post off: do you have a household emergency plan?


This Ben Katchor cartoon in the most recent Metropolis Magazine made me laugh, but it also got me thinking about household safety. (Maybe I’ve been watching too much Jericho.) We have the standard smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, but other than that, we haven’t given it much thought. So I’m curious: how extensive is your emergency plan — do you have a three-week stockpile of nonperishable food items? Or, like me, do you not have one at all? –Mary T.

P.S. A good place to get started is American Red Cross: Be Prepared. There are also lots of emergency supply kits online. And just because it’s interesting, Boing Boing recently shared some information on emergency survival for vegetarians.

From our partners

I live in Miami, so having a rudimentary household survival kit is a necessity. I don’t have a three week stockpile, but I make sure my pantry is always stocked with soups, canned tuna and chicken, and crackers. For my cats I always keep an extra bag of food so I can care for them, too.

My immediate emergency plan is not as well thought out. I know where my exits are in case of a fire, which is important since my house has bars on all the windows. But I don’t know how I would manage to corral six cats to carry them out the gated windows with me.

Fred B

I have no formal emergency plan nor do I think we need one. We have a fairly safe and comfortable home with basic supplies from normal living. We have candles, flashlights, and other safety basics (although I could make sure they all had batteries). We could have better emergency route from our upstairs but there are ways to get down if the stairs were blocked.

I think in an urban environment it is a far better plan to understand the public services available to you and to get to know as many neighbors as possible.

It is far more rational and productive use of your time to work to prevent manmade disasters than individually preparing to deal with them.

Tiffany S.

I’m from earthquake country and my husband’s a former Marine so we always have some sort of emergency pack at the ready. Right now we probably have canned oysters (it would have to be a HUGE emergency for me to eat those) and lots of bottled water. Both cars definitely have emergency kits in them.

You really can’t be too prepared. I was in the last big Los Angeles earthquake and my glasses bounced right off the table. I had no idea where they were and I couldn’t see anything. Then I had Lasik surgery and that’s not longer going to be an issue in an emergency!


My house burned down when I was a kid, and I know it is easy to think that it (fire, gas main explosion, earthquake etc.) will never happen to you, but it can. I thought I lived in a safe and comfortable home too, right up until it burned to the ground. Like our man Ben Franklin liked to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I take that to mean a certain degree of individual responsibility.

That said, I’m not as prepared as I should be… we have the smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors, extra water and canned food, and two exits from every room (except our crazy rec room, which it could be argued should have the most exits…;), and flashlights, candles, a supply of firewood and first aid kits/water in the cars (although that was frankly prompted by being old and still playing soccer than disaster).

This prompted me to dust off my own preparedness checklist (I live in Seattle, and like CA, we are earthquake country too, and unlike CA, we are all pretty much in denial about it) and it did have a couple of good tips that anyone can do right now, like entering ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers in your cell phone, learning where your water, gas and electricity shut-offs are (yeah, I know you should already know that, but I lived in my first house for like 5 years before I knew how to shut the water off!) and putting batteries on your next shopping list.

Great topic!


I also live in earthquake country and have emergency kits all stocked and ready. I have distributed the water and supplies throughout the house because you can’t be sure what will be accessible.

Getting ready for the inevitable “big one” was more fun once I realized that I can have a bit of fun in addition to being sensible. After going through the stress of a disaster do you really want to be eating unappetizing foods out of a can or trying to choke down some freeze-died nightmare food? Our food supplies include chocolate, Marcona almonds, dried fruits, luna bars, vacuum packed indian curries, crackers, sardines, chips, organic faux poptarts and vodka (plus food and treats for the dog). Keeping the freezer and pantry well-stocked also helps.

If you’re going to be stuck for 72+ hours with many of the comforts of home unavailable – might as well have a tasty spread and some cocktails.

Also good to remember: have at least $50 in one dollar bills in your emergency kit. In a large natural disaster, ATMs won’t be available and you want to have cash on-hand in case you have to buy something. Having all 1’s eliminates the need to make change or break a large bill.

I also just read about the ICE numbers and programmed several into my cell phone.

Good topic!


Also, keep your purse or wallet in the same place everyday. You don’t want to be looking for it, but you will need you ID and financial info. Many people I know lost homes in tornadoes, and some were able to access their bank accounts the same day from nearby branches because they had their wallets. They did not have to wait for assistance checks to get hotel rooms, clean clothes, and food. Nor did they have to go to a shelter. They were also able to begin working with their insurance companies more quickly because they were in a more stable situation at a hotel than they would have been in at a high school gym. They were also able to help friends and family who were not as fortunate.

My husband and I do have food storage and safety plans.

First off, emergencies don’t always have to be natural disasters, they can also be loss of employment, accident, or injury that prevent you from working.

My husband and I keep by the front door in plastic totes ready to roll if something happens quickly, say a fire that we have to evacuate from. In the tubs are changes of clothes (that are rotated to make sure they fit), socks, bras, shoes, stash of cash, a small emergency kit, copies of birth certificates, bank account numbers, checks, a spare ATM card, and other important documents.
There are granola bars and a few canned goods, bottled water, basically enough food for 72 hours if we have to evacuate home for whatever reason.
And I can’t forget some blankets and toiletries as well.

We also have an abbreviated version of this in our car in case we are stranded. In that kit there are also things like flares, emergency numbers, a prepaid cell phone, top up card, small games or a deck of cards, a cell charger and other roadside needs.

We then in our basement have enough food to live on for a year, plus water for two people (and our 2dogs), larger emergency medical kit, cash (what happens if you are out of power and there are no atms?),
We also keep on hand a stock of toiletries, soaps, detergents, and other household needs.

It doesn’t take much per trip to the grocery store to start your own food storage system, and it’s always nice to have it on hand.

We have ours planned out so it takes up as little as space as possible so as to not reduce our floor plan by that much!

martha in mobile

On a daily basis: smoke detectors, c.m. detectors; meet at the mailbox in case of fire
Because living on the Gulf Coast provides us with a “gracious plenty” of hurricanes, June 1 is the day I go through my inventory of batteries and canned/boxed food and beverages (including beer and wine). Also fuel for the coleman stove/charcoal for the smoker; check the water containers/tarps for leaks, re-inventory the window plywood/clips. Replenish the emergency cash stash. Update needed scanned documents on flash drive as well as hard copies of needed documents kept in safety deposit box.

During the season: car gas tanks kept full, extra pet food in house, etc. After the hurricane passes, if we are out of power, we fire up the smoker, cook a mess of food before it goes bad and have a block party Whoever brings a generator gets the first batch of margaritas!

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