Are YOU Prepared?

— Written By Rachel Monteverdi and last updated by

Are You Prepared?

A small group of Cooperative Extension professionals were returning home after facilitating a statewide Essential Life Skills for Military Families training when the hurricane hit. The rain began pouring down in buckets and the 50 mile per hour wind moved the car from side to side. One Agent had diabetes and started feeling queasy. She didn’t have any extra medication for the trip home. Another became dumbfounded as she realized her emergency kit was in the garage. She took it out of the trunk a week ago to make room for materials. A third person drove behind the two. She wanted to follow her colleagues since her phone battery had died and her charger was in her husband’s car.

It happens every day; close calls and brushes with potential emergencies. The question is: what would you do if you were in a real emergency situation? Are you prepared? When Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast, it was roaring and ready to do damage. Unfortunately, not every family was prepared for the 80+ mile per hour wind, tremendous rain, generator issues, hospital closings, transportation shut downs, gas leaks and fires. Fuel and raw sewage flowed freely. Those who chose not to evacuate when they got the call were now told to wait until sunrise. No one would be there to help them. It was just too dangerous.

As the king of your castle, are you prepared to face a hurricane, fire, flood, tornado or other natural disaster with your family? Do you have what it takes to survive if the electricity goes out and the water is contaminated? It’s not an impossible situation; it just takes a little planning and forethought – now.

First, let’s talk about water. You need to have one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation. In addition, if the water is contaminated and you have electricity, put it in a pot and bring it to a roaring boil it for at least one minute to ensure it’s safe. Do you have a bottle of plain 5.25% or 6% liquid-chlorine bleach (no fragrances, color safe or other additives) and a dropper? You may need to use a little bleach, let the water stand, check the smell and repeat, or throw it away, depending (see for more specifics).

Next, for food you will need at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food per person, infant and pet. Please do not forget the manual can opener. Remember, if it’s in the refrigerator, it may not be safe to eat and if food is in the freezer, it’s only a matter of time before it will go bad. The fact sheets on food safety can be found here:

Now that we have food and water, do we have a way to connect to the outside world? A battery powered or hand crank radio and NOAA Weather Radio would probably come in handy. Make a note to buy extra batteries for this and your flashlights. In addition, if you need to communicate with others, a cell phone with solar or hand crank charger may be of use.

Our senior citizens and children might find a whistle invaluable if they need to alert rescue personnel or neighbors for help. In fact, if your home was damaged and someone became hurt, would you have a first aid kit to aid them? How about prescriptions and other types of medication?

I don’t know if you saw the helicopter rescues or the babies born in the dark when the hospital generators failed during hurricane Sandy, but I sure wondered if someone had a paper copy of vital records nearby. Seriously, if a member of the family has medical devices or medical conditions, please keep copies of vital records in two locations. I often tell folks to consider mailing a copy to an out of town relative so they can fax it or send it electronically if a fire or flood were to destroy your home.

Extension professionals instruct military personnel to inventory their possessions and send a copy to family members for safe keeping. A couple of years ago our family had a tornado rattle our house. Before it did, we opened every cabinet and took pictures of every nook and cranny. Within moments we were able to upload those pictures to a secure website and send links to relatives. Ten minutes later we heard the sound of a train rolling about a block away. If that tornado had destroyed our home as it did so many others, we would have had a copy of our possessions for the insurance company.

Thankfully, the damage was minimal to our home but power lines were down everywhere! As we drove to our small town store, we were grateful to have a full tank of gas and cash on hand for this type of emergency. Be reminded, if electricity goes out credit cards won’t work, roads may be blocked and you will need to be cautious when approaching downed lines.

For our four-legged friends in the family, keep veterinarian records to prove vaccinations are current and ask to have a microchip imbedded in your animals to locate them if they run off or become separated from you during a disaster. Ensure pets have IDs and gather their supplies. Consider contacting the animal shelter to get additional information on their specific procedures. Keep in mind pets are not typically permitted in emergency shelters as they may affect the safety or health of others.

As you can see, there is a great deal to cover in this topic area. Your next goal is to develop your Family Emergency Plan, taking into account the needs of elderly family members, those with disabilities and your animals. If you own a small business, call 496-3344 to sign up to attend our upcoming Ready Business Emergency Preparedness course on November 16th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Franklin County Cooperative Extension. There is a $40 fee.

Otherwise, take a look at the below, think about what you might buy family members for Christmas and stay safe!        #######

Rachel Harris Monteverdi is the Franklin County Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, a division of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. The Family & Consumer Sciences department incorporates prenatal to end-of-life programs. Priorities for North Carolina citizens include:  Family & Parenting Education; Balancing Work & Family Workshops; Academic Success; Leadership; Elder Care; Active Aging; Planning for the Future; Energy Conservation; Emergency Management and more. Call 919-496-3344, email or visit for additional information.

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