track of my stuff in duffel bags?

So hasn’t this been an Advisory of a different style!? Thanks to Suzi for getting us all started in taking another look at our emergency supplies and how and where we have them stored. Again, please share your own positive progress stories. They help us all!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Another cool thing about Suzi’s cupboard is that when it’s closed the valuable items inside are hidden from the casual observer. It’s important to be discrete about preparedness supplies so as not to draw uninvited attention.

P.P.S. I invite you to add to this conversation. The more positive progress we share, the more we’ll all be rewarded with good ideas! Drop me a line via the CONTACT form and we’ll see how to package your suggestions for everyone’s benefit.

CERT Challenge: Overcoming Apathy and Procrastination

“How prepared are they?”

We sat at the 2nd Wednesday monthly meeting of our CERT Leaders and stared gloomily as one of our members gave yet another status report about some of “her” residents in the community. “Not one extra can of food. Not one extra bottle of water.”

Her neighborhood had many elderly residents. In some cases, residents are handicapped by lack of funds. In others, the reason is plain apathy, procrastination or worse. You may hear: “It’s the government’s job to provide for us in an emergency.”

Are “governments” responsible to care for us in a disaster? How capable are they?

We saw an answer to the second question in interviews by the media following Hurricane Sandy’s damage in New Jersey. Local and state governments were overwhelmed and unable to respond. Likewise, relief agencies like the Red Cross and Salvation Army were also overtaxed by the enormity of the event. Some people went weeks without services.

More recently, we watched the Federal Government pretty much abandon the victims of Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico.

And here in California, huge fires have pulled emergency responders from communities distant from the fires and even from other states — leaving the people left at home without full protection for days and even weeks.’

These disasters damage communities and even destroy them. And usually, it’s people who are less affluent who suffer the most.

And these disasters pose an important question for all of us: What can we do to help? Are we doing it?

And the most difficult version of that same question:

Are we prepared to share with people who ignored warnings?

Are we ready to care for irresponsible neighbors as well as ourselves in a disaster scenario? That question presents responsible citizens with untenable choices.

Here in our neighborhood we are admittedly better prepared than most. Over 70% of our residents indicate that they have some food and water set aside for emergencies, largely as a result of ongoing education programs that span a decade.

But 70% isn’t 100%. More needs to be done.

Never stop educating people on the realities of a disaster.

Here in our neighborhood we regularly publish “educational bulletins” and, when circumstances allow, bring in guest speakers to talk about preparedness. Some of the best bulletins:

  • Recognize a gas line leak. (Gas company)
  • Clean up around the house to prevent a wildfire. (Fire Department)
  • Vial of life — important emergency info for the refrigerator.

Some of our most successful meetings:

  • What’s in your emergency kit? (Show and tell!)
  • Try out a fire extinguisher! (Thanks to Fire Department)
  • Retrofit your home to withstand an earthquake. (Neighborhood contractor)

Maybe if we make a party out of preparing for emergencies . . .

Every neighborhood volunteer group is always looking for ways to engage new neighbors. We hear about some of the good ones!

During a power outage, one neighborhood held a “Power Outage Picnic.” People brought meat to the party and a couple of volunteers with gas-burning grills cooked it up for everyone to share! By lantern light!

We held an “emergency preparedness fair” sponsored by the local hardware store. They brought dozens of items as demos, then handed attendees a coupon for 20% off if they would come to the store to buy.

After all these years of coming up with educational ideas and trainings, we finally put together a whole book with ideas for 21 activities to help overcome apathy and procrastination. That book has been our consistent best seller! If you are looking for some inspiration, consider getting a copy for YOUR neighborhood.

Emergency Preparedness Meeting Ideas

Each one of the activities comes with objectives, procedures, materials you’ll need, and commentary. And there’s a separate planning sheet for each activity to make it easy for volunteers to step up and take a turn as host. You can find out more about Meeting Ideas here.

The point of all this? Leaders have to recognize that preparedness is an ongoing challenge. You may have to wheedle or even use a little guilt now and then to get people to take action. But with a few ideas and some energetic team members, you can make a big difference in how resilient your community will be.

We think it’s worth it. That’s what this website is all about!

Automatic Survival Habits

Automatic survival habit - looking for exits at the theater

How would you rate your everyday survival habits?

It’s such fun to get caught up in whether your next knife should be full tang or folding, or maybe assisted folding. Whether you need a sleeping bag that has synthetic insulation or goose down. Whether to buy last year’s model hand-held radio (to save a lot) or splurge on the very latest version.

These are fun decisions and here at Emergency Plan Guide we engage with them just like you do.

But these decisions are one-time. What we want to talk about today are:

Simple survival habits as second nature.

As you know, we are part of a neighborhood emergency preparedness group. A lot of what we do is aimed at getting other neighbors to take even their FIRST step toward preparedness!

Actually, we work on at least a dozen survival habits, trying to turn them into second nature to improve the readiness and resilience of the whole community.

Below is a recent list of survival habits we’re trying to instill in everyone around us. As you look through the list, ask yourself.

  • How well do you measure up?
  • What steps would you add for your neighborhood group?
  • How will you share the list with them?

20 Easy and Smart Automatic Survival Habits

1 – Heading to the grocery store? Buy just one or two extra cans of food for your emergency supplies. You don’t have to stockpile everything all at once!

2 – Adding to your emergency food supplies? Be sure to get things you like and eat regularly. That way, you can eat from the front of the shelf and replace at the back.

3 – Building a better emergency kit for your car? You may be able to get a used backpack or tote bag at Goodwill – cheap, serviceable, and unnoticeable.

4 – Keep your car half full of gas all the time. (I keep mine 3/4 full!) Nothing worse than being caught in a traffic jam, watching that gas gauge go down and down!

