Whether or not your family’s emergency preparedness was tested by our area’s 2018 wildfires, the new year is a great time to step up your game. My Altadena neighborhood recently had a “Map Your Neighborhood” meeting so we can help each other during an emergency. Then Ken Kondo, emergency program manager at L.A. County’s Office of Emergency Management Chief Executive Office, walked me through the “County of Los Angeles Emergency Survival Guide,” an information-dense 98-page notebook he calls the “fill-in-the-blanks disaster plan.”
What I think many people need, though, is a cheat sheet to help them get started. Here’s what I learned from Kondo and our Map Your Neighborhood coordinators:
Be in the know. Sign up with alert. lacounty.gov (or readyventuracounty.org/vc-alert in Ventura County) to receive a recorded telephone message, text or email when there is an emergency in your community. Also sign up for emergency notifications through the city where you live and ask about emergency plans at your child’s school.
Be geared up. After earthquakes and other disasters, people are injured by stepping on broken glass, by falling objects and when trying to clear debris – especially in the dark. Have sturdy shoes, work gloves, a hard hat or spare bicycle helmet and a flashlight on hand (preferably under your bed).
Be ready to go. Have a “go bag” with the supplies you’ll need if you have to evacuate quickly:
- Important phone numbers and out-of-state contacts to keep your family in touch if local phone service is overwhelmed;
- Cash and credit cards;
- Important documents such as your Social Security card, driver’s license, passport and insurance information;
- A change of clothing for each family member;
- Personal hygiene items;
- Prescription medications and back-up prescription glasses;
- Family photos (and photos of pets) for identification purposes in case you are separated.
Your bag should also include first-aid items and anything you need to care for infants, family members with disabilities and pets. Add a checklist of family heirlooms and other items you would like to bring if you have time to pack.
Be ready to shelter in place. At home, store:
- Water (1 gallon per person or pet per day) and food for three to 10 days;
- A first-aid kit and manual;
- A portable, battery-operated radio;
- A fire extinguisher;
- Sanitation and hygiene supplies.
Be ready to respond. Plan escape routes from your home and neighborhood, have a family communication plan and off-site meeting place in case you are separated and know where to take your pets if they cannot stay with you. Know how to shut off the gas, electricity and water to your home and have the tools on hand to do so. Know which local radio stations, social media and websites to monitor for updates on your situation.
There’s lots more you can do to prepare, but I’m hoping the above is quick and simple enough to get you started. Keep going by downloading the Emergency Survival Guide at lacounty.gov/emergency. The site also includes information on preparing your neighborhood and on county preparation events.