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Be Prepared

by Elisa Urmston

It is often said that California doesn’t have seasons, but I would argue that we do—fire, flood, earthquake and mudslide. In all seriousness, life in paradise has its risks, and we should prepare for them. As I write this, 250,000 people have been forced to evacuate in the path of the Woolsey fire, and the entire town of Paradise will be forced to rebuild itself, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the Camp fire. Consider too that we live next to the San Andreas and other twitchy seismic faults. Bad weather can pose risks too—a friend found himself snowed in back in 2008 with no food, and unable to get out of his home for a couple of days. He was caught by surprise because we so rarely have substantial snow here. Nobody likes to talk or think about these things because it almost seems a violation of some primal superstition, but the truth is, being prepared is the best way to have any sense of calm in the face of chaos when emergencies eventually do strike. Don’t fall for the line that they’ve been saying the “Big One” has been due for our entire lives and it hasn’t happened yet—geological time is not the same as human time. It only makes sense to be prepared.


According to the Red Cross, there are a few simple things all of us can do to get prepared for whatever disasters may strike. The first thing to do is to be aware of what emergencies or disasters your community might be prone to. Have a disaster plan, and practice it. Create an emergency supply kit. It doesn’t have to break the bank; the Red Cross has a plan to create a kit over 21 weeks at Create a small personal emergency kit, or “go-bag” for home, work, and for your car. Know how to shut off your water, power, and gas—our family learned the hard way after a large earthquake that it is wise to attach the tool required to shut of the utilities to be chained next to the valve that will require it. It is also good to, ideally, have at least one person in your household who is trained in CPR.


Planning for these things is a serious matter, but it needn’t be somber. Have a family planning party, write down the ideas, and send copies to family and friends. Identify at least two exits in your home. Have a “hazard hunt” to identify things that could fall during an earthquake or become dangerous during a fire. Make sure your smoke detectors and fire extinguishes are in good working order. Create at least two meeting places in the event you cannot reach your home, and because power can go out during emergencies, print up your list of emergency contacts and keep a copy in your emergency kits. Talk to your neighbors. Arrange to check on their home and ask that they check on yours after an emergency.


Make sure you consider the needs of seniors, children, disabled persons, and your furry family members, too. Label equipment, such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers with your name, address, and phone numbers. Make sure your children know who to call in the event of an emergency if they cannot reach you, and create a buddy system for them so if a disaster strikes while they are at school, they have someone to stay close to. Include your pets in the emergency drills. Make sure you have an emergency kit stocked with food, water, bowls and leashes for your kitty and doggo. Make a note as to where you can evacuate livestock, should you need to. Know which emergency shelters can accept your animals, because not all of them do. It is wise to have your pets crate-trained and microchipped.


Taking the time to plan ahead will go a long way to surviving an emergency with a minimum of discomfort and panic. There are great tips and a lot more in-depth information to be found on,,, and you can receive CPR training by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS and train with your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) at

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