5 – Keep your car locked when it’s parked, even at home. An unlocked car is an invitation a passerby might not be able to resist.

6 – Whenever you go into a building – theater, store, school – get in the habit of noting the location of other exits. In an emergency you may want to avoid the way you came in. This survival habit may save your life in an active shooter situation.

7 – Update the emergency info on your refrigerator at least twice a year, when the time changes. Have there been changes in your medications? The phone numbers of your emergency contacts?

8 – Don’t have the Vial of Life info on your refrigerator? Here’s what we did with our group.

9 – Need help? Can’t call loudly enough to be heard outside your home? Consider adding a simple whistle to your key ring or someplace else where you can reach it in an emergency.

10 – Flying? Keep your shoes on for the first 3 minutes after take-off. That’s the most dangerous time, and if you have to evacuate you don’t want to do it bare-footed!

11 – Teach your grandchildren their first name and last name. Absolutely necessary if they get separated from their parents.

12 – When you’re planning for emergencies, start your planning with the most likely emergencies, not the most severe. For most people, the most likely emergency is a power outage. Not too hard to plan for! All you need right away is emergency lighting and a way to keep warm.

13 – Heat wave and no A/C? Don’t try to tough it out! Put up shades to block the sun coming in the windows. Take a cold bath. Drape yourself with wet washcloths and towels.

14 – Power out during cold weather? Pick a small room, hang or tape blankets over the windows and door, get into bed with blankets.

15 – Best emergency lighting? Inflatable solar lanterns and/or battery-powered lanterns. It should go without saying that you have a flashlight in every room, with extra batteries handy.

16 – After a couple of days of eating out of cans, you’ll really appreciate having condiments to spruce up the taste! When you are out, collect packets of BBQ sauce, honey, jelly, soy sauce, ketchup, syrup, etc. for your emergency food stash.

17 – Canned meat may not taste so good, but it will give you the same protein as fresh meat – and will last for years. Add canned chicken, tuna in oil, and spam to your supplies.

18 – Don’t forget to refresh your first aid kit. Throw out dried up bottles or anything that’s gotten wet. You may want to add liquid skin as a new way to treat scrapes and cuts.

19 – Be sure to store an old pair of shoes, comfortable for walking, in your car. Heels or flip-flops won’t work if you have to hike for help!

20 – If you haven’t done it yet, freeze some plastic containers filled with water. (Leave space at the top for the water to expand.) Use the containers to keep your freezer fully packed. Saves energy when you have electricity, provides emergency water when you don’t!

Do all these ideas sound familiar?

Have you taken any of these steps and/or practiced them more than once? Have they become automatic survival habits?

I hope the answer is yes!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Here’s something that you may find it interesting in light of the things we’ve talked about lately.

It turns out that Amazon (where we are Associates) has a service called PRIME PANTRY where you can buy everyday first aid, household, cereals, packaged items, etc. – what they call “everyday essentials” – and have them delivered for free. You don’t have to buy huge quantities, either.

Click on the ad to find out more. This may be a convenient way for your group to stock up on some of the things you want for your survival kits.

Can you trust your fire extinguisher?


Comparing fire extinguishers

Comparing fire extinguishers. How long will they last? Are they rechargeable?

Your CERT investment

How are you using your CERT training? (Check all that apply.)

  • I’m adding more and better gear to my green CERT bag.
  • I’m working on immediate family members to develop better “situational awareness.” Not always with much success.
  • When the subject comes up, I encourage neighbors and co-workers to take the training.
  • I have joined a neighborhood emergency response group.
  • I have decided to START a neighborhood emergency response group.

As you may have gathered by now, Joe and I don’t think getting CERT training is enough. Oh, yes, it’s valuable.

But “saving” it just for yourself or your family is like getting a double barreled shotgun and only ever using one barrel. Or getting bunk beds and only ever sleeping in one. Or getting . . . well, you can come up with another example of letting half of a really good thing go to waste!

In this case, it’s wasting all the good information that will help OTHER PEOPLE save themselves in a disaster.

Because that’s our philosophy, we’re always thrilled when we hear from people that they have made a successful effort to share good information.

A Better Return on Investment

Two weeks ago I heard from an Emergency Plan Guide Advisory reader that her mobilehome park was having a big Disaster Team meeting with several speakers. She reported that over 70 people had already signed up! Why? . . . free pizza, salad and beverages provided by Park Management!

Naturally that news made me want to share the meeting that we held last week in our community. We didn’t get 70, but almost that many people. And what made it different was the sponsorship of our local hardware store.

Plan a successful emergency response team meeting

Over the years I’ve written up “lesson plans” for neighborhood meetings and events. So here’s another one that perhaps you can use to “spread the word” in your own community. If the woman in the picture actually buys a fire extinguisher, we may have saved a home — or even a neighboring home!

All the meeting ideas presented in the Meeting Idea Books follow the same format:

  • Title
  • Objective
  • Procedure
  • Materials Needed
  • Comment

Title: We can call this one: “Building a Stronger Community.”

Objective: To encourage people to pick up a few everyday tools and equipment appropriate for day-to-day repairs AND emergencies.

Procedure: Joe and I approached the manager of our local Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) about putting on a special “pilot” program for our community. We wanted to get people to the store to buy some important emergency preparedness items.

After a tour of the store, and a number of discussions with OSH and our team leaders, we agreed on the following format:

  • We would promote a “show and tell” meeting at our clubhouse.
  • The store would send a sales person to our meeting along with a number of examples of emergency equipment – fire extinguishers, multi-tools, lanterns and flashlights, smoke alarms, pre-built emergency kits, etc.
  • Members of our neighborhood team would also bring and demonstrate emergency items they own – pet container and pet survival kit, headlamps, various bottled water supplies, etc.
  • Nothing would be for sale. Rather, all attendees would receive a one-time DISCOUNT COUPON. All they had to do is take it to the store, shop from their list, and get the discount at the counter.
  • We’d have a door prize and refreshments.

