Prepared, Not Scared

Prepared, Not Scared

Sep 9, 2019

By Karen Wilkinson, RN, NHA, CLNC  – CareerSmart® Learning Contributor

Every September we are reminded by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that it makes sense to prepare for the unexpected through a simple four-step process.  This year, they remind us to be “Prepared, Not Scared.”  An emergency situation may affect you individually or affect your neighborhood or a wider geographical area.  We are accustomed to the rapid response of local resources by simply dialing “9-1-1,” but we also need to think through the scenario of fending for ourselves if outside resources cannot respond.  According to the 2018 National Household Survey (NHS) conducted by FEMA, 94% of Americans have taken at least one step in preparing and 57% have completed three or more basic steps.  Let’s review FEMA’s basic recommendations, and you can evaluate your level of preparedness.

Step One – A Kit:  Assemble a kit that will be used while sheltering in a place that will meet the basic needs of your household if you were cut off from all utilities and outside resources. What you would need to take care of your household for three days?  FEMA suggests items such as a gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable foods, a manual can opener, a battery-powered radio and flashlight with extra batteries, a whistle, a first aid kit, prescription medications, cash, important documents, change of clothing, duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal windows and doors, moist wipes, heavyweight garbage bags and ties for personal sanitation needs, a wrench or pliers to shut off utilities, and coverings for the nose and mouth or filter masks that fit the face snugly.  The unique needs of your household should also be considered.  Is there an infant that will need formula and diapers or a person dependent on eyeglasses, hearing aids, oxygen, or wheelchair batteries?  Will there be a need for warm clothing, boots, or sleeping bags?  A second “go” kit should be a smaller, lightweight version of your emergency kit that is portable and can be taken with you if you need to leave your home, but it may need to include additional items depending on the needs of a household member with disabilities, functional needs, or access issues.  Additional “go” items will be person-specific but may include extra medical supplies for oxygen or insulin administration, urinary catheters, a cane/walker/wheelchair, battery chargers for motorized wheelchairs or other medical/technology/communication devices, important healthcare provider contact numbers, insurance cards, medical alert jewelry, an allergy list, and copies of prescriptions or other medical orders.  Lastly, don’t forget the needs of your pet or service animal for food, water, medicine, a collar/harness, an ID tag, a leash, a crate or pet carrier, and sanitation.   

Step Two – A Plan:  What types of disasters are most likely to affect the area where you live?  Consider that your family may be separated at the time of an emergency.  FEMA suggests a household communication plan that includes how to contact each other and establishing an out-of-town contact, a method to receive emergency alerts and warnings, a plan on where to shelter, a plan to evacuate and get away, and an understanding of school and work emergency plans.  If a household member requires medical care at home or has a treatment schedule at a clinic or hospital, check with the healthcare provider about their plan and suggestions for care at home during an emergency.  It’s important that every household member knows what to do in advance. 

Step Three – Be Informed:  It is easier to think about and prepare for natural emergencies such as hurricanes, snowstorms, earthquakes, and wildfires than for terrorist threats, but FEMA reminds us that biological, chemical, explosive, radiological, and nuclear events are also important to consider. Being prepared involves learning about these possibilities and understanding how to react if one occurs. 

Step Four – Get Involved:  Once you are prepared, FEMA suggests different ways to be involved.  Because emergency responders are likely to be overwhelmed in the event of a major disaster, becoming a trained volunteer can help your household and your community.  It may be as simple as taking a first aid or CPR course or becoming involved with a Citizen Corps Council, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), or other reputable disaster relief organization that will welcome and train volunteers. 

How are you doing with your emergency preparation?  Make it your goal to add a step or two this year.  If you are fully prepared, consider how you can contribute to your neighborhood or community and help others to be “Prepared, Not Scared.”

To access FEMA’s Emergency Supply List, go to

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(1) Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (US). National Preparedness Month.  Retrieved September 08, 2019 from

(2)FEMA (US). (September, 2019).  FEMA Releases 2018 National Household Survey Results on Individual and Community Preparedness.  Retrieved September 08, 2019 from

(3)FEMA (US). (Last updated 2014). Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information to Get Ready.  Retrieved September 08, 2019 from

(4)FEMA (US). (Last updated 2015).  Preparing Makes Sense for People with Disabilities, Others with Access and Functional Needs, and the Whole Community.  Retrieved September 10, 2019 from

(5)FEMA (US). (Last update 2014). Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information for Pet Owners.  Retrieved September 08, 2019 from

(6)FEMA (US). (Last updated 2015). Preparing makes Sense for People with Disabilities, Others with Access and Functional Needs, and the Whole Community.  Retrieved September 10, 2019 from

(7)FEMA (US). (Last updated 2014). Prepare for Emergencies Now:  Information to Get Ready.  Retrieved September 08, 2019 from

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