We are a small family-owned business. We sincerely appreciate your support!

How to Prepare for an Emergency

31 May, 2002

A natural disaster can happen at any time. Some disasters give warning like a storm preceding a flood. Others, like earthquakes or tsunamis, give no warning. Once a disaster happens, the time to prepare is gone and all you can do is cope. Take the next few minutes to examine what you can do to prepare. Anything you do today to will be like making a deposit in your survivability savings account for withdrawal in tough times.

TheEpicenter.com has composed a list of recommended supplies for your car, home, and work location. At a minimum, you should prepare to be isolated and on your own for at least 3 days and nights, but preparing for two weeks or longer is not a bad idea. There will likely be the loss of utilities after a disaster. Power outages are a given, but water may be scarce as well. The phone system may be inoperable. Your only source of news will be the car radio, assuming your local radio station has generator equipment. There might not be medical help for minor cuts or broken bones for several days.

With the loss of power comes side effects you may not think of. There will be no gasoline available. (Without power, there is no way to pump the gas.) You might be far from home. Your car's heater might be your only source of heat. The money in your pocket will have to last until power is returned. Some supplies may be available, but buying some items like a manual can opener will be impossible. Cash cards will be useless if power or phone lines are lost. Many stores will have a hard time opening since items don't have prices on them anymore, thanks to scanning cash registers! You get the picture.

How to Prepare for an Emergency

You could be just about anywhere when a disaster strikes; in the bathroom, driving to the store, sitting at your desk at work, or in the back yard. But remember, you will most likely be at, or near one of the following:

  • At Home
  • Your Car
  • At Your Workplace

You need to have supplies on hand at each location. It may sound like overkill, but you can't expect all three locations to be unscathed if a large disaster strikes. If you store provisions at each location, you will cover most of the likely situations. Another note: pets may not be allowed into shelters for health and space reasons. Prepare an emergency pen for pets in the home that includes, at a minimum, a three (3) day supply of dry food and a large container of water.

Some Things You Can Do To Prepare

In each section below we have provided a list of "things to do" to prepare, as well as a list of recommended supplies. The largest list is for items slanted mostly for your home. After all, home is where you have the largest space available for your supplies. This is an ideal list and we at TheEpicenter.com realize that some of these items might be a bit out of reach for many. We recommend starting small and slowly building up your supplies over time as your finances permit. Look the list over, and try to understand why some of the items are listed. What we all really need to survive is food, water, and shelter. Beyond these three categories, everything else is just for comfort. But again, anything you can put away now may be greatly appreciated if you are ever in time of need!

Prepare At Home

Home is where you can do the most to be prepared. But remember that you are only home for about half of the hours in a day. You must also be prepared at work, and have additional supplies in your car.

  • Strap appliances to walls or floor, especially the water heater. Remember your water heater is a large source of water, and weighs several hundred pounds when full. A four hundred pound water heater will break gas lines on its way to the floor. Gas appliances are a real danger in an earthquake, and are the cause of most fires after a quake.
  • Verify your house is bolted to its foundation.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Replace solid gas lines with flexible lines on stoves, water heaters, and dryers.
  • Nail plywood on top of ceiling joists inside the attic to protect people from chimney bricks that could fall through the ceiling.

Know your house:

  • Find out where the utility shutoffs are for water, power, and gas.
  • Place a flashlight or an emergency light next to your breaker panel.
  • Place a wrench in your water meter box located near the street.
  • Place or attach a "4-in-1 Tool" on your gas meter for turning off the gas.
  • Evaluate each room in your house. Ask yourself: what will fall on my head, or will keep me from getting out if it fell? Secure anything you find. Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.
  • Fasten shelves securely to walls and place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
  • Store household chemicals on a bottom shelf of a closed cabinet. Never store bleach and ammonia in the same cabinet. These chemicals, when mixed, will create a toxic gas as deadly as any ever created.
  • Identify the best and worst places to be in your house. Remember that you might not have any choice as to where you will be located when a disaster strikes. The best places inside the house are under major beams that are secured to the rest of the structure, or in strong doorways, or inner structural walls. The worst places are in front of windows, or near fireplaces and chimneys.
  • Make an emergency plan including escape routes and meeting places. Choose both a nearby meeting place and an out of state relative to be your check in contact for the family.
  • Test your emergency plan with all members of the family present.
  • Plug emergency lighting into selected outlets. (These flashlights are constantly charged, and turn on automatically when power fails, or when the units are unplugged.)
  • Keep all tree and shrub limbs trimmed so they don't come in contact with wires.
  • Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying wood.
  • Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.