Materials needed: The store selected (with our input) all the items they wanted to show, and brought them complete with price tags. Our team members brought their own things, some of which were not available at OSH. All we needed to create from scratch were the various promotional items for the meeting – flyers, newsletter article, email announcement – and the discount coupon. For the meeting itself we needed several tables for display, cups and napkins for the refreshments, plus two microphones (one for the M/C, one for the person doing the demonstration).

Comment: Our goal was to host a “community meeting” and not a commercial for the store. We made sure all advertising emphasized our Emergency Response Group. And having a mix of OSH and team speakers and show and tell items kept everything well balanced.

As much as I thought this meeting might be “ho hum,” (How many times can you talk about fire extinguishers?!) we got more than the usual number of thank you notes! We kept the speakers on track. And afterwards people crowded around the tables to pick up and examine ALL the articles, including those fire extinguishers and packets of water!

We haven’t heard yet about sales success, but I did send the store some ideas for follow-up meetings plus bullet points for a press release.

All in all, the meeting did what I hoped it would do – reach out to some new neighbors, introduce some new emergency preparedness ideas, and above all, demonstrate that we are a community and as a community – the more we all know, the safer we all will be!

If you are trying to come up with an idea for a meeting in your neighborhood or perhaps at work, try a variation on this one.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. We have held similar events in the past. At one meeting some years ago, The Home Depot and Costco both came and took orders that they delivered a week later.

P.P.S. Fire extinguishers were the hot item at that earlier meeting, too!

Survival Kit Supplies


Survival Kit SuppliesBy now you know that at Emergency Plan Guide, when it comes to survival kits, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all.

By now you know that having “the one perfect kit” doesn’t work, either!

No matter how well stocked your survival kit, if it is at home when the emergency strikes, and you are 43 miles away in the car, that kit will do you absolutely no good!

Different Survival Kits for Different Situations

The chart shows the four different sets of supplies that we think everyone needs:

1-A Go-Bag or Survival Kit (also known as a 3-day or 72-hour kit)

This is the kit you grab as you head out the door in an emergency. This kit needs to provide basics for the top  nine categories: water; food (stuff you like and can eat cold); shelter/warmth (clothing, blanket, sleeping bag, fire igniter); health/safety (first aid kit, medicines, sanitation supplies); communications (radio, whistle); light (flashlight, headlamp, lantern); clothing (shoes, gloves); cash (for vending machines and/or for buying supplies); personal items (toothbrush, prescription drugs, extra eyeglasses, paper and pen/pencil, and if it suits, a weapon for self-defense).

By and large, an off-the-shelf kit will be missing more than one of these main categories, so while it may serve as a start, you really can’t count on it.

2-A kit for the car

We all travel. And any of us could be trapped overnight in a car for something as mundane as road construction, a fallen tree – or a full-blown blizzard or hurricane. Your car kit will keep you comfortable and safe until you can find your way around the damage.

Your car kit contains the same basics as listed above for the Go-Bag, but it also may have some transportation-related items including tools for car repairs, jumper cables, a work light, maps, and flares. In snow country? Consider a folding shovel and non-slip mats. (You can see that you may actually have to pack two kits – one with personal stuff, and the other with car stuff. Tools and jumper cables are heavy and get dirty.)

One final note about your car. Remember it has a battery that can be used to charge your phone and power other items (like flood lights) as long as you have the right connections.

3-A kit for at work

Once again, this kit starts with the basics. Then, depending on where you work – how far it is from your home, what sort of building it is, what actually happens at the workplace – you may need some specialty items.

If you have to set out on foot to get home, you’ll need, above all, comfortable shoes. (Break in new shoes/boots for your office or car kit by wearing them on the treadmill at the gym!)

Your work kit might contain any of these specialty items: the comfortable shoes mentioned above, personal safety equipment including gloves, dust mask, and safety glasses; tool for shutting off equipment; list of business and family contacts; a good whistle.

If people have already left the workplace, and aren’t planning to come back, you might check out your colleagues’ desk drawers for extra snacks, band aids, etc. Most office workers have that “personal drawer” that could be a small treasure trove in a big emergency!


Here in California, we have been asked by our local fire department to be prepared to shelter in place for 10 days to 2 weeks after “the big one” hits. If you live in a different area, with different threats, you may want to pull together supplies that will keep you going for months, not weeks.

Shelter-in-place supplies start with the basics, just as in the smaller kits. But you’ll need more of everything. Think of it as an extended camping trip, and build a plan . . .

Plan for buying and rotating canned food, stocking up on toilet paper and other sanitary supplies and buying and storing extra batteries. You may need more substantial shelter – like a big tent, or plastic to seal windows, with the ever popular duct tape, of course. A variety of more substantial tools. Like the concept of dried meals? Be sure you have something to heat water in so you can reconstitute it – for example, a camp stove and pot.

For each kit, your complete list will be longer that what we’ve just gone over.

But today, we’re not seeking perfection. We’re getting a handle on general readiness!

Rate yourself on the state of your own survival supplies.

So as you have read these reviews of the different emergency supply kits, how would you rate yourself? One easy way is to estimate the percentage completed for each of the following statements.

  • I have assembled supplies for all four needs — Go Bag, Car, Work, Shelter-in-Place. My percentage completed _____
  • I have considered all nine major categories — water, food, shelter/warmth, health/safety, communications, lighting, clothing, cash, personal items. My percentage completed _____
  • I have added specialty items that I personally need or want for each kit. My percentage completed ___

If your score isn’t where you’d like it to be, consider the following.

