Recently, my daughter’s preschool put on an emergency preparedness seminar. Preparing for a disaster of some kind has been in the back of my mind for a while, but I hadn’t really given it my full attention until I was listening to the Red Cross representative walk us through possible scenarios and realized how entirely unprepared my family is.

Just last week, local news stations shared a warning from the U.S. Geological Survey: There is an 84% chance of a 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Seattle in the next 50 years. Our office is certainly prepared for an event like this — we have trained floor wardens, supply kits in the office and plans for running operations in the event of a disaster — but at home, I’m not nearly so prepared.

Between the USGS warning and the seminar I just attended, I became highly motivated to make sure my family will be taken care of in the event of a major emergency or natural disaster. Now, I’m sharing some of the steps I’ve taken, in the hopes that you too will be inspired to get prepared.

1. Make a plan.

  • Assign an out-of-area contact. After an emergency, it can be easier to get through to an out-of-area number than to make a local call. Appoint someone out of state and make sure everyone in your family has their contact information. Print a copy of their information and keep it in your wallet, in your car, by your home phone.
  • Designate a meeting place. Consider the places you go most frequently. If you’re at work, can you walk home? What if a bridge is down and can’t make it? Have a back-up location as well.
  • Don’t forget about pets, if you have them.
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows your plan.

2. Make a kit for your home. The Red Cross recommends three days’ worth of supplies, and a major catastrophe might require at least seven to 10 days’ worth. You can decide how much you think is prudent, but even three days’ worth is better than none! Here are some lists to get you started:

3. Make a kit for your car. What if you’re on the road when disaster strikes? There’s a checklist for that too – build a car kit.

4. Most cities have a plan too – find out yours.

  • Some have emergency update hotlines that provide recorded updates. Keep that number in your phone and with your kits.
  • Know where the closest shelter will be, and how to get there.

These are just a few of many things you can do to help prepare yourself and your family for a major emergency. Check out these resources for more valuable information:

American Red Cross

What to do to Make it Through