September is National Preparedness Month! Last year, Hurricane Sandy took 286 lives, destroyed 15,000 homes, and incurred over $68 billion in damages. With hurricane season rolling in, how are you and your family staying prepared? Take this time to review your emergency plans; whether it’s a natural disaster or house fire, having an emergency plan in place ensures that you and your loved ones stay safe and have a place to turn in times of crisis. Here are some tips to get you started:

DSC_01421. Get Trained in CPR/AED and First Aid

Did you know that 47% of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital, especially in the times of natural disasters? Natural disasters also escalate environmental hazards, such as poisonous gases from leaks, electrical hazards from fallen power lines, proliferation of stray animals from the wild, and fallen debris. These can cause serious injuries if you do not take the proper level of caution and care. Get trained to prepare yourself to care for others who may be victims of heart attacks or injuries from natural disasters. Take an American Heart Association CPR/AED and First Aid class with AMPHS to get trained in the necessary skills to protect you and your family. We offer classes in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

2. Prepare a Shelter-in-Place Emergency Supply Kit

Because public assistance may not be available in all areas following a disaster, emergency supply kits are important to help families ensure self-sufficiency during that period. Not only are kits essential to shelter-in-place at home, they are also helpful for staying in a public shelter or workplace that lacks important necessities. While it is possible to purchase a pre-packaged kit with basic survival items, such as food, water, and first aid supplies, a level of personalization is needed to ensure that your kits are set for any disaster. Here are some recommended items to consider:

Emergency Shelter Kit (Photo Credit: LifeSource)
Emergency Shelter Kit
(Photo Credit: LifeSource)


  • Water: One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.

  • Food: At least a three-day supply of non-perishable, ready-to-eat food for the entire family.

  • Flashlight and extra batteries.

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio with extra batteries.

  • Phone that does not require electricity and/or cell phones with chargers.

  • First aid kit.

  • Whistle or bell to signal for help.

  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air.

  • Ear plugs, for noisy environments.

  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.

  • Moist towelettes, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.

  • Tools, such as wrench or pliers, to turn off utilities and to fix damaged items.

  • Hand crank can opener for food (if kit contains canned food).

  • Map of the local area.

  • Photocopies of identification documents and ATM/credit cards in waterproof, portable containers.

  • Extra sets of house and car keys.

  • Paper and pencil.

Bedding/Clothing/Eating Needs

  • 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.

  • Kits that contain paper cups, plates, plastic utensils, and paper towels.

  • Poncho for rainy weather, blizzards, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.

General Health Needs

  • List of medications members of household take and their dosages; copies of prescription slips.

  • Prescription medications, glasses, and contact lens solution.

  • Iodine tablets or household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper.

  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items (e.g. toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, etc.).

Children Needs

  • Infant formula and diapers.

  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities.

  • Pediatrician contact information.

For Elderly or Disabled Family Members

  • Back-up medical equipment and supplies (e.g. medication, scooter battery, hearing aids and batteries, oxygen, facemasks, gloves). If a family member usually uses a motorized wheelchair, try to have a standard wheelchair for emergencies.

  • Style and serial numbers of medical devices (e.g. pacemakers) and usage instructions.

  • Spare cane or walker, for use especially if one gets lost or broken during an emergency.

  • List of family members’ medications and special medical conditions and/or prescription slips, if available.

Financial / Business Needs

  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. Also consider putting these items in bank safe.

  • Cash or traveler’s checks and extra rolls of change (especially quarters).

  • PDA, laptop, or tablet with chargers.

  • Office telephone /fax/email contact list and personnel roster.

  • Back-up hard drive or USB. Also consider backing up documents in cloud-based systems.

Supplies for Your Vehicle

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • Maps and/or GPS system (rely on this only if car charger works).

  • CPR and first aid kit and manual.

  • White distress flag.

  • Tire repair kit, booster/jumper cables, pump and flares, extra tires.

  • Lightsticks and emergency candles.

  • Bottled water and non-perishable foods such as granola bars; water purification tablets.

  • Seasonal supplies: Winter – blanket, hat, mittens, shovel, sand, tire chains, windshield scraper, florescent distress flag; Summer – sunscreen lotion (SPF 15 or greater), shade items (umbrella, wide brimmed hat, etc).

  • Car phone charger.

  • Crank radio (ideally with phone charging and lantern light); solar radios.

  • [Duplicate] emergency contact lists, medication lists, provider contact information.

3. Pack a Go-Bag

Go-Bag  (Photo Credit: Freebies2Deals)
(Photo Credit: Freebies2Deals)

Go-bags are portable packs that contain a collection of things you will need in case you or your family needs to leave in a hurry. Each member of your family should pack a go-bag. Go-bags should be sturdy and easy to carry, and heavy items should be left at home. Go-bags are available for purchase, but just like emergency supply kits, would benefit from some level of customization. Dig out a couple of old backpacks and start with the following items:

  • Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.)

  • Extra set of car and house keys

  • Copies of credit and ATM cards and cash, especially in small denominations. We recommend you keep at least $50-$100 on hand. Keep a roll of quarters at hand as well.

  • Bottled water and non-perishable food such as energy or granola bars

  • Flashlight (LED flashlights preferred since they have longer life spans)

  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio

  • Extra batteries

  • List of the medications each member of your household takes, why they take them, and their dosages.

  • Medication information and other essential personal items. If you store extra medication in your Go Bag, be sure to refill it before it expires.

  • First-aid kit

  • Contact and meeting place information for your household, and a small regional map

  • Child care supplies or other special care items

  • USB drive or hard drive with important back-up documents (or consider cloud storage options like Dropbox, SugarSync, Box, or Google Drive)

4. Develop a 5-Step Family Preparedness Plan

Emergency Evacuation Plan (Photo Credit: Emergency Plan Experts)
Emergency Evacuation Plan
(Photo Credit: Emergency Plan Experts)

Sit down with your family to create a preparedness plan. Make sure that everyone is aware of it and practices it constantly. Here are the five basic steps to a preparedness plan:

1) Do your homework. Research local hazards in your area and resources to keep you prepared.

2) Create a family disaster plan. Decide on the best escape routes from your home, where to meet, and who you can stay with. Consider creating a “Family Emergency Response Team.”

3) Make a preparedness checklist and periodically update it. Items on the checklist should be done on a regular basis, and can include: teaching family members how to use a fire extinguisher, learning basic first aid, and conducting a home hazard hunt.

4) Practice and maintain your plan. Schedule evacuation drills every six months and replace expired items in your emergency supply kit and go-bag(s).

5) Get involved. Become apart of community preparedness teams like CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) or the Medical Reserve Corps.

5.  Stay Notified.

If you are a NYC resident, here are some ways to keep up-to-date with local emergency notifications.

  • NotifyNYCnotifynyc. Notify NYC is New York City’s emergency messaging program and official source for information about emergency events and important City services.  Sign up to receive free emergency information via email and text.

  • New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM). NYC OEM releases preparedness tips and up-to-date information on disaster relief efforts and evacuation zone maps. ready.govStay updated by regularly visiting their website.

  • Learn to stay prepared and sign up to receive preparedness notifications online.

  • 4FEMA Text Messages. Receive monthly text messages from FEMA on how to stay prepared when emergencies strike.