Over the years we’ve asked many, many people why they haven’t put together their preparedness supplies. Here are the most popular “reasons:”

  • I don’t know how to get started.
  • It will take too long.
  • People will think I am strange or weird.
  • Why bother?  If it is the end of the world, it will not matter.
  • Nothing has happened so far, so why should I start to worry now?

Any of these sound familiar? I’m sure you’ve thought or heard them all at one time or another!

However, here at Emergency Plan Guide we figure these are all pretty weak reasons. In fact, we call them “excuses!”

Why so weak?

Because we’ve seen so many people start with one or two items and just keep working at it over time until they have built up a perfectly respectable stash!

When they do, they feel pleased and satisfied and a lot more confident that they’ll be able to handle that emergency, whenever it DOES come!

And that’s what we’re all working toward!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Here are more lists of emergency supplies that you may be interested in:

April – Who’s the Fool?


Girl embarrassed


British Columbia recently completed a poll to gauge the extent of personal preparedness throughout the province.

Now you may not live in BC, or even in Canada. But Canada’s history of developing a culture of preparedness pretty much mirrors ours in the U.S., with some of the same ups and downs.

And Canada has experienced many of the same kinds of disasters: floods, fires and terrorist attacks.

So, their surveys are worth looking at.

Unfortunately, this survey led me to this “April Fools Day” theme.

Pretend these are answers YOU are giving to survey questions.

“Sure, I know the threats we face.”

The British Columbians identified their top hazards as earthquakes, wildfires, extended power outages and severe weather. And they distinguished between these based on where they lived: residents living in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island (on the coast) listed tsunamis and earthquakes as hazards; people living in the interior and the north cited wildfires and floods.

So far, so good. But let’s take a closer look in the mirror.

Take me as an example. Here in Southern California even I think first about the risk of earthquake. But as we have reported repeatedly, the most LIKELY emergency is power outage. (Already 3 this year.) Second could be a railroad car accident, since tracks run right behind our neighborhood. Third, a gas line break since there is major construction planned right across the street!

Drive just 2 miles east, and you’ll be in a wildfire area and you’ll face the possibility of flash flooding – even though we get less than 15 inches of rain a year!

Turn around and head 5 miles west, and the list of hazards changes again. First, you’ll be in a liquefaction zone, so if the earthquake hits, damage will be different, and greater. Second, you’d be within the reach of a tsunami.

The point of all this? A simple answer may be TOO simple. You may be fooling yourself if you think your first fast answers are sufficient.

“I know who will be there to help out.”

Most people make some poor assumptions, here, because they are used to one-off emergencies, where police and fire respond, often within minutes.

In a major emergency, First Responders will NOT be able to come by to give you a hand! They will be stretched out serving the entire community – often, with fewer than a half dozen First Responders per 1,000 residents!

In a real disaster, it will take hours, maybe days, for the first wave of organized assistance to arrive. Then, it will take days and maybe weeks for real support — food, water, utility repair crews, etc. – to show up. Yes, Puerto Rico breaks all records for non-response in the U.S. But some people in Texas and Florida are still in short-term housing. . .

The correct answer to the question of assistance is actually two-fold. First YOU are responsible for helping yourself. Second, you and your neighbors may be able to help each other.

And that takes planning in advance!

“Of course I’ve got a personal emergency plan.”

In the Canadian survey, 54% of respondents said they had an emergency plan. . . but only 13% said it was complete. Most households had emergency supplies for up to 3 days, but often with some important items still missing. As for emergency kits in the car, at work, or for evacuation, only about 30% had them.

When it came to insurance for the likely hazards (flood, earthquake) only about half the Canadian respondents had any.

How well do you compare?

“I admit I’m not fully prepared. You wanna know why not?”

The Canadians said they weren’t prepared because of “personal laziness” and “apathy.” And before we point derisively at the Canadians, let’s look at the reasons Americans give for not being prepared. (Thanks to Lucas Gregson for some of these.) Do any apply to you?

• There’s no real threat of the world ending. Maybe not, but what about “minor” disasters, like being laid off your job? Construction that tears up your street? A wreck that takes down the power grid? It doesn’t take total annihilation to mess up your plans for life.
Too complicated — I can’t prepare for everything. I’ll just deal with it when it comes. Hm. Well, a 72-hour survival kit will address the majority of issues that you’ll encounter. Kits will give family members a chance, too.
I have faith in the government. Talk about April Fool!
My sister is prepared; we’ll just go there. What if the disaster hits her, too? How will you get there if roads are impassible? And how welcome will you really be?
I was a boy scout (alternative: I was in the military). I know how to survive. Starting from scratch, with no tool or supplies? And what about your family if something happens to take you out of the picture?
I don’t want to be one of those weirdo preppers. Well, you probably buy insurance. Does that make you a weirdo home or car owner? Same concept . . .!

“I’d find it easier to build a survival kit if . . .”

These answers come from the Canadians and from my neighbors, over the years.

If I knew how to get started.. That’s why we publish so many lists! Survival kit items, step-by-step preparation for a hurricane, etc. If you haven’t yet found a list that works for you, I think that may lead back to the first excuse above, that is, “personal laziness.”
If I had money to spare. No one has all the cash available for an instant, complete survival set-up. But everyone can add one or two survival items to the stash every month. Start slow – just start!

“What would really get me started on disaster preparedness would be . . .”

• If I had experienced a disaster myself.

Do you detect the problem here?!?  (We do regularly start our meetings by hoping for just a small earthquake!)

OK, back to April Fools’ Day.

Wikipedia defines it this way: “ . . . an annual celebration commemorated on April 1 by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April fools.”

This Advisory shares some long-standing hoaxes — not to mention some delusions — about the topic of preparedness. Most aren’t really jokes, although I tried to give them a touch of humor. The problem? You could be a victim of any of them!

