Emergency Preparedness Month Week 4 – Individual Preparedness

National Preparedness Month is an important chance for all of us to come together as families and communities to consider how we can better protect ourselves and others in the event of a sudden emergency. In observance of this month, SelectCare Home Care Services has dedicated all of our September blogs to different aspects of emergency preparation. This week, we discuss the tools and items you will need to ensure your own safety during a major emergency event.

Now that we have discussed the merits of being prepared, the value of emergency communication plans, and how you can build a more resilient community through service, let’s take a look at what you can do as an individual to prepare yourself for the next major emergency event.

Know Your Local Hazards

The first step to safeguarding yourself during an emergency is to understand what type of hazards are common in your area. By knowing what type of emergency events you are most likely to encounter, you can better tailor your personal emergency supplies to overcome these challenges. The following links provide information on a wide variety of emergencies:

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

When discussing emergency preparation for individuals, we must consider two scenarios: sheltering in place and evacuation.  Generally speaking, it is safer to shelter in place during a major emergency, since travel will likely be impeded and individuals will be exposed to the elements while attempting to reach better shelter. That said, if your home is positioned in a location likely to face the brunt of extreme weather or other hazards, it is strongly suggested that you reposition to a safer location well before the emergency event takes place.

As discussed in previous blogs, having multiple sources of emergency information is key to making good choices during an event. FEMA’s smartphone app is a useful early-warning system, as is Notify NYC and NYC Emergency Management’s website.  Since hurricanes and coastal storms pose a significant threat to many NYC neighborhoods, residents are also encouraged to use this NYC Emergency Management Map to determine if their home is located within a flood zone and where to find the nearest public shelter.

Sheltering In Place

Unless your home is located in an area expected to be hard-hit by an emergency, sheltering in place is often the safest, easiest way to stay out of harm’s way since you minimize exposure to the elements.

Sadly, closing your windows is not enough to ensure your safety – instead, all residents are urged to have a seven-day stock of supplies tucked away to help them ride out the emergency. These supplies should ideally be kept in a separate container or closet, regularly checked for expiration dates, and never used in a non-emergency situation, since learning all your flashlight batteries have been used to power your remote control is a terrible way to start a hurricane.

Below is a list of items every home should have – be sure to stock at least seven days’ worth of supplies and check your supplies twice a year to ensure nothing has expired:

  • One gallon of drinking water per person per day*
  • Nonperishable, ready-to-eat canned foods and manual can opener
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight (Note: Traditional flashlight bulbs have limited lifespans. Light Emitting Diode (LED) flashlights, however, are more durable and last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs.)
  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries (you can also buy wind-up radios that do not require batteries)
  • Whistle – (for signaling to rescuers)
  • Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach (for disinfecting water ONLY if directed to do so by health officials) and eyedropper (for adding bleach to water)
  • Personal hygiene items: soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.
  • Phone that does not rely on electricity (wired, analog plug-in phones cost less than $5 at most electronics stores)
  • Child care supplies or other special care items

*As you might imagine, storing this much water can take up a lot of space for large families living in apartments.  If this is the case, consider storing a smaller supply and purchasing additional bottled water during the run-up to a possible emergency.  Also, filling pots, pans, bathtubs and sinks prior to an emergency can further supplement your supply.


If your home is located in an area likely to face the brunt of foul weather or is otherwise deemed unsafe, your family might be forced to evacuate your neighborhood and seek shelter elsewhere. Ideally, you should do any travelling prior to the emergency event; however, there are cases where this is not possible.

In order to travel safely, keep the following advice in mind:

  • Know your destination – Have a safe destination in mind before you leave your home. “Winging it” rarely works, especially during the confusion of an emergency event. Prior to leaving your home, be sure to learn about nearby shelters through the OEM website, or by calling 311 (knowing local shelter locations prior to an emergency remains your best bet.)
  • Stick together – Wandering from your group can put everyone at risk since they are likely to come looking for you. Know how many people are in your party and double check that everyone is accounted for throughout your trip.
  • Pack a Go-Bag – A Go-Bag should be a sturdy, lightweight backpack you can comfortably carry from your home to a safe location and contains all the items you will need to keep yourself safe and comfortable until you can return home. Pack this bag prior to an emergency and store it near your door in case you are forced to leave quickly.


Remember that you should have a Go-Bag for every member of your household.  Each bag should include the following items:

  • Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, birth certificates, deeds, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.)
  • Extra set of car and house keys
  • Copies of credit/ATM cards
  • Cash (in small bills)
  • Bottled water and nonperishable food, such as energy or granola bars
  • Flashlight (Note: Traditional flashlight bulbs have limited lifespans. Light Emitting Diode (LED) flashlights, however, are more durable and last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs.)
  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio
  • Extra batteries/chargers
  • A list of the medications each member of your household takes, why they take them, and their dosages. If you store extra medication in your Go Bag, be sure to refill it before it expires. Get prescription preparedness tips from the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
  • First-aid kit
  • Toiletries
  • Notepad and pen
  • Contact and meeting place information for your household, and a small regional map
  • Lightweight raingear and Mylar blanket

If you have children, pack child care supplies as well as games and small toys.

If you’re older or have any special medical needs, consider including these items:

  • Instructions and extra batteries for any devices you use
  • Aerosol tire repair kits and/or tire inflator to repair flat wheelchair or scooter tires
  • Back-up medical equipment
  • An alternate mobility assistance device that does not need power, like a push-powered wheelchair or cane
  • Items to comfort you in a stressful situation
  • Depending on your unique access and mobility needs, there are a variety of other important items that can make your evacuation a success. For an in-depth review of what to pack for your specific needs, check the following link from FEMA.

If you have a pet, you need to pack a Go Bag for them:

  • A current color photograph of you and your pet together (in case you are separated)
  • Copies of medical records that indicate dates of vaccinations and a list of medications your pet takes and why he or she takes them
  • Proof of identification and ownership, including copies of registration information, adoption papers, proof of purchase, and microchip information
  • Physical description of your pet, including species, breed, age, sex, color, distinguishing traits, and any other vital information about characteristics and behavior
  • Animal first aid kit, including flea and tick treatment and other items recommended by your veterinarian
  • Food and water for at least three days
  • Food and water dishes
  • Collapsible cage or carrier
  • Muzzle* and sturdy leash (*Note: Nylon muzzles should only be used temporarily as they can restrict a dog’s ability to pant)
  • Cotton sheet to place over the carrier to help keep your pet calm
  • Comforting toys or treats
  • Litter, litter pan, and litter scoop
  • Plastic bags for clean-up
  • For further advice about how to protect your pet during an evacuation, please review the following information from FEMA.

Putting it all together

Based on the length of this article alone, it is easy to see that fully preparing yourself and your household for various emergencies requires a fair amount of effort and planning, however these efforts pay dividends during an emergency event.  In order to lessen the burden, be sure to incorporate your entire household into emergency planning. If you receive home health care services, be sure to reach out to your home health care agency and discuss their emergency preparedness efforts and how they can help you gather supplies.


At SelectCare Home Care Services, we invest significant time and resources into emergency preparedness training at all levels of our organization, from individual caregivers and clients to company-wide operating procedures.  To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one weather a storm, power outage, or other hazards common to New York City, call us today!