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Step-by-Step: Preparing Your Home & Family for an Earthquake or Disaster

With September being National Emergency Preparedness Month, I attended a sobering presentation on Earthquake Preparedness by a professional from the USGS. We were told that there is a 62 percent probability for one or more magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake will strike the San Francisco Bay Area region from now to 2032. (yikes!) It is also reported that only half of people have readiness items set aside in their homes for use in disasters.
But, of course it is not just the people in earthquake country that should be getting their home and family ready in case of an emergency. As we have seen from recent disasters around the world, being unprepared can be devastating. Many put off creating an emergency plan because it seems like such a time intensive and expensive project. The emergency plan checklist by Buttoned Up breaks it down into smaller tasks that can be accomplished in 20-30 minutes increments (download free here). Using the emergency plan checklist as a guide, below are helpful tips and links to preparing for a catastrophe:

One: Organize Your Emergency Plan

Your family may not be together when a disaster occurs, therefore it’s essential to plan in advance how you will communicate and get back together in different scenarios. 
  • Establish a contact. Because it may be easier to make an out-of-town call, identify a contact {ideally out-of-state} your family can call and who can also relay information.
  • Make a contact list. Provide a list of contact phone numbers to all members of your family. For cell phone users, program that person(s) as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Also, make sure to let your family and friends know that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts. 
  • Subscribe to alert services. Many communities have systems that will send instant text alerts or emails to let you know about such things as bad weather, road closings and local emergencies. To sign up, visit your local Office of Emergency Management website.
  • Establish a meeting place. Select two meeting places in the case your family is separated in an emergency. The first location should be near your home. The second should be out-of-state or further away. Also, review possible evacuation routes available in your area online.
  • Learn about school and work plans. Find out what emergency plans are in place for your work and child’s school.
  • Share the plan. Distribute basic emergency information with your family, friends and neighbors. It should include your contact information, emergency contact, out-of-town contact and your neighborhood meeting place.
  • Prepare Your Home. Identify items in your home that need to be secured in the case of an earthquake. For complete information on making your home safer visit FEMA.

Two: Document Your Valuables

To be reimbursed after a catastrophe need a list of the items in your home. Recording with a video or camera the items you would want replaced is a great option. Also, documenting room to room all valuables {artwork, electronics, jewelry, rugs, furniture, clothing, etc.}.  To make the task a little easier, Buttoned Up has created a binder, Valuables.doc that breaks down the big job of making an inventory into eight smaller steps.
The next step is to store the video, photos or list safely with your attorney, accountant or family member.


Three: Get Your Records Ready

One way to organize for an emergency is to create a binder. The binder holds the most critical information for your home and family, so you’re never without it when you really need it. It should be kept in a safe, yet handy place. Assuming you have a computer and printer, creating the binder is a fairly easy DIY project – here’s how step-by-step

Four: Prepare Your Emergency Kit

Ready America, recommends the following items be included in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food {canned & packaged foods – include cooking utensils}
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both – this one includes a flashlight!
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
This is a list of additional items to strongly consider adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:
  • Prescription medications and glasses.
  • Infant formula and diapers.
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet.
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change.
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the EFFAK Emergency Financial First Aid Kit – PDF, 277Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire Extinguisher {get training from your local fire department on how to properly use a fire extinguisher}.
  • Matches in a waterproof container.
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items.
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels.
  • Paper and pencil.
  • Comfort items such as books, games, puzzles or other activities for children.
For those in earthquake country, have each member of the family keep sturdy shoes, whistle and a working flashlight next to each bed. The shoes will protect feet in the case of broken glass. Also teach everyone in your household to use  the whistle or knock three times repeatedly if trapped.

Also, find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency by visiting here.

Five: Discuss Your Plan With Your Family

Set a time to meet with all members of your immediate family and those that live with you to discuss your emergency plan together. Let all know where to find the emergency kit(s), locate important information and who has the documentation for household valuables.
Is your family ready for a catastrophe? If not don’t delay in preparing. Planning for a disaster sounds depressing, but when complete will reduce any anxiety or worry you may be feeling.
Plan ahead and be safe!
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Read full story By on September 14, 2010 in disaster preparedness, emergency preparedness, home organization, Organization, organization tips, Organizational tips, Tips/Tricks

Disaster Preparedness – Home & Life Binder

When disaster strikes, it can be horrible. But, being unprepared can be devastating. One way to organize for an emergency is to create a Home & Life Binder. I highly recommend it to all my client’s seeking organizational assistance.

The binder holds the most critical information for your home and family. It should be kept in a safe, yet handy place. Assuming you have a computer and printer, creating the binder is a fairly easy DIY project – here’s how step-by-step:

Materials Needed:
One 1-2 inch three-ring binder, index divider tabs (at least seven), three hole punch

Divider Categories and Suggested Content:
1. Emergency Contacts – family members full names & DOB, pets, contact name, phone numbers and email addresses for neighbors, relatives, caregivers, local hospitals, fire station, local police department, work and schools. copies of social security cards and driver’s license.

2. Home Statistics – address, cross street, county, neighborhood, realtor, square footage (inside & out), year built, # of bedrooms, bathrooms, appliances (date purchased), cooling & heating features, home maintenance list (plumber, electrician, roofer, etc.), ulitity providers (gas, water, electric, trash, phone, internet, cable)

3. Home Inventory – list articles with descriptions, serial #s, purchase date, cost and value. attach receipts, appraisals, warranties. include photos of valuable artwork, antiques, jewelry, etc.

4. Health – contact information for all doctors, pharmacies, medical insurance (company, policy #, website & login)

5. Legal – wills, trusts, power of attorney, life insurance policies (company, policy #, representative contact information, website & login/password, coverage), deeds, titles.

6. Financial – banking, auto and home insurance, credit cards & brokerage accounts (company, policy #, representative contact information, 800 #s, website & login/password)

7. Emergency Plan – mapped out meeting spot, instructions on how to turn off your water, electricity, and gas. communication plan (out of state contact that can be a communication point if local communications are inoperable), location of emergency kit (advanced first aid kit, extra clothing and shoes, flashlights and batteries, water and non-perishable food for three days, cash, a solar and battery-operated radio). For more disaster preparedness advice go to

If you are not the DIY type or need some motivation, here’s a comprehensive organizing binder called Life.doc by Buttoned Up.

The Life.doc Binder has eight sections including:

•Family Basics
•Caregiver Information
•In Sickness & Health
•Dollars & Sense
•Emergency Plan
•Home Sweet Home

You can fill out the Life.doc pages by hand, or use the included CD Rom to do the data entry on your computer, then feed the Life.doc pages into your printer and print out the completed forms. The Life.doc Binder can be purchased at see Jane work.

This is a project that is frankly not fun to do, but will make you happy and at peace once you are finished!

*images from see Jane work and Flickr.
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Read full story By on July 15, 2009 in disaster preparedness, home organization, organization tips