I hope you’ll treat this seriously so you don’t become one of those April fools.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We regularly involve members of our HOA in discussions like this one. Here’s a true story about emergency supplies from about 6 months ago:

“Raise your hand if you have emergency water supplies at home.”  (Just about everyone raises their hand.)

“Raise your hand if you would be willing to share your water with a neighbor who runs out.” (Every hand goes down.)

Makes you think, eh?


Holiday Security Mistakes


Tempting Christmas window All ready for the holidays?

Here are 3 security mistakes people tend to make at this time of year. Take 2 minutes to check them out. It would be wonderful if you and your family could avoid them all.

  1. Packages are SOOOO tempting!

Sure, you know better than to allow packages to be delivered to an empty house.

Just a week ago I was stopped on the street by a patrolman who showed me a picture of a kid taking a package from a front porch. (The picture had been taken by a home security camera. More on those later.)

And when you’re shopping, take the time to put gift purchases into the trunk of your car. If they won’t FIT in the trunk, at least cover the back seat pile with a dark and preferably dingy looking blanket. Better yet, make an extra trip rather than let packages sit unattended in a parking lot in full view.

And at home, don’t position your tree and all the lovely presents right in front of a window as in the picture above. Someone could break the window, grab the presents and run.

Packages are so tempting — to thieves!

  1. “We’re so proud of our emergency preparations.”

The holiday season often means more visitors to your house. The guy to string the lights on the roof. UPS and Amazon delivery people. All the invitees to your Christmas party!

Every person who comes onto your premises has the chance to take a good look at what you have – and that includes some of your emergency preparedness items.

Your gardener sees the locks, the security cameras and lights you’ve installed. The delivery guy walking past your open garage door sees your tools and the cupboards and shelves packed with food and water. The computer guy you bring in to troubleshoot your new network sees your ham radio set-up, not to mention your laptop and printers.

It’s natural for a visitor to tuck this sort of information away. And in a big emergency, your house might become a target for one of those visitors, now turned desperate.

What can you do to cover or camouflage emergency supplies? Yes, be proud of the sensible steps you’ve taken. But with a bit of creativity you’ll get more of them out of sight. You can be just as satisfied and maybe a whole lot safer.

  1. Take out the trash!

We’ve all read the novels where the criminal is identified because of stuff he puts in the trash. (Harrison Ford left orange peels and fake ID photos in the wastebasket in The Fugitive, remember?)

If you’re making a lot of purchases and getting a lot of gifts, you are going to have more trash than usual. And it may attract the wrong kind of attention.

Save and/or shred receipts or statements that have account numbers. Some receipts for online purchases may show up in your email. Protect them from casual view. Don’t stuff empty cardboard boxes (with pictures of TVs and electronic games and security cameras and drones!) into the trash; break them down and recycle anonymously at the recycling place.

And if you’re traveling during the holidays, make sure newspapers, leaves or other trash doesn’t build up outside while you are gone. That trash, plus a dark and empty house, is a real invitation to trouble. (Ask a neighbor for help, and invest in some timers for lights and/or radios.)

Oh, and for heaven’s sake, don’t you or your kids announce via social media or on a phone message that “We’re away skiing for a week!” Ouch!

We wish you the pleasure of giving, and the excitement of receiving. But we sure hope it’s not spoiled because you overlooked taking these sensible precautions.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We’re writing an Advisory about “Hiding valuables in plain sight.” Sign up for all our Advisories to be sure you get it.



Guest Speaker Sparks New Interest


Our neighborhood Emergency Response Group meets pretty much monthly, but when we go for weeks and months without a fire, or an earthquake, or even a downpour, sometimes it’s hard to keep up members’ enthusiasm.

Last month’s meeting “hit the spot” with a guest speaker.

Training sessionWe invited the new head of our city’s Office of Energy Management. And since he is new to the job, we provided him with . . .

Some questions to start the discussion.

Here are his answers, with a few comments from me. You might be able to use these same questions for your own group, or for your own guest speaker representing an official position. In any case, even if it takes some research, your neighborhood group members should know the answers.

Q: What kinds of emergencies does the City prepare for?

A: Our City’s Emergency Plan lists 9 threats — natural, man-made and what we call “technological incidents.” It’s not just earthquakes; we could be hit by an airplane crash, a chemical spill, a wildfire . . . you name it.

Q: Who’s in charge?

A: When the City activates its EOC (Emergency Operations Center), which is part of the Police Department, all directions come from there. The EOC coordinates local, city, county, and even state and federal resources when necessary.

Q: How often is the EOC activated?

A: It wasn’t activated at all in 2015, which was unusual. In prior years it’s been activated for a major power outage and also for a big manhunt.  Training takes place regularly, though. We train using table-top exercises, functional exercises (testing one particular function, like evacuation or communication) and full-scale exercises.

Q: In an emergency, how will we residents know what to do?

A: If all communications are out, expect a delay before you hear from us. But you have a better chance of getting the news if you have a landline (for reverse 911 calls), an emergency radio (channel 1640), and have access to social media via the internet.  Both the City and the County have smart phone apps, too, that send out automated alerts and news.

Q: Should we turn off our gas if there’s an earthquake?

A: Use your nose as a sniffer! If you smell gas, contact the property manager or 911. In the case of multiple leaks, trained residents can turn off the gas to the whole neighborhood – but then you will ALL be without gas for days. In an earthquake, if there are multiple gas leaks, the real danger is fire, so do NOT start your car or otherwise cause a spark!

Q: What about evacuating?

A: Don’t go anywhere unless you’re told to by authorities.  Our City has a number of evacuation centers and depending on the emergency we will choose which ones to use. We also have vans filled with supplies stationed throughout the City. The Red Cross has a goal of having an emergency shelter set up within 2 hours, but in a large-scale emergency that goal is not likely to be met.

