Few of us would deny the importance of planning for natural disasters, power outages, and other external emergencies that can completely derail (and threaten) our lives. But let’s be honest: easier said than done, right? It can seem downright daunting to take the necessary steps to prepare, for one thing, and uncomfortable to think about such scary stuff, to boot.
Furthermore, it’s too often the case that we’re only reminded of how useful it is to prepare for disasters when disaster actually strikes—too late, in many respects.
So in today’s post, we thought we’d run through a few basic ideas on how to integrate emergency planning into your everyday life, so that the process is easier—and, ideally, so that you’re able to cultivate a practical disaster-readiness mindset. That in itself is a fundamental step in learning how to prepare for an emergency.
There’s a clear advantage to doing this: It’s much easier and much less stressful to plan, prepare, and provision in the calm and no-hurriedness of your normal routine, rather than when facing down impending disaster or reeling in the wake of it. Now’s the time to take steps to protect yourself against the unexpected!
Emergency Preparedness Planning: Start With the Basics & Expand
If you’re new to really rigorously thinking about disaster planning and emergency preparedness, discovering what you need to gather and how to come up with an effective response plan can seem like a huge investment of time, effort, and money. Starting small—taking one small step instead of plowing headlong into the full journey—is a perfectly acceptable way to begin the process.
Look to FEMA on this count: Readying a 72-hour kit is a “bare minimum” start that helps you get ready for just about any kind of contingency. You can learn more about 72-hour kits in our Mountain House checklist.
Assess What You Already Have on Hand for Emergency Readiness
More often than not, you already have some things in the closet, the utility drawer, the garage, or the pantry that can help you assemble your emergency kit. We’re talking non-perishable food items, spare blankets or sleeping bags, maps of your neighborhood, backup batteries and flashlights, and the like. When you have a little downtime, do a walkthrough of your house and assess what resources and supplies you’ve got on hand that can provide the basic foundation of your disaster kit.
Stock Up a Little at a Time
As we’re written about before (in this guide to “Prepping on a Budget”), you don’t need to completely outfit yourself in one fell swoop, ideal as that might be for the speediest preparedness. Once you’ve got your list of tools, accessories, and foodstuffs that you need for your emergency kit, make a habit of acquiring a few essentials on each errands/grocery run, or maybe a few each week or each month.
Practice Random Emergency Simulations
Part of putting together an individual or family emergency plan checklist means deciding on immediate courses of action to take in the event of a disaster. Just identifying steps to take isn’t good enough, though: You’ve got to practice! A way to bolster the emergency readiness of your household on an ongoing basis is to periodically implement “pop quiz”-style emergency simulations: going through the motions of responding to a house fire, for example, or a tornado, or a flood, or a power outage.
Besides generally testing readiness, these simulations can help you identify things to improve on and essential supplies you’re missing—and they can encourage all members of the household to “expect the unexpected” and to realize that emergencies don’t follow a set schedule. Practicing like this can also help everybody manage their fear, hopefully with the end result of being calmer and more clear-eyed if and when an emergency does unfold (this is also a good idea at the workplace, by the way!).
Consider the Challenges of Each Season
As you go about your daily life, look ahead to the coming season and reflect on what special challenges or situations it could pose. For example, spring in much of North America ushers in thunderstorm (and, depending on location, tornado) season; the North Atlantic hurricane season, meanwhile, stretches from summer into fall. Think about the different stakes presented by a broken-down furnace in August vs. January, and your greater reliance on that wood stove or fireplace—and thus the greater fire risk you experience—in wintertime.
Cultivate Moment-by-Moment Awareness of Surroundings
Part of the above-mentioned “expecting the unexpected” state of mind should be maintaining at least a low-grade awareness of your surroundings and the environment at all times. This can take diligent practice at first, but hopefully will become second nature and an “unthinking” behavior eventually. Imagine what you would do in any given location if a bad storm or a fire hit.
Study your commute so you know the quickest way home (and to some agreed-upon shelter outside of the home).
Cultivating this kind of mindset is a less-obvious but critical aspect of emergency preparedness, not to mention a helpful way to live more “in the moment” and become more attuned to the world around you.
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