Category Archives: Personal Preparedness

September 11, 2014–A Teachable Moment

September 11th will always be a day of mourning. How do we want to commemorate it next year?

Here’s an idea: Why not use September 11th to learn about evacuation?  Many people never stayed in a shelter and don’t  know where the nearest shelter is.

Many people do not have a go bag. If they have a go bag, they wonder what to put in it. Is it better to omit some items and have a lighter bag? Should they pack more and not worry about the weight of the go bag? (Yes, it’s like preparing for an overnight hike!).

It’s unrealistic to expect most people to figure out go bags and evacuation on their own. Who wouldn’t welcome some expert, communal hand-holding?

For starters, evacuation shelters are usually set up in a school. The shelter nearest you might be in an elementary school, a middle school, or a high school. It might be in a community college or a four-year college.

However, evacuation shelters are not always in a school. The shelter nearest you might be in a community center, a recreation center, or a house of worship.

“Find Open Shelters” is  part of the wonderful work done by the American Red Cross.  Just before or during an emergency, it tells you which shelter nearest you will be open.  If another disaster occurs, do not assume that the location used during Hurricane Sandy will again become a shelter.

September 11th provides a teachable moment.  On or near September 11th, 2014, experts in emergency management should hold free, community-wide events.  These events might be held where evacuees were housed during Hurricane Sandy.

Folks will then–while not under special stress–find the evacuation center and learn about it. Is it in the middle of nowhere? Is there a library nearby?  Is there a pizza place within walking distance? 

Is the evacuation shelter clean and well-maintained? Is it dingy and depressing?

Is there parking? Are buses or a train station nearby?

Participants who have go bags should bring them. They can compare items in their own go bag with what their friends and neighbors have. Hopefully, participants without a go bag will be inspired to pack one.

The idea of connecting September 11th and personal preparedness can be adapted. For example, the meeting could be held at a library or a high school instead of at a shelter.

I always feel a connection between September 11th and Hurricane Sandy. One is a man-made disaster; the other, a natural disaster.

They are both in the past. Nonetheless, they both made us feel more vulnerable.

We cannot save the precious lives that were lost. Let’s act now to prepare for the next disaster: Let’s do what we can to regain our sense of control.

Does this idea appeal appeal to you? If not, do you have a better one? There is space below to comment, question, or share.


Halloween and Preparedness Education

For many people, emergency preparedness arouses ANXIETY.  As a result, they avoid taking simple steps to protect themselves.  They don’t act on the intelligence they have.  They don’t stock up on food and water.

Yet, according to the experts, we might be on our own for 72 hours following a disaster.  [An organization called  offers information in English, Spanish, Russian, and Vietnamese].  The recommendation to have food and water on hand sounds like a no brainer.

I keep asking myself one question: How can emergency preparedness become part of the American way of life?

Shortly after Hurricane Sandy, millions of homes were without electricity. Nonetheless, many children celebrated Halloween.

This year, when children come trick or treating, why not give them two bags of candy? At the same time, recite the following rhyme:

It’s Halloween, my dear.
It’s time for trick or treat.
Here’s something for the pantry.
Here’s something else to eat.”

It’s one way to educate children about personal preparedness. Do you or your neighbor have a better idea?

Let’s get a conversation going. There’s space below to leave a comment.

Needed: Education About Evacuation

When disaster strikes, folks have a choice:  They can “shelter in place” or they can evacuate. Sheltering in place means staying at home or staying at work.

“Home is where the heart is”.  It’s also where our stuff is! Therefore, most people choose to “shelter in place” during a disaster.

Evacuating means leaving home or work and going elsewhere. Leaving familiar surroundings is scary. As a result, many people avoid thinking about it altogether.

This is true for people who live alone. It is also true for families, for people with elderly parents, and for people with pets.

Hopefully, talking about evacuation will reduce its scariness. Then, maybe we can take baby steps toward preparing for it.

There is at least one thing experts agree on: It is the importance of packing a go bag or emergency kit. Packing a go bag should be done ahead of time–that is, before disaster strikes.

How many of us have followed this advice? I do not know.

With Hurricane Sandy, we had advance warning. In some areas, evacuation was mandatory.

In other areas, we had to decide on our own whether to shelter in place or evacuate. We could leave before the storm. If we waited, we knew that our options after the storm might be limited.

Is evacuation necessary? If so, a community-based shelter is probably the option of last resort. Nonetheless, it may be the only option that comes to mind due to television and other media coverage.

What else do people do? Some fly as far away as possible. Some stay with family. Some stay with friends or neighbors. Some–in places like Manhattan–stay at a nearby hotel.

The choices people make when they evacuate depend on many factors. Relevant factors include where their homes are, where they work, when they decide to leave, their support network, and their financial situation.

Each option has advantages and disadvantages.  It makes sense to consider your options now, when things are calm and you can think clearly.

