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Survival of the Fittest

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan last month have certainly shifted my thinking toward emergency preparedness. Although home organization most often centers around clutter-free surfaces and tidy drawers, being prepared for an emergency is also part of getting your house in order. Here are some important things to do before disaster strikes:

Start by creating a list in your phone or address book of important numbers to call in case of an emergency. Include a list of family members who would need to be contacted. If this is a paper list, consider laminating it and keeping it near the home phone.

Most phones nowadays are electric, so many of my clients keep an old-style rotary dial phone handy in case the power goes out. This especially makes sense if you have sketchy cell service at your home.

Backpacks (the day pack size), one for each family member, should be stocked with emergency supplies. Store a couple in the trunk of your car, since getting stuck on a cold lonely road can go from bummer to emergency with the arrival of a few feet of snow. The pack should contain a blanket, flashlight and batteries, matches and lighters, a few small water bottles, nutrition bars, toilet paper, a change of clothing, warm socks and a poncho. If you have extra medication, such as asthma inhalers, put them in. Those instant hand-warmers that come in small chemical packets are also a good idea.

At home, make sure you have at least some canned and boxed food stored. This stuff doesn’t keep forever, so store only food you will actually eat and replace it on a regular basis. One gallon of water per person per day is a rule of thumb, so have enough stored for each family member for three days. If you have room, store a little extra. A good first aid kit (you can buy them stocked) is also a must have.

It’s possible you will never have to use your pack in an emergency, but it is important to use and replace any water, food and medications on a regular basis. Using the perishables and replacing them every three months should be enough to ensure that they remain fresh and viable, but check the expiration dates to be sure. Make sure your children know where their packs are. Stashing them under each individual’s bed is not a bad idea.

A battery-operated radio and extra batteries are good to have in one or two locations (one in an emergency pack and one at home). Better yet: a solar-powered radio. Those flashlights that work on a little hand crank power system are wonderful too — the less we depend on batteries the better.

Get your CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certificate and renew it regularly.

Copies of your driver’s license, insurance policies and passport should also be kept in a sealed plastic bag in your emergency pack.

Don’t run on empty. Fill up your vehicles and keep your phone and other gear charged. You want to always be in ready position for life’s curveballs.

There are many, many things you can do to prepare for an emergency; these are just a few things to get you started. Your home insurance agent should be able to review your home and make suggestions for safety strategies as well as emergency procedures. For more information, contact ready.gov, fema.gov or redcross.org. I was really impressed with Napa City’s website as well. Go to cityofnapa.org, where you can find information on emergency prevention and preparedness.