It will take a while to organize everything – so be sure you have what you need to take care of yourself at home. (Note from Virginia: In our neighborhood, the plan is Shelter-in-Place for as long as it takes. We will be better off in our own beds and with our own things if at all possible.)

Q: How long a wait should we plan for?

A: We ask that you have supplies for AT LEAST 3 DAYS. Enough for 7 days would be better. That means water, food, medicines, flashlights, warm clothing, etc., for you and your pet.  We recommend a gallon of water a day per person. (Virginia: We recommend 10 days to 2 weeks’ worth of supplies as being more realistic.)

Q: What about people with special needs?

A: Our city makes no particular plans for special members of the community because we can’t anticipate what will happen. If you are on oxygen, register with your oxygen company so you will be on their list. In a big emergency, it’s your neighbors who will be most able to help right away. Make friends! (Virginia: This answer wasn’t satisfactory. Watch for more in an upcoming Advisory.)

Q: What role does the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team play?

A: The City has free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, and a number of people here have had that training. CERT graduates will have an idea  — and the SAME idea —of how to respond in an emergency: how to check on neighbors, assess damage, and manage communications. If you have taken the training, you will be safer yourself, and be able to step up to help.

(Virginia adds: Because our neighborhood team has its own ham radio station, it can listen in to emergency communications and actually report in on conditions here. Most neighborhoods won’t be able to do that.)

Q: How will we know what to report?

A: It all depends on having Block Captains who know their neighbors and know how to use their walkie-talkies to report in. You will always need more members of the team because you don’t know who will be here when an emergency hits.

Q: How do we find out more about CERT?

A: Contact the City.

Q: How do we find out more about our local group?

A: Contact your group leader to find out more.

At this point, we took over the meeting.

We passed out maps of our neighborhood, showing the Divisions, with the names and phone numbers of the Division Leaders. We introduced the Division Leaders. Our guest from the Police Department handed out some lists of emergency supplies and some brochures with general safety tips.

Then we adjourned to cookies and punch.

As follow up to the meeting we will publish notes similar to this Advisory, and contact some people who seemed interested in CERT training. (Unfortunately, our City’s classes are full for the next few months.)

A new face, even with the same message, helps a lot to keep up the momentum of your preparedness efforts. Who can you get to speak to YOUR group?

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

CERT Meeting IdeasP.S. If you have taken on the responsibility of planning meetings for your local group, you may want to take a look at the collection of CERT Meeting Ideas we put together last year. It has over 20 proven ideas with agendas, timing, materials needed, etc.

And stay tuned to Emergency Plan Guide, because we share our experiences — great and not-so-great — on a regular basis right here.


Emergency Radio Update


Panasonic Emergency Radio

How old do you think this radio is?

Radios — The Most Popular Piece of Emergency Gear

More of our readers “invest” in emergency radios than in any other one piece of emergency equipment. (Makes sense, of course. Without a reliable emergency radio, when disaster hits you could be completely cut off. Without a good emergency radio, you may not even know that a disaster is COMING!)

Because of this interest, we continually comment on what to look for when you’re shopping for a radio. And we regularly update our Best Emergency Radios review page to be sure the radios listed there are still available.

So it’s time for yet another radio update.

Status of our long-time favorite emergency radio

The Ambient Weather Adventurer, original cost around $30, has been our favorite for a while. We own more than one, and many of our readers have them, too. It’s a great radio to tuck into your pack or simply have on the kitchen counter.

Bad news! This model seems to have been discontinued. Here and there online you can find one for sale, but their prices make no sense! I saw one yesterday at $281!

So we aren’t recommending this model anymore. (Maybe you want to try to sell yours for a profit???)

New favorite, the Eton FRX5

Eton makes several different radios, and the brand carries a number of labels including one from the American Red Cross.

The FRX3 costs about $10 more than the original Ambient Weather, and has most of the very same features.

The one we’re recommending today, though, is the Model FRX5.  It costs nearly twice as much, but for that you get double the power, more lighting options, the ability to charge a smart phone, capture localized emergency alerts, etc.

Here’s a link to the radio: Eton FRX5 Hand Crank Emergency Weather Radio with SAME Alerts

And here’s what it looks like:

This is a very compact radio, just over 7 inches tall and a couple of inches wide. It operates on battery, AC, solar and crank. In fact, this radio earned the best score in a recent test measuring how much listen time was created by 2 minutes of cranking. (In this case, something like 10-12 minutes.)

What I like is the SAME Alert feature — stands for Specific Area Message Encoding. You enter in your county and the radio will automatically send alerts for that area.  (Seems to me this would be essential in Tornado Alley of the U.S.!)

When you click the link above, you’ll go directly to Amazon. Scroll down to the bottom of the Amazon page for a full description of this radio, with several more photos.

First time radio purchaser? Get answers to 7 important questions.

If you haven’t yet added a radio to your survival supplies, check out the Eton model above. Just click on the blue link to get started.

If you have NEVER shopped for an emergency radio before, go first to our Best Emergency Radio Reviews page because you’ll find there the 7 questions you need to consider before adding a radio to your pack, or to the survival kit of any of your family members. And you’ll see a number of other radios that we have reviewed and recommend.

The radio we would upgrade to if we were flush

I’ve mentioned before that we have an old Panasonic shortwave radio. (Joe’s had it ever since we’ve been together, and that’s over 33 years now, so its age is something older than that!) That’s the radio in the picture at the top of this page. Joe was changing the batteries, which explains the red ribbons at the bottom.

We have hauled this radio from coast to coast and back again, and Joe loves it.

Yesterday Joe handed me a spec sheet for the radio he would LIKE to have. It’s also available at Amazon, and also made by Eton. As far as I am concerned, it certainly looks a lot like the old Panasonic (!), but . . .Joe assures me that it’s “the ultimate” in radio receivers. It gets AM, FM, Aircraft, Longwave and Shortwave bands, has a rotating antenna plus you can tune-in stations by keying them in or searching for them. You can actually store 1000 stations!