It is important to realize the following:

  • In an emergency, you can find nearby open shelters online.
  • Some shelters take people with special needs and some take pets.
  • A public shelter may be open only temporarily.
  • If your home becomes inaccessible or unliveable,  you might need long-term housing.

Have you worked in an emergency shelter? Have you stayed in one? Have you sheltered with family or friends? Stayed at a hotel? Gone on vacation? Whatever your experience with evacuation, do you have advice for the rest of us?

If so, please comment, question, or share. There is room below.

A Crisco Candle


“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness”.  After 9/11, many people left lit candles at memorials around Manhattan. This simple act communicated hope in a time of shock, grief, and sadness.

After Hurricane Sandy, many of us again lit candles.  This time, it was a practical way to avoid sitting in the dark, walking in the dark, and falling down the stairs.

Do you know that you can use a can of Crisco as a makeshift candle? A rolled up piece of paper or some string can serve as a wick.

I did not expect to find Crisco at the local supermarket. However, it was there, in the baking goods aisle.

Don’t be discouraged with your first attempt. Because Crisco is soft, the wick goes in easily. However, you may need to light the wick several times before it catches fire and CONTINUES to burn.

The good news? According to the experts, these Crisco candles will burn for a very long time.

Let’s face it. Preparedness is a complex topic. Some people have an advantage when it comes to emergency preparedness. People who spend time camping, people in the military, and other people with special training have the necessary knowledge as well as hands-on experience.

However, for many other people, living without basic services is a new and frightening idea. One of my favorite sayings is this: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Don’t let fear keep you from taking that all important single step into the unknown.

Do you have a quick and simple idea for emergency preparedness? If so, please share it in the Comments section.

Is Your Household Ready? (A Quick Poll)

Easy-to-read.  Readily available.
Easy-to-read.  Readily available.

There are many types of natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes). Sometimes, as with Hurricane Sandy, we have advance warning. In other words, we have time for last minute preparations.

Sometimes, we do not. On a beautiful sunny day in June, 2010, a mini-tornado hit the North Shore of Long Island. It appeared out of nowhere. It lasted for about 20 minutes.

During that brief time, it knocked down trees. It stopped electricity. It damaged property. No lives were lost. Nonetheless, it was scary.

The Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University has an article entitled “The 5 Action Steps to Personal Preparedness“. It states: “Government officials tell us ‘Plan to be on your own for 72 hours'”.

Hopefully, the next emergency will be nothing like Hurricane Sandy. Nonetheless, it makes sense to prepare yourself, your family, and your pets for whatever comes. Better save than sorry!

Some things do not consciously bother us. They are tucked away in the back of our minds. Nonetheless, they feed our overall level of anxiety.

Lack of personal preparedness is that kind of thing. There is an overlooked benefit to planning ahead: We become less anxious.

Let’s agree: Personal preparedness is a responsible and grown up kind of thing. It may be somewhat boring, but it is, nonetheless, a responsible and grown up kind of thing 🙂

I can’t help but wonder: How many of us are prepared? How many of us are well prepared?

Here is an eight-item poll. It’s quick and easy. Check off just the items that apply. Then press “Vote”.

What’s Missing In This Picture?


We all know what “hunger” means. Do we all know what “personal preparedness” means?

Personal preparedness means having what you need in an emergency. The emergency could be a hurricane or a major snow storm.

Ideally, we do not want to be fighting for the last can of tuna fish or the last flashlight at the supermarket. We want to have this stuff at home AHEAD OF TIME.

What’s missing in the picture above? Actually, two very important things are missing.

One is a manual can opener. The other is water.

If there is no electricity during an emergency, we can still eat the cereal, the raisins, and the almonds. However, if there is no electricity, an electric can opener won’t work. The result? We will not be able to eat the can of tuna or the can of tomatoes.

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness has a wonderful article. It is entitled “The 5 Steps to Personal Preparedness” (Check it out!)

According to this article, “You MUST have 1 gallon of safe drinking water per person, per day, including pets. Without water a person will die in just a few days, children and pets sooner”.

Words are good. Ideas are grand. However, to be ready for the next Sandy, we need to DO something NOW.

Unfortunately, many things get in the way of doing what we know we should. One of these things is ANXIETY–not just ordinary anxiety, but PRIMITIVE ANXIETY.

It’s an approach-avoidance situation. Taking steps toward preparedness can–in the short run–increase anxiety. To reduce anxiety, we put off doing (and even thinking about) what we know we should do.

Anxiety makes it hard to move ahead. However, if we find a way to outsmart our anxiety, being better prepared–in the long run–reduces anxiety.

What have you done to prepare in the event of another disaster? Does anxiety get in the way of doing what you know you should? If so, what would help you over the hump?

There is a Comments section below. I hope to hear from you.