Know your neighbors and neighborhood:

  • Contact your local school district to obtain policy regarding how children will be released from school.
  • Know the location of the nearest police and fire stations, as well as the route to the nearest hospital emergency room.
  • Meet with neighbors and find out who has medical experience.
  • If you are taking this preparedness thing seriously, share this information with the households next to you. The more people you can convince to prepare, the greater your group resources. Remember that you will be called upon by all around you for help, especially by those who didn't take warnings seriously. (Remember Noah?)
  • Give spare keys to your trusted neighbors. Show them where the utility shutoffs are and provide them with a list of contact phone numbers.
  • Ask how to turn off your neighbors utilities.

Know your family:

  • Hold a home evacuation drill to test your emergency plan with all members of the family present.
  • Teach your children how to get help from neighbors and 911.
  • Keep photos of family members in wallet in case they turn up missing.
  • Teach household members how to turn off utilities.
  • In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster.
  • Ask an out of state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
Supplies to Store At Home


  • 30 gallons per person (2 gallons per person per day for 1 week). This might sound excessive, but look at your water bill this month! This figure assumes that when at home, you will occasionally want a sponge bath, or to cook something like pasta or rice. You might even wash your hair or clothes, and will eventually flush a toilet. Large food grade 55 gallon plastic drums are ideal for bulk water storage. A good location is in your detached garage. Remember that your water heater in the house is typically 50 gallons, and may be used if your dwelling survives.
  • Additional water may be purchased in single use plastic bottles, and should be stored away from the house or garage. Remember that these water bottles will need to be rotated out since they have a limited shelf life unless water treatment is used. Note: Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment (treats up 60 gallons of water) is available here at TheEpicenter.com.
  • Another, perhaps easier, solution is to store 5-Year Shelf Life Coast Guard Approved Water Rations (available at Amazon.com) or 50-Year Shelf Life BLUE CAN WATER available here at TheEpicenter.com.


  • Canned goods - ready to eat soups, meats, veggies and fruit. The same type of food you normally have on hand. Make a point to start buying extra of whatever you normally buy, to dedicate to your supplies. Date the top of anything you buy with a black permanent marker.
  • Plan for a minimum of three (3) cans per person per day for a week (about two mixed cases per person). Store these items in suitcases near corners of the house. Additional food should be stored in the garage, and at another location away from the dwelling. Pay close attention to how the packaging will hold up to damp environments. Cans will rust unless you protect them. A good way to protect an item for damp storage is to put it in a zip lock bag, then pack it inside a food grade plastic bucket (with lid). Remember to maximize canned goods with moisture content like ready to eat soup. Don't forget a manual can opener! No power, no way to open cans!
  • MRE's meals ready to eat. Remember, the key is to distribute your supplies at various locations. These may be stored in the worst of conditions, but at a temperature lower than 70 degrees for longest shelf life. MREs are available here at TheEpicenter.com.
  • Long shelf life Freeze dried or Dehydrated foods. But remember, these items require water. To see our current inventory of Mountain House and Peak Refuel Freeze Dried Foods, please visit our Freeze Dried Food at TheEpicenter.com.
  • Pet foods.
  • And snacks. Chips, chocolate bars, cookies...


  • Barbecue grill
  • 40 pounds charcoal
  • 2 cans of starter fluid
  • Or... a propane unit with two 20-pound containers of propane (or a propane camp stove
  • Pot(s) and pan(s) for cooking
  • Kitchen knife
  • Silverware; spoon, fork
  • Drinking cups
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • Zip lock bags
  • Can Opener!
  • Aluminum foil. A must! Can be formed into just about anything you might need.


