“We just got here, Mommyo. Why are you packing all those bags?”

Last week, as I was sitting down for a bit of pre-dinner reading, I had what I thought was a bout of dizziness. Then one of my books toppled over, and I figured out that what was actually rocking me in my chair was my first large-enough-to-be-felt California earthquake. (Little quakes happen all the time — QuakeFeed tells me that there have been four earthquakes magnitude 1.7 or smaller within five miles of my house in the past four days. But most people only feel the magnitude 2.5 and bigger ones.)

That, combined with the wildfires raging in Northern California and the news out of Puerto Rico, has me thinking about disaster preparedness.

Moving is the perfect time to revisit your disaster planning

When we moved to Chicago in 2013, my husband set up a set of emergency backpacks and supplies based on the most common types of natural disasters in the Midwest (tornadoes, maybe snow, sometimes floods). Here in California, the disasters feel more apocalyptic (fast-moving wildfires and potentially massive earthquakes), so we wanted to rethink our emergency supplies accordingly.

Settling into a new home is a wonderful time to update your emergency bags. After all, when you’re unpacking boxes by the hundreds already, what’s the harm in sorting through a few more?

Four years ago, my husband worked mostly on hunches when setting up our bug-out bags, but this time we’ve been using the Department of Homeland Security’s emergency preparedness website.  I don’t know if you’ve been to Ready.gov lately, but it’s been really helpful for us.

Ready.gov keeps you focused on the essentials

Ready.gov covers the basics of surviving various natural disasters, such as tornadoeswildfires, and earthquakes, as well as man-made catastrophes such as active shooter situations, bioterrorism, and cybersecurity attacks.

Different types of emergencies require different survival strategies, so Ready.gov provides a handy worksheet to help parents think through the various possibilities and identify options that will work given their individual circumstances.

Elsewhere on the site, you’ll find instructions for building an emergency kit for your home, workplace, and car; making a plan to find shelter in an emergency; identifying an evacuation route; and figuring out how your family will communicate if they become separated.

Don’t wait for the tornado warning. Get the basics in place now. 

There’s a lot to sort through when it comes to disaster planning, which is why it’s important to begin working on it before disaster strikes.

And, as I’ve learned this week, once you think the planning is done, it’s pretty important to review your plans and supplies every so often to make sure the plans are still relevant and the batteries, food, and first aid supplies are still fresh. Oh, and that the kids’ clothes still fit the kid in question. Ahem.

I’m about halfway through the process. The bug-out bags are mostly built, but I’ve got some of the document preservation and evacuation planning work still to go. Even though I’m not done, it’s been oddly liberating to work on disaster planning this week.

I had thought that disaster planning would cause a string of sleepless, anxiety-laden nights in which I dwelled on all the things over which I have no control. But it’s turned out to be quite liberating. I am much more comfortable going about my day-to-day life, knowing that if disaster strikes, my family will have a plan and (hopefully) a set of well-staged supplies to see us through.

Related Links: 

Remaining Box Count:

  • Downstairs: 31
  • Upstairs: 70
  • Garage: Still to be discovered


    • But that’s the beauty of California. The disasters here are so very apocalyptic at some point you have to just say, well, either that bug out bag will be good enough or it won’t, and move on.


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