In case of emergency

Sep 3, 2008 at 11:45 p.m. ET

Several weeks ago, a tornado warning was issued for my county. A funnel cloud had been spotted and the suspect cell was heading straight for my town. This warning was an unusual event -- I do not live in Tornado Alley.

Emergency KIt

Because I had once lived in Tornado Alley, I had a vague idea of what to do: Get to the basement. Our basement is not a finished space, so I quickly gathered a few comfort items (even though I knew the weather cell was not likely to make it to us intact) and prepared to take the kids and the animals downstairs. The warning was canceled, thankfully, as the cell fizzled out - but I realized I was woefully unprepared if I were to be presented with a more urgent situation.

It's not pleasant to think about being caught in a crisis situation. Not at all. Unless one has been through it, it's hard to think about and understand fully what it might mean to endure a disaster whether natural or man-made, and therefore what it means to be prepared.

Preparing for an emergency is a two-parter: actually thinking about what you would do in various situations may be harder than the physical preparations, really. Putting together an emergency kit of survival basics is not hard. Thinking about viable contingency plans and communicating them effectively to family is quite different.

Thinking, planning... and list-making

When planning for an emergency, there are many things to think about. Most of all, your family needs to agree upon a plan - and consider the relative ages of family members in their ability to remember and follow the plan.

All of the family for whom it is appropriate should have a list of contact phone numbers, including someone non-local with whom all of you will check in. If a meeting place is appropriate, choose one and define how all of you will get there.

Do you know where all your emergency and/or important legal documents are? Can you get to them? Do you have identifying information on all family members? Health insurance numbers?

Individually, brainstorm how you might respond and what you might do in an emergency. What are the pros and cons of that response and can they be addressed? It may seem a little dour, but better a dour few moments and have some idea of what you will do when a real emergency happens than having no idea what to do.


Putting together an emergency kit Will cost you time and money, but not too much of either. You may well have many of the items already, and can gather them fairly quickly. For the rest, one trip to a general store should do it.

There are many lists and websites out there covering what should go in an emergency kit. Most vary by bits - but most do include things like water, some food, battery operated radios and spare batteries, flashlights, a first aid kit, prescription medications, and emergency cash or traveler's checks. Additional items also vary according to the site you read, but can include blankets and other comfort items.

I finally have a basic emergency kit at my house, and the kids have memorized some phone numbers. It's a start. While I hope I never have another tornado warning in our area, we're bound to have something happen sooner or later. At least now I'll be a little prepared.

What have you and your family done to prepare for possible emergencies?

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