Written by Steve Osborn


Is your family ready for an emergency, such as an earthquake, an extended power failure, a blizzard, a house fire, chemical spill, or other emergency?


In a serious earthquake, police, fire, public works, and utility crews will be overwhelmed, and will go to the areas where the needs are most serious, such as a collapsed multi-story building downtown. We will be on our own for initial response in such an event. It could be days or even weeks (or perhaps months if there is an attack on the electrical system) before we get help from outside, or before essential services are restored, and stores reopen. What we do for our families can make a big difference. Each of us will be the emergency response.

We need to prepare now. We can’t wait until a disaster occurs to get ready. If we prepare now, we can face the future with less anxiety. Here are some recommended steps that you and your family can take now.

At this Christmas season, why not buy practical gifts that might be need needed by your family and friends in an emergency, such as long underwear, a good hat, gloves, wool socks; a reliable LED headlamp and AAA batteries; candles or kerosene lantern, a small FM radio with ear buds; a manual can opener; a backpack, water purifier, sleeping bag, blanket for the car; a generator, wood stove, storage battery, or solar panels in case the electricity goes out; ready-to-eat packaged meals, canned or dry foods which will keep, a small efficient rocket cook stove, or a cook stove that powers a fan which can generate electricity for small devices such as headlamps or cell phones – all of these items are useful and will be appreciated in an emergency, or perhaps for recreation or other needs.


1. Make a family emergency plan for various emergencies, such as fires, blizzards, earthquakes, etc. Discuss where you'll meet, how to pick up children at school (local public elementary schools don’t allow children to leave in an emergency until a parent or other authorized person comes to pick them up). Include pets in your planning: emergency shelters for families generally don’t allow pets, which was the main reason people didn’t leave New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. Have food, medicines, a leash, collar and tags, a bowl, and a kennel for your dog or cat. Don’t let the animal run free after an emergency; animals can be anxious in a disaster. A fire emergency requires knowing how to get out from each room in the house, and meeting at a place near the home, such as the front lawn, teaching children how to get out of bedrooms at night, feeling a door before they open it if they smell smoke, and so forth. Have an out-of-area (outside the Wasatch Front) contact to call and report to in an emergency. Each family member should have that number in his or her purse or wallet, on a cell phone, or memorized. It's not a bad idea to carry three quarters to call with in case pay phones are the only way to communicate. (Cell phones are usually overwhelmed, and standard residential and business land line phone service often doesn't work in an emergency.) Some cell phone services dedicate certain lines just to text messaging, so if a voice call doesn’t get through, a text message might. Your family plan should consider what you would do for shelter if your home was damaged by an earthquake, or otherwise unusable: Can you stay in the garage, with a neighbor whose home is likely to be standing, in a tent, or with a relative? How will you keep warm? Do you have extra firewood for your fireplace or wood stove, or fuel for a kerosene heater, or gasoline for a generator? Gasoline is unstable, and storage of flammable liquids in the home or garage may void your home insurance policy.

2. Make a 72-hour emergency kit for each family member that you can grab and take with you if you have to leave your home. Don’t leave it in the basement, as in an earthquake the basement may not be accessible. The best 72-hour kits are those you assemble yourself; the commercial ones usually have substandard quality items in them, and aren’t tailored to your needs. Remember, you may be out of your home for more than just three days. Think about what you’d need to survive if you couldn’t get back to your home - it’s like camping out in the city: you’d need food that takes little or no preparation, water, and water purification measures, a flashlight and batteries, a first aid kit, a portable radio, soap and other basic toiletries, medications, warm clothing, sleeping bag or blankets, sleeping pad, perhaps a tent, and similar items. There is a lot of information on the Web about this. You can also make an emergency kit for your car. Experts recommend keeping a sturdy pair of shoes next to your bed, with your eyeglasses and a flashlight in it in case there is an earthquake or other emergency in the night. The most common injury in earthquakes is cut feet.

3. Build up at least a three-month supply of food, fuel, and some water for the family - items that don’t require refrigeration, and keep well. If you can’t afford to buy it all at once, you can buy some extra items each time you go shopping. Over time, build up to a larger supply of food; experts say that it is likely in the near future that our electrical system will be attacked by computer hackers, and that large parts of the U.S. electric grid will be knocked out for weeks, months, or as long as two years. See Ted Koppel’s new book Lights Out for more on this. Consider that you’ll need at least a gallon of water for each family member just for drinking, cooking and sanitation per day; more is needed for cleaning and other uses. You can use clean soda bottles, fruit juice bottles, (not milk cartons - milk residue is hard to clean and breeds bacteria), or you can buy five-gallon cans or 50-gallon barrels. You might want to buy a water purifier.

If you have any questions regarding personal or community preparedness, please contact:

Steve Osborn - Wasatch Hollow Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

(Phone) 801 856 9128

(email) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.