  • Two person tube tent minimum (larger size better)
  • Wool blanket or sleeping bag
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Instant hand/body warming pads
  • Propane-powered heater, 20 pound cylinder mounted


  • First aid kit
  • We also recommend taking a first aid class including CPR
  • First aid manual
  • Extra prescription medications
  • Aspirin or Ibuprofen


  • Flashlight with 2 sets of spare alkaline batteries and one spare bulb. Note: LED flashights and run much longer on a set of batteries. Solar-powered flashlights are even better but you should have standard flashlights standing by just in case.
  • Lantern battery, kerosene or propane powered. Store fuel or batteries, but never use fuel based lighting until you are sure gas leaks are eliminated.
  • Long life candles (enclosed in a jar, we do not recommend "free-standing" candles)
  • Waterproof matches or lighter


  • AM/FM radio. Store at least three (3) sets of alkaline batteries for standard units. Inexpensive radios are available at many retail and big box stores (i.e., Walmart). The best radio is one that has rechargeable NI-cads built in, and may be charged with the built-in solar cell, or by cranking on a built in generator handle.
  • Pen, pencil, and paper pad. Store in zip lock bag.
  • Stamped postcards. Store in zip lock bags. Your house might be gone, but if you still have a mailbox, the mail will continue service. An easy way to stay in touch with family far away.
  • List of important phone numbers, including your out of state focal
  • Weather radio or police scanner. A bit expensive, but a weather radio is a must in tornado or hurricane country.
  • Lots of folks are turning to Ham radios for emergency communications. For more information about emergency communications, please take a look at our blog post on the subject: An Introduction to CB, GRMS, and Ham Radio.


  • Fire extinguisher - large 5-20 pound, type ABC
  • Crow bar, 1 ft min.
  • Leather gloves
  • Multi-function pocket tool or knife
  • Plastic tarp, 9x12 ft min
  • Nylon rope, 100 foot (or Paracord)
  • Duct tape
  • A multi-purpose tool for shutting of gas and water main valves
  • Portable generator. Make your selection based on what really needs to be powered and the run time of the model. Our recommendation is for a maximum size of 5 HP, 2250 Watt 120 vac only. To get a 230 vac generator will require an 8 HP motor, and your run time will drop in half. Typically, the only items in your house that will require 230 vac is an electric heating system, an electric water heater, or an electric range. What you really need to power is a refrigerator, a few lights, and a radio.
  • Power converter for running 120 volt items from car battery.


  • Portable chemical toilet and disinfectant crystals. Store in garage away from house. You will only need this if your dwelling is damaged, or if your water supply is limited.
  • Toilet tissue rolls. Store inside portable toilet.
  • Garbage bags. Can also be used as toilet liners.
  • Pre-moistened towelettes
  • All purpose liquid soap
  • Tooth brush and paste
  • Disposable razor
  • Feminine hygiene items
  • Latex gloves
  • Gallon of disinfectant

Items for Baby (if needed)

  • Baby formula and plastic bottles
  • Large box disposable diapers
  • Pre-moistened wet wipes
  • Baby blanket and knit cap
  • Two or three complete change of baby clothes


  • At least one complete change of clothing for each person
  • Emergency poncho
  • Pair of boots each person
  • Pocket change. $6.50 in quarters fit in a plastic 35 mm film container nicely
  • $50 cash minimum, in ones, fives, and tens
  • Duplicate credit cards
  • Photo copies of ID
  • Spare checks
  • Playing cards
  • Spare keys

