A hurricane or tornado is on the way, what should you grab so that you can rebuild your life if necessary? Someone dies unexpectedly, what should they have in place to make it easier for their relatives? Many believe that a natural, weather-related, or man-made disaster won’t affect them. And after-the-fact they regret that they didn’t make any contingency plans. Even if you know that you need to have an emergency arrangement in place, the task of creating such a plan may feel daunting. Let’s see if we can break the process down into doable steps.

Step #1: Establish a Plan. Actually it might be more accurate to say plans because there are several different activities that need to be considered. Please note that there are lots of free resources on the internet to help you generate the plans listed below. Check the link at the end of the article for further details.

• Generate a family communication plan

• Determine escape routes and safe places

• Delineate action checklist: make sure all age-appropriate family members participate in these actions

o Know how to turn off water, gas, and electricity at the main switches or valves.

o Fire extinguishers and smoke alarms: Everyone should know the location of fire extinguishers and how they are operated. Smoke alarms should be on every level of your home. Consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm.

o Insurance coverage: check to make sure each type is current and covers any recent changes or additions.

o First aid/CPR/AED (Automated External Defibrillation) training through the Red Cross or other medical facility.

o Reduce Home Hazards

o Cash or travelers’ checks for three days as ATMs won’t work without electricity

Step #2: Create a kit. Like step #1, there are several different types of kits you may want to create. The big five resources you need even if you don’t have anything else are water, money, food, first aid, and vital documents. Whether you make one kit or multiple kits, consider portability since you may have to take it with you and the location of the kit so that you can find it quickly. Please note that there are lots of resources on the internet to help you produce a list for each type of kit. In addition, there are places where you can purchase ready-made kits if you choose. Check the Minding Your Matters Master Disaster List http://www.mindingyourmatters.com/Master-Disaster-organizing-list for an overview of important items to collect for emergency purposes.

• Car: items you may not have thought of include flashlight, reflective vest, LifeHammer, bottled water, white distress flag, tire repair kit, seasonal supplies, vehicle battery booster (instead of jumper cables).

• First Aid including sterile gloves, tweezers, ice & heat packs, anti-itch medications, and personal medical form.

• Food & Water (three day supply): items you might not remember include manual can opener and digital thermometer to check food temperatures.

• Personal Supplies: items to be sure to include are non-electric toothbrush & toothpaste, comb or brush, non-electric razors, shampoo, hand soap, deodorant

• Sanitation: don’t forget plastic bags and ties: thick & sturdy for garbage, seal off safe room, or makeshift poncho

• Special Items: such as landline phone (cell towers may fall), hearing aid batteries, pet supplies, if applicable and paper and writing tools

• Tools & Supplies: you don’t want to be without

o Hand crank radio

o Hand crank flashlight

o C to D batteries add pennies to C batteries to fill the space and create a short-term D battery

o NOAA radio (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration)

o Fire escape ladder

• Vital records & documents: fireproof safe should have appropriate UL (Underwriters Laboratory) rating for items placed inside. Digital media need a higher UL rating than papers.

o Inventory Home Possessions

o Vital Documents

Step #3: Maintain & Update. As you may suspect, once you have a disaster relief plan in place, you still need to review it periodically. In an effort to update some of the supplies or to revise out-of-date information, please do the following:

Review your plan every six months. If you have a family, you may want to have a quiz about what your emergency plan.

Conduct fire and emergency drills on a regular basis.

Check food supplies for expiration dates and discard or replace stored water and food every six months. Check and replace batteries at the same time.

Read the indicator on your fire extinguisher(s) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to recharge. Test your smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace alarms every 10 years.

Remember that some of these preparations will be useful if you have an electrical outage due to an ice storm or if you experience a flood from the second floor to the first due to a laundry machine malfunction. Additionally, you must keep your goal in mind. If the goal is to be prepared for disaster without living in fear or panic, then you need to make sure that you know what that looks like for you: How much is functional for you without it being too much?

You will find some specific disaster resources on the Disaster Preparation Products & Links  page of the Minding Your Matters® Organizing website.

Author:© 2010 Janice Russell, CPO-CD. North Carolina’s first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Janice Russell, and her firm, Minding Your Matters® Organizing, have built a reputation for helping business and residential clients organize their space, items, documents, and time using the flexible structure principle. Janice’s workshops on topics such as tackling the no time trap, perishing paper piles, and stopping stuff from being overwhelming are dynamic, informative, and practical. Minding Your Matters® is dedicated to helping people achieve organization with lasting results in their personal and professional lives. Janice is highly regarded within her industry. She is a Golden Circle Member of National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and past president of the North Carolina Chapter of NAPO. Janice is the author of the book Get Organized This Year! and two audios: Stop Letting Stuff Overwhelm You and Tackle the No Time Trap. For more information, please visit www.mindingyourmatters.com or call 919-467-7058.