Emergency Preparedness: How to get your essentials organized

With the onslaught of Hurricane Irma and Harvey, it has put emergency preparedness at the front of my mind (and yours too, I’m sure) and now more than ever I find it important to address emergency preparedness and being organized for an emergency. While I don’t live in an area that was impacted directly by the storms over the last couple of weeks, I —like many of you —have friends and family living in the regions where devastation occurred. I’ve had a chance to ask what they took with them (or didn’t) in an effort to tweak my home’s existing emergency preparedness kit. To my surprise, I have work to do...and you may too.

While it may be your inclination to be prepared for everything, there are some essentials that take priority and should always be on hand for these types of situations. Of course, what you keep and need in your emergency kit (or bag or room...I’ve seen and heard of both!) will vary depending on the type of disaster, so I am going to focus specifically on creating and organizing a basic supply kit that would be helpful —and likely necessary —regardless of the type of disaster.

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What would you need to get through the day? I’m not talking about the “nice-to-haves” that you’ve grown accustomed to like shampoo and slippers, but what you need to stay healthy, like water (a gallon/person), food (enough non-perishables to last a couple of days), a flashlight, battery-powered radio (with extra supplies), money (in case ATMs are no longer accessible), first aid kit, critical medication, and then sanitation needs (like moist towelettes and garbage bags). Remember, some of these items will expire eventually, so don’t feel the need to completely stockpile for the “just-in-case” moments (unless of course you are notified in advance of a natural disaster or chance of power outage and are notified that extra necessities will likely be required). Depending on the number of people in your household all of these items should all fit in a large clear bin, and we recommend choosing one that is easy to carry (so avoid bulky or awkwardly-shaped bins) and if they are weathertight that is extra handy in case of water damage.

Next, let's talk about how to get your papers in order. You're likely keeping more paperwork than necessary as it is, but it's important to create an essential information file box that you can easily access and quickly grab in case of emergency. You'll want to take your existing filing system and create copies of the critical items, which are the ones that you can't afford to get ruined. These are documents that would be difficult to replace and are vital in case of an emergency and/or loss, so I recommend storing them in a secure, weather/fireproof file box. Your file box may vary based on your needs, but below is a quick list of what document copies should be stored inside. Want to take it a step further? Create a backup digital version on a USB just in case something happens to the hard copies.

  • Birth certificates
  • Passports
  • Legal documents
  • Insurance information (life, house, car, and medical)
  • Updated will
  • Power of attorney information
  • Spare keys (house, car)
  • Key contact phone numbers (family, doctors, etc.)
  • Account information (logins, account numbers, list of pertinent bills)

Once you’ve created your kit and essential file box, store them in a location that is easy to access in a hurry and communicate the location with your family so that everyone is aware of where to find the essentials if they are ever needed.

I’m curious: do you have an emergency kit or prepare plan? What’s included? Share your take in the comments section below!


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JOIN ME NEXT WEEK!

Tuesday, September 19th from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

I'm partnering with the Four Seasons Georgetown and dietician Ashley Koff RD for her monthly Better Health Powered by Better Nutrition series on September 19th! Join us in a discussion on how organization can enable better health and tips on how to organize your fridge and pantry (just in time for Fall). The session is open to the public, so hope to see you there!


Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.