Emergency Preparedness Tips (EPTs)


EPT01 - Out of Area Contact Person

Do it NOW: Identify an out of the area contact (a friend or a family member) who will act as your emergency contact person. Write their phone number on 10 slips of paper. Put one in every person’s wallet, lunchbox, book satchel, in the glove box of each car, near the phone at home, office, and even with a dear friend. And, program it into your cell phones. Consider adding the contact information to your children’s file at school, daycare, and elderly relative’s nursing homes and caregivers.

Local 20/20 version: Identify a friend or a family member to act as your household's emergency contact person. A local disaster will overload local phone lines so you're more likely to be able to place a call out of your area. Program it into everyone's phone under ICE, for In Case of Emergency. Put cards or slips of paper with the phone number of your out of area contact in everyone’s wallet, lunchbox or backpack, in the car glove box, and near phones at home, office, and at a neighbor's.

Rationale: This ensures that all your loved ones know to contact the same person in the case of an emergency. Having so much contact information in a cell phone creates havoc if that information isn’t also available on paper. While you’re contacting the nursing home or school, find out what their disaster plan is, and where they would go in the event they are ordered to evacuate. Imagine the panic you would feel if a disaster struck and you didn’t know where to find your children or parents!

Click here to see 2 templates for Out-of-area contact cards.

Note: Be aware that Google might create this "people finder" service, if the event is significant enough.

EPT02 - Fire Extinguishers

Do it NOW: Trot over to the nearest fire extinguisher. How long did it take? How unsure were you? Fires can engulf a structure within minutes. Now, go to the fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Is it there? Check the charge level. Walk a circuit of all the fire extinguishers in the house.

Tonight: Show your family where they are. Check to see if one needs recharging and schedule next weekend to use it to let family members practice using them.

Rationale: Always keep one fire extinguisher in a convenient location in the kitchen, since cooking accidents are a very common way that home fires get started. Be sure it is an A-B-C type that can fight wood, paper, grease, and electrical fires. Keep one in each car, and in the garage.

Recharging and new

Steve Brunette, retired Indian Island Fire Captain and long time owner of Tarboo Ridge Extinguishers will service (recharge) individual consumer fire extinguishers (not disposables) for $8-15 depending on the type and size.

New ABC Dry Chemical type extinguisher prices (subject to change) are:

Contact Steve at 301-5258 or tarboo@cablespeed.com. Also 360-385-3306.

He has a mobile service for all things extinguisher related. It would be great to get several neighbors together with all their extinguishers to make it more productive for him to get you all updated in one or two visits.

He would be able to tell you if yours is refillable/serviceable or not. If not, you can get a new replacement from him or advice about what to get - I've found his new extinguisher prices to be similar to Home Depot, etc.

Additional Resources:

Fire Extinguisher: 101

35 second YouTube video of using a damp cloth to put out a pan fire

EPT03 - Medications

Do it NOW: Make a list of all the prescription drugs, and the dosages, that your family uses. Calculate what a 7 day supply would be for each medication and make sure that you ALWAYS keep at least this much on hand. If medications must be kept cold, keep a few chemical cold packs with the medications.

Rationale: A disaster is, by definition, an emergency that exceeds the ability of rescue personnel to respond. Your planning must assume that ‘you’re on your own’ ( YOYO). This is vitally important information for persons who are dependent upon medical prescriptions if pharmacies are closed or out of stock or inaccessible.

Additional Resources:

Create a wallet sized listing of your meds (and more) at www.healthvault.com/us/en/overview#Organize

EPT04 - Turning off power

Do it NOW: Trot out to your electrical panel. Open it (this can be tricky---on some panels the catch is a spring loaded clip on the bottom right corner of the box), look inside, and get acquainted. Be careful where you touch!! Identify the MAIN shut off breaker, and the smaller breakers that control individual circuits. Make sure they are well labeled. Check to see if you have other electrical panels, remote main shut offs, or sub panels. If your house still is on fuses, consider upgrading to breakers.

Tonight: Introduce your family to the electrical panel. If you couldn’t open it, you child will show you how...

Rationale: Damaged wiring (from an earthquake, falling tree, etc) can cause fires and can injure people who enter the house. Most of the time the breakers will automatically shut off power if an electrical short exists. If you have a fire, smell smoke, or suspect damaged wiring from a catastrophic event, it is wise to shut off your electrical main and all sub-panels. It is preferable to shut off all minor circuit breakers first, before shutting off the main.

EPT05 - Propane shutoff

Do it NOW:

1. Locate the valve on your propane tank. It is probably on the top and may look like a water valve.

2. Look for the arrow on the valve that shows which way to turn to close. (remember, “righty tight, lefty loosy”. Always turn right to close)

3. If the arrow isn’t obvious, mark it clearly with tape.

Tonight: Have every member of the family demonstrate that they know where the valve is and they know which way to turn it. (note: don’t turn it except in an emergency)

Rationale: Shutting off the propane supply can prevent fires! Earthquakes, falling trees, and other disasters can move propane tanks, appliances, and heaters, and break the lines that supply them. Be aware that if you turn your propane off, your pilot lights will go off and will need to be relight manually by a knowledgeable resident or a professional. And, check to make sure that you don’t need a wrench to shut off your propane. If you do, store one near the tank.

You might also want to shut off your water supply to prevent damage inside if pipes break. The valve will be where the water enters your home from the public water supply. If you have a well, simply turn off the breaker in the electric panel.

EPT06 - Find the tippy things

Do it NOW: Walk through every room in the house and through the garage. Make a list of the tall furniture, heavily loaded shelving, or heavy wall hangings that could tip over, collapse, or fall in an earthquake. Knowing this, decide on a path out of the house from every room without passing by one of those tippy dangers.