Prepare Your Car

  • Always keep your gas tank full! Fill it when it reaches 1/2 a tank. You will thank yourself the first time you are stuck in a traffic jam in the dead of winter. (A few years ago in my home town of Seattle, a winter storm took us by surprise and crippled the city with abandoned vehicles. Most of them ran out of gas while waiting for accidents to be cleared from the roads.)
  • Think of your car's trunk as a big steel supply cabinet. Keep your supplies in the trunk along with other items like tools, jumper cables and spare tire.
  • Even if you are at home when a disaster strikes, and your home is well stocked, you may still need the supplies in your car. Your house may not be safe to enter, or may catch fire after a disaster like an earthquake (like many houses in Kobe or the Honshu District of Japan, or the Marina District of San Francisco).
  • Your car will be one of your most important resources after a disaster strikes. Keep it mechanically sound, and pay close attention to the exhaust system. A leaking exhaust system could kill.
  • Replace your battery every 2-3 years. In an emergency, your car battery will need to run the radio and heater for extended periods.

Have a mechanic check the following items on your car to keep it ready:

  • Battery
  • Antifreeze
  • Wipers and windshield washer fluid
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Lights and flashing hazard
  • Exhaust system
  • Heater
  • Brakes
  • Defroster
  • Make sure the tires have adequate tread

Supplies to Store in Your Car

Components should be placed in a good quality backpack. Store backpack in trunk of car.

  • Emergency water rations (Six 4.225 oz packets, minimum), available at Amazon.com
  • Food calorie bars (3600, 3-day recommended), available at Amazon.com.
  • MREs meals ready to eat, three full meals, minimum — available here at TheEpicenter.com.
  • MRE chemical heaters, three minimum (included with full meals)
  • Emergency poncho
  • Tube tent
  • AM/FM radio with batteries (solar powered model recommended)
  • Flashlight with batteries (wind-up dynamo crank models recommended)
  • Matches or lighter
  • Emergency mylar blanket (aka "Space Blanket")
  • First aid kit / medical supplies
  • Can opener
  • Multi-purpose pocket tool or camping knife
  • Hand/body warming pads
  • Water purification tablets or giardia water filter straw, both available at Amazon.com
  • Multi tip screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Leather work gloves
  • Map of local area
  • Pocket change
  • $50 cash, in ones, five's, and tens (keep locked in a safe location!)
  • Two garbage bags
  • Latex gloves
  • Pen, pencil, and paper pad. Store in zip lock bag
  • List of important phone numbers, including your out of state contacts (keep in a safe location)
  • Rain gear and extra clothes
  • Small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels
  • Small shovel
  • Booster cables
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag

Prepare At Work

  • Read your company's evacuation plan! Note the designated meeting locations for after an evacuation.
  • Each time you enter a room, take note of the exit routes and locations of fire extinguisher and medical kits.
  • Note locations of stairways as you walk from location to location.
  • Keep your own personal supplies in your desk in a single pack of some kind that you can access quickly. Along with your supplies, store a pair of walking shoes.
  • Be sure you have composed a card to carry in your wallet or purse with important phone numbers including the number of your out of state phone contact.
  • Keep the area under your desk free of waste-paper baskets and the like. This 6 square foot area might be home during a few traumatic moments.
  • If you are not at your desk when something happens, don't count on being able to make it back. Store additional supplies in your car (see below).

Supplies to Store at Work

Take a look around your work site. You will find that state and federal regulations have required your employer to have fire extinguishers and first aid kits at key locations.

Some employers are beginning to place chemical light sticks and other emergency supplies in some areas as well, but you should probably plan for the worst. You need the supplies to be on your own for a minimum of three days. It may take you that long to get home, and don't count on your car being accessible especially if you park in a building parking structure.

Items that you may want to consider to have on hand at work include:

Affiliate Disclosure Statement: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means that we may earn a commission or compensation if you click on the link or make a purchase using the link. When you make a purchase, the price you pay will be the same whether you use the affiliate link or go directly to the website using a non-affiliate link. By using our affiliate links, you are helping our website, and we genuinely appreciate your support!

Epicenter Supplies LLC is a participant in affiliate programs. When you click on any affiliate link or ad on our site, and are taken to a third party website, please check that site’s privacy policy if you want to learn how your personal information is used by that site.