If you’re really serious about emergency radios, check this one out.

Alert – Prices for the SAME RADIO vary considerably. Shop carefully to get the best deal!

Eton Grundig Satellit 750 Ultimate AM/FM Stereo also Receives Shortwave, Longwave and Aircraft Bands – Black (NGSAT750B)

And doesn’t it look a LOT like the Panasonic collector item above?

You need at least one emergency radio, and probably several. The good thing about radios is you can select the features you need (for each use or each person) and not have to buy features you don’t want, and you’ll save by choosing carefully.

Do you already have an emergency radio? Would you recommend it?  Let us know in the comments!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Don’t miss any of our equipment updates. Sign up below to get our Advisories directly into your email each week.


The Secret to Surviving a Neighborhood Disaster


. . . Goes Against Current Fashion

Every week survivalists and preppers spend millions of dollars on “survival gear” — including tents, flashlights, generators, radios, firearms and more. Do you ever think you should be doing this, too?

Survival Mentality

Your survival mentality?

But take a moment to consider this. If your efforts are all to prepare your family to “pull up the drawbridge” and “defend the castle,” you will be ignoring, if not actively alienating, the very group that will be in the best position to save you!

Who is that? It’s your immediate neighbors!

Remember Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan? It was hours or even days before official help got to many neighborhoods!

Lives were saved by neighbors helping neighbors.

Most lives are lost in the first 15-30 minutes.

Regardless of how prepared you are with emergency supplies, the first 15 to 30 minutes following a disaster are the most critical if you are trapped in a burning house, under fallen debris or in a mud flow.

And the only people on the scene capable of helping will be your immediate neighbors.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trainings that are available in many communities around the Country teach citizens how to best protect themselves and help their neighbors.

But in most cases – especially in more highly populated areas – the CERT training falls short of organizing trained members into functioning neighborhood units.

It’s up to you to organize your own neighborhood groups!

What about the aftermath?

Yes, you can store water, food and medicine to tide you over for the days or weeks it takes for the government and support organizations to recover.

But what good is it if your neighbors don’t do the same?

Are you prepared to fend off neighbors at gun point to protect your own supplies? Or are you going to stand by and watch them starve or die?

This is a terrible situation that you need to think long and hard about, because it could easily happen.

Once again, it’s up to you to remind your neighbors to build emergency supplies.

How to get your neighbors involved?  You can start by asking yourself, and then sharing with them, these important survival questions.

In an emergency, wouldn’t it be better if you knew . . .

  • The neighbors on either side of you, across the hall or across the street?
  • Are they families or individuals?
  • How many children do they have?
  • Where are family members normally during the day?
  • Are there any disabled members of the family?
  • What part of the house do people sleep in?
  • If people are missing at night, where would you look for them?
  • Do your neighbors know what part of your house you sleep in?
  • Would they know where to look for you in the middle of the night following an earthquake or tornado?
  • How long would it take them to find you?
  • Would you still be alive when they do find you?

In an emergency, you are your neighbors’ keeper – and they are yours.

Our current American emphasis on rugged individualism, our concerns for privacy, our worries about interfering – these views must be re-examined in the face of preparing for a neighborhood disaster.


Joseph Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Share this post with your Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, to get their reaction.  And let us know how it is received!

Commuter’s Go Bag — Will the road home get you there?


My daughter’s long commute by car.

Commuter's Go Bag MapOne of my daughters is an executive and works in Beverly Hills, California. With no real public transit available she is forced to drive over 100 miles to and from work, spending a total of almost four hours on the road every day. Every morning she sets out in her executive clothing and footwear and with a list of business phone calls to make along the way.

With two children in separate schools and on different schedules, her chances of a speedy reunion with family following a major earthquake are slim. Roads and freeways could be restricted for use by emergency vehicles responding to calls . . . or even possibly blocked by collapsed bridges and overpasses. At the very least, if the earthquake happens during the workday, roads will be massively congested with people trying to reach home.

If she had to walk to get home . . .

. . . she could. But 50 miles could conceivably take days.

Fortunately, she is conscientious and, of course, has me to help keep her on track!

What’s in her personal Commuter’s Go Bag?

In the trunk of her car she carries a Commuter’s Go Bag that we put together just for her. It has the usual Survival Kit items that you’d expect: walking clothes including comfortable shoes, a jacket, some energy bars and water, a portable radio, and a flashlight with extra batteries. There’s a notebook and pen. And because this is California, she has a space blanket AND an extra pair of sunglasses.

In addition, she carries extra prescriptions for a medical condition, and some cash (coins and small bills).

And because she is competent to deal with it, she has pepper spray.

Perhaps most important, she has paperwork: a list of contact numbers including some for family out of state, and maps that show her route and alternate ways to get home. (GPS may well be out.) She has teamed up with other employees who live in the same general area so they could travel in groups, and they have made note of “safe house” locations along the way where she — and any companions – can stop and rest.

She is good about keeping her car’s gas tank at least ¾ full at all times. If there is a general power outage that could last for days, neither ATMS, Credit Card Processors nor gas station pumps are likely to be operating, of course. I have suggested to her that a small, plastic, fuel canister and siphon hose that could siphon gas out of other stranded commuters’ cars may come in handy along the way! (She gets the concept, but hasn’t been ready to practice siphoning yet . . .!)

Finally, my grandchildren also have emergency supplies at home and know where to go and whom to call following a major emergency because neither mother nor dad is likely to get home any time soon.

Doesn’t it make sense for the commuters you know to have such a kit?

Putting together all the items mentioned above would cost about the same as a tank of gas. Naturally, you’ll have to complete your kit with more personal stuff.

Let us know how it goes!