Tonight: Ask every family member to do the same. Maybe somebody has a better idea.

Rationale: During an earthquake, the ground actually swells and rolls anywhere from a few inches to a few feet in height. The ground will shake from a few seconds to a few minutes. Tall furniture such as hutches, armoires and bookcases are very likely to fall over from the shaking and rolling. It is simple to secure these furniture pieces to help prevent damage to the furniture, its contents, and injury to people and pets.

Videos to secure furniture to the walls: 

EPT07 - Meet your Water Heater

Do it NOW: Go look at your water heater. Is it strapped to the wall? It is simple to secure your water heater (strap kits are available at Hadlock Building Supply and Henerys for $18), or you can hire a plumber to install the straps for you.

Rationale: Besides being a valuable source of emergency water, it is important to keep the water heater from tipping over in an earthquake where it could tear loose wiring or propane piping. Damage from large earthquakes have prompted experts to create new recommendations for securing water heaters using strapping rather than plumbers tape (which can cause the tank to burst).

EPT08 - What’s under the bed??

Do it NOW: Put a pair of sturdy shoes (think broken glass), socks, flashlight, a couple of large garbage bags (think rain), and a pair of gloves under your side of the bed. You might consider a robe too...

Tonight: Have everybody else in your house do the same thing.

Rationale: The chances are good that an emergency will happen while you’re in bed. Cut feet and hands are a common injury in the event of a disaster. Having the barest necessities under the bed will assure that if you don’t have time for anything else, you can get out without risking additional injury.

EPT09 - Critical Records

Do it NOW: Grab a manila envelope and start dropping important records in it. Start with every family member’s personal ID, be it a passport, birth certificate, or drivers license (children’s id???) Add the contact information (and account numbers) of insurance agents, banks, and credit cards. Include medical information: doctor contact information, medications, medical directives, and powers of attorney.

Rationale: Consider using FEMA's "Emergency Financial First Aid Kit" (PDF pages 15-18). It contains a lot of detail, but the key is to start right now, with the information you can readily put your hands on. The next trip to town, make at least two copies of everything you’ve put together so far. Keep one set of copies with emergency supplies (you’ll have them soon), and another copy sent to your out of area emergency contact person (remember tip #1 ??). Consider including some recent photos of family members and pets.

EPT10 - Talk about Fear

Do it NOW: Ask yourself if you are afraid of an emergency. Try to get clear of what it is that concerns you.

Tonight: Have a 15 minute conversation with the entire family about everybody’s fears in the case of a disaster. Keeping the information age-appropriate for children, talk about what both adults and children can do to be prepared. Take stock of each person’s strengths, which would serve to see them through an emergency. Focus on active measures everyone can take together right now.

Rationale: Mostly, people don't prepare for emergencies for EMOTIONAL reasons. There is a natural range of feelings people are likely to experience when they think about the possibility of an emergency: "I feel overwhelmed...I'm afraid I won't know what to do...that I'll freeze/panic...I don't think I'll be able to cope..." These are normal concerns and just talking about having them can make them less paralyzing.

It is vital to start to discuss this range of normal reactions BEFORE disaster strikes. When you know that feeling scared or feeling bad – even VERY bad -- for a period of time is not abnormal, you will become more comfortable talking about emergency planning and taking effective action.

EPT11 - OAC for Fido and Fifi

The “Out of Area Contact” telephone number that will allow you to connect family members in an emergency also applies to your beloved pets. Besides having a photo of yourself and your pet included in your emergency to-go kit, you will greatly increase the chances you will be reunited with your pet if they have a tag that includes an OAC. Example: OAC # 765-456-4545. Add it on the back of existing tags or on a separate tag. (Note: the microchip ID is valuable but needs a reader machine and can't be read by you or me.)

At our request, our local merchants have generouslly offered special rates to encourage your OAC-ing your pets….Bonita's, Pet Town, and Henery's are all offering discounts to add an OAC to tags you purchase from them.

EPT12 - Place a "File for Life" on or in your refrigerator

Do it NOW: The Public Information Officer at the East Jefferson County Fire Rescue has "File for Life" kits at EJFR, 40 Seton Rd., Suite A, Port Townsend. Call 385-2626 before you go to make sure they have a kit for you.


Here is a website from a Fire Dept in Illinois demonstrating their "File of Life" program. - http://www.waukeganfire.com/file_for_life.html

Click on this Google search for - "file for life" +refrigerator - to see what others are doing. -



Tonight: If you have a "File for Life" on or in your refrigerator, check to make sure it is up to date.

Rationale: Imagine you were not feeling well, called 911, then collapsed on the floor unconscious.

Emergency responders would come into your home and head for your refrigerator to look for any information that could help them determine what happened. Are you diabetic and in a diabetic coma, or is it something different that requires a different response?

A "File for Life" on or in your refrigerator could provide the responders with critical information to save your life.

EPT13 – Disaster Sanitation

What would you do without the convenience of your sink and toilet? Disposing of human waste can pose serious public health problems when sewer or water systems are not working. With some preplanning, you can assemble supplies to get your family through a disaster without risking contamination. Click here for details.

EPT14 – Communication

What if you were hurt and needed help, but landlines and cell service did not work? Get an FRS (walkie-talkie) radio and set up a Ham/FRS radio network in your neighborhood. Click www.miep.us/hamfrs to learn more.

(Private MIEP Team | (Restricted) April 2011 Emergency Preparedness PSAs - Google Docs )

The Marrowstone Island Emergency Preparedness MIEP Team has created these quick emergency preparedness tips (EPT).   http://www.miep.us/tips