How to prepare for an emergency when you’re not really into it

Apr 22, 2022, 5:00 AM
Food storage is an essential part of emergency planning....
Emergency prep isn't as simple as just having a can or two of tomato paste around. Michelle and Trent Snow, story on food storage and meals in a bag Monday, Aug. 16, 2010, in Kaysville, Utah. (Tom Smart/Deseret News)
(Tom Smart/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — You don’t have to be worried about a zombie apocalypse to prepare for an emergency. But how do you start?

When you’re starting from zero, the Utah Division of Emergency Management says there are three things to think about: knowing things, having things, and doing things. 

A better translation might look like this: 

  • Knowing what kind of events need to be prepared for in your area and how to prepare for them.
  • Having the items to respond when a disaster strikes. 
  • Doing the plan you made to execute when in the event of a disaster. 

“This is earthquake country, we have wind storms, and wildfires and flash flooding and drought and pandemic —and those types of things,” said Wade Mathews with the Utah Division of Emergency Management. “That’s probably the first step towards preparing. And then the second step would be how do we survive those threats and hazards?”

For example, in an earthquake, you’re supposed to drop, cover and hold on. Knowing what actions you need to take for a disaster in your area is that step. 

But what about all the gear?

The Division of Emergency Management says “you do the best you can with what you have.”

“If we live in an apartment, we don’t have a lot of space for food and water storage, you do the best you can with what you have,” said Mathews. “You store food, canned goods, and bottled water under the beds, or in the bottom of the closet. You put it in whatever space you have. Don’t let that lack of space or even a large budget keep you from starting emergency preparedness.”

Mathews says it’s as simple as gathering things around the house to build that disaster supply kit. That can include tools and supplies in a designated bag in a spot you know you can get to. 

For example, that might just mean putting a flashlight on the nightstand next to your bed, along with a good pair of shoes. 

“A little keychain flashlight even, or something that you keep by each of the beds — the parents’ beds, the kids’ beds, and have everybody keep a good pair of shoes by your bed,” said Mathews. “That doesn’t cost anything, really.

Emergency prep starts with having a good list. You don’t need to spend a lot of money

Okay, what’s the bare minimum for an emergency?

If you’re still not convinced of its simplicity, Mathews said the bare minimum to being prepared is a 72-hour kit. 

“A spare tooth, toothbrush, and toothpaste — just the sanitation stuff,” said Mathews. “If you’ve got some of those you get from the dentist’s office, when you get your checkup, put them in a kit. You start getting a bag, a backpack, a cardboard box, even a duffel bag, a suitcase on wheels, and start using that to collect your items in and just what do you have around the house.”

That kit should also contain a minimum of three days of food and water. 

“After Hurricane Katrina, FEMA came out and said, maybe make that a five-day supply of food and water,” said Mathews. “That’s those emergency supplies that’ll get you through the short-term response of a disaster — that’s got food and water, clothing, medications, tools, important documents, some items to keep children busy.

And if you can, Mathews recommends you have up to two weeks of food and water supply somewhere in your home.

“A case of tomato paste doesn’t make it a family disaster plan,” Mathew said. “Kind of think about what you have stored for food-wise in the pantry in the cupboard, just get a little bit more a few extra cans of soup or stew or a few extra cans of beans and corn, beans and corn, and have that in the house.”

“We saw in the pandemic how quickly the short shelves were emptied. Grocery stores could empty quickly. And we just need to have a little bit of extra food and water at home.”

For more information or tips, visit the Be Ready Utah website.

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How to prepare for an emergency when you’re not really into it