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We added an emergency kit to our granddaughter’s car too. Here’s the story!

Message in a Bottle — For Your Neighbor


We are currently exploring a “shock” method to get our preparedness message across to our neighbors. We wrap a letter around a one-liter bottle of water. It explains that . . .

Message in a Bottle“We cannot store enough food and water to be of help to you in an emergency, but here is a bottle of water to show our good faith. We hope you will recognize the need to be prepared and – using the list on the back of this letter – make sure your entire household is protected.”

Why go to this trouble for your neighbor?

Even here in our neighborhood, after all our meetings and trainings and articles, the reality is that as many as 35% of our neighbors simply don’t take responsibility for their own safety and security.

Yes, this is better than nationwide averages, which put the unprepared at closer to 50%.

But because these people haven’t personally experienced an earthquake or serious storm, or had to survive for any longer than a few hours in a post-emergency situation,

. . .either the risk doesn’t seem real to them or

. . .they mistakenly believe that the government will provide for them.

So the Message in a Bottle is just the next step.

Our Emergency Response Team will be meeting next week to roll the letters and fasten them to the water bottles with rubber bands. Then they’ll set out and deliver a bottle to the doorstep, if not directly into the hands, of every person in their assigned area.

When the emergency hits, we don’t want neighborhood slackers coming to us for help, and forcing us to either share our precious supplies or turn them away. The letter makes that clear — in a nice way.

We want everyone to be prepared and working together!

I’ll report in on what kind of response or reaction we get to this campaign!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Sign up here so you don’t miss any neighborhood training ideas!

P.P.S. If you’d like a copy of our letter with the checklist on the back, just let me know.

Community Cache of Emergency Supplies


At a recent CERT update meeting here in our town, a police officer was asking questions about our neighborhood preparedness. Not our individual preparedness, but what we have done for the neighborhood.

The question about supplies from the police.

Emergency supplies

Enough for the whole neighborhood?

“I assume you guys have pulled together supplies, like food, for everyone?”

As it turns out, we’ve been working hard to get our neighborhood aware and organized, so we were proud to be able to describe what we’ve accomplished.

The answer about supplies from our group.

“We have NOT taken on gathering and storing supplies for the whole neighborhood!”

Our motto is “Shelter in Place with your OWN supplies.”

Here’s why.

1. Human nature. If people think someone else is doing the work for them, they stop doing it themselves.

2. Incentive. If not everyone participates, then the “good citizens” who store food and water will be penalized when their unprepared neighbors start knocking on their door for help. We remind people that if they are unprepared, they are not likely to be welcomed when the disaster actually hits.

3. Money. Buying and storing food supplies for hundreds of people takes a big financial investment, not to mention specialized knowledge.

4. Space. Storing food supplies for hundreds of people also takes a big and ongoing investment in storage space, maintenance, security, etc.

We are a volunteer organization. Our membership waxes and wanes as people move away or move in. Fortunately our members can get good local CERT training, but some of the best neighbors don’t have it yet.

Now, we’re also fortunate to have a small monthly budget thanks to our Homeowners’ Association – and that allows us to purchase carefully-selected pieces of equipment that we will have ready for an emergency. (You can read more about our equipment purchases here.) But our budget doesn’t extend to the thousands of dollars that would be necessary for purchasing and storing food.

So we’ve decided to continue to stress “Make sure you have your own supplies of food you like and the medicines you need. And don’t expect your neighbor to welcome you with open arms when you run out.”

What decisions are you making in your neighborhood?

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

I’d really like to hear! Please send comments!



Lessons from the Village of Cold Spring – Seven Steps for Eastern Cities


An excellent article by Michael Turton came out today in the Philipstown.info. It hit on important preparedness issues for cities in the east – or anywhere, for that matter.

Map of Cold Spring NY

Thanks to Wikipedia for this map.

(In case you aren’t familiar with this part of the country, the Town of Philipstown is in Putnam County, New York. Two incorporated villages lie within the Town. The Village of Cold Spring, focus of Turton’s article, is one of them. It lies across the river from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.)

If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here are highlights, with my comments. Every single one of these points could be an action item for your group or community!

1. Leadership. Set up a local committee if you don’t have one yet. Turton’s article refers to a specific committee being put together for the Village of Cold Spring. The Mayor and a Trustee sit on the committee, as well as residents.

2. Registry. Find out who in your community needs special care. First Responders need to know who lives where and what special circumstances exist, such as a need for oxygen or wheelchair access. Having this information allows them to check even before a storm hits. The Cold Spring committee is starting with volunteer participation in assembling a resident registry – but the committee is willing to consider a local law if necessary.

3. Local centers. Identify local venues that could serve as temporary respite centers – but not necessarily “shelters.” As reported in the article, a formal “shelter” may require security and medical personnel.

4. Emergency supplies. Put shelter in place as first priority, evacuation as second. Of course, shelter in place requires that people have survival kits for the first 72 hours, enough to get them home safely. And then, at home, they need more emergency supplies to carry them through.

5. Priorities. Set guidelines for the distribution of community resources: sandbags, medical supplies, pumps, fuel supplies, etc. Who gets first access?

6. Gawkers. Educate the community about the dangers of gawkers. (Aside from Virginia Nicols – This is a tough one! We’ve had neighbors get all in a huff when our local team kept them from driving right up to the site of a fire, impeding the fire department and hindering rescue efforts!)

7. Authority. Make sure people know HOW to turn off community utilities (gas, lights, etc.) and that the turn-off switches work in all conditions. (Another aside from Virginia: Authority to turn off community systems – such as natural gas distribution systems — needs to be limited, and those people need to be properly trained.)

Here in the west, more groups are forming this month to do precisely what the Village of Cold Spring has begun. What’s going on in YOUR community?  Let us know by sending a comment.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team