Three Easy Steps to Survive a Disaster

Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 2:43 PM EDT

Bad things happen to good people all the time. Some things we simply can't prevent. I live in Southern California and on Easter we experienced a relatively small, but long earthquake. One moment I was enjoying the holiday with my family and the next I was wondering if this was the "big one." After this, the eruption in Iceland, and the attempted bomb attack in New York City, it forced me to think about my emergency plan, and I want you to think about yours. Use the other 8 hours to plan for the unexpected and protect your family in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

There are a few things you can do today to help protect your families and loved ones. The three steps the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends are (1) Get a kit, (2) Make a plan, and (3) Be informed.

1. Get a Kit
By "get a kit," they are referring to an emergency kit with a few basic supplies. According to Ready America, a partnership between Homeland Security and The Advertising Council, here is what a kit should contain:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both (a good option is the FR600 from
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
There are also several additional items that you should consider for your kit according to Ready America:
  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet (you can't forget about them!)
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Cash and change
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper. When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water.
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
2. Make a Plan
If disaster strikes and your family is not together, it's important to have a plan of action -- how you will contact one another, where you will meet, etc. Download a Make a Plan form from Ready America.

3. Be Informed
It's important to know what's happening locally in an emergency, and if there are special instructions you should follow. An AM/FM radio can keep you informed. You can also go to to get a list of local emergency contacts.

I consider myself an eternal optimist. In my mind, the glass is not half empty or half full, it is well on its way to becoming full. However, it's still important to focus on what could go wrong. The goal of this column is not to worry or scare you. It's simply about being prepared and doing everything you can to protect your family. Create the emergency kit, make a plan, and review the plan with your family a couple of times a year. That's all there is to it!

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    Robert Pagliarini is obsessed with inspiring others to create and empowering them to live life to the fullest by radically changing the way they invest their time and energy. He is the founder of Richer Life, a community of passionate people who want to learn and achieve more in life and at work. He is a Certified Financial Planner and the president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors, a boutique wealth management firm serving sudden wealth recipients and affluent individuals. He has appeared as a financial expert on 20/20, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew's Lifechangers and many others.