As early as 1860 and even in times of scarcity, latter-day prophets and apostles have directed us to prepare for emergencies. To the common-sense wisdom of preparation they add reasons like self-reliance, responsibility, and peace of mind. For instance, Elder L. Tom Perry taught, “The need for preparation is abundantly clear. The great blessing of being prepared gives us freedom from fear” (“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 36). More to the point, Heavenly Father reminds us, through Joseph Smith himself, that “if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). So both the need and the benefits of emergency preparedness seem pretty apparent, right? Yet many are not yet fully prepared, for whatever reason, even in these turbulent times. How can you fully prepare yourself and your family for an emergency, in a way that bypasses confusion, tedium, or overwhelm and goes straight to the peace part? With this what’s-what about emergency preparedness and some tips for emergency preparedness in mind.
What Is Emergency Preparedness Basically?
The most basic element of emergency preparedness is the mindset that a disaster could happen that would affect you. We tend to shove that possibility to the back of our minds for the sake of feeling safe, don’t we? But the acceptance of the possibility beforehand gives you a chance to look it square in the eye and tell it it’s not going to bully you into negligence. It’s also a realization that, while disasters might be scary, you can lessen the fear by preparing.
The topic of emergency preparedness actually encompasses many areas, but don’t let that overwhelm you. That means there’s a lot of wisdom to draw from when preparing for a disaster.
The first step is to put together a basic plan for what to do if an emergency happens when your family members aren’t at home (i.e., working, at school, etc.). If you’ve got to evacuate because of a natural disaster, that means you might not be able to bring everyone home and hunker down. Instead, establish a few different possible back-up meeting places depending on the nature of the disaster. The home of a trusted neighbor, for instance, might be a good location if your house is on fire. Your parents’ or parents-in-laws’ house might be a better place if you have time to pick everyone up and the disaster is larger in scale.
Most experts agree that gathering a 72-hour kit is the next step. You know what it is: a kit/backpack/duffelbag full of everything your family might need for 72 hours away from home: food, clothing, bedding, medication, light, heat, money, etc. Knowing how much of each item is needed means consulting a chart like the one found on page three of the Church’s Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide. Essentially, calculate how much each member of your family normally needs in a 3-day window, pare that down as much as possible (do they really need dessert with every dinner?), gather everything on that list, stuff it in a bag, and store that bag in an easily-accessible place. Also, don’t forget:
- Make sure all food is non-perishable
- Don’t forget the can opener. Or the phone chargers. Better yet, get some solar chargers, just in case.
Keep in mind that you’ll also want to have important documents such as insurance policies, house deeds, and social security cards, readily accessible so you can take them with you as easily as you can your 72-hour kit.
Your ward and stake should also have a disaster plan, so have your bishop’s phone number handy to see if your wardhouse can serve as a temporary home-away-from-home.
Once you’ve got those details worked out, you’ll want to think more long-term, both in terms of preparation beforehand and actions post-disaster. These include things like:
As you make these preparations, keep in mind the following tips for emergency preparedness, ideas that could help you not survive a disaster, but thrive and grow because of it.
Top Six Tips for Emergency Preparedness
Sign Up for Alerts
What’s the first thing you’d do if you heard there was a terrorist attack or tornado on the way? You’d try to get more information, right? Perfectly natural, but the problem is that that’s likely what everyone else will be doing too. Sometimes the biggest challenge in reacting to an emergency is ascertaining whether there really is an emergency. You might be “lucky” enough to have an official come to your door, but in most cases, you’ll probably be left to find out what’s going on on your own. If that’s the case, you might not know where to look, especially if you’re frenzied. Or sites might crash with surging traffic. Figure out your best source(s) of information beforehand. Better yet, sign up for alerts. These are government services, such as those offered through ready.gov/alerts, that send Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA’s) to you when an emergency is on its way.
They can be sent by state and local public safety officials, the National Weather Service, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the President of the United States. WEAs:
- look like text messages but are designed to get your attention with a unique sound and vibration repeated twice.
- are no more than 360 characters and include the type and time of the alert, any action you should take and the agency issuing the alert.
- are not affected by network congestion and will not disrupt texts, calls or data sessions that are in progress.
- Do not incur charges and there is no need to subscribe. You just need to make sure your phone is set up to receive them.
Break It Down
Maybe the best advice is to break your emergency preparedness down into manageable pieces. You don’t have to get everything done tomorrow. Instead, try
- Writing down your emergency plan. Then practicing it with your family.
- Making a list of what you need to do to complete or refresh your 72-hour kit. Then gather those items.
- Completing or refreshing your food storage. Imagine what your family would need if supply chain problems severely hampered your access to food for, say, 3 months. Then buy a canister of freeze-dried food or a gallon of water each week until you’ve compiled everything you’ll need.
Include Hard-Copy Scriptures With Your Other Important Documents
In case you’ll need to conserve your phone’s battery, and for better family reading, consider including inexpensive and light-weight hard-copy scriptures like these in your preparedness kit. Consider it part of your “Feelings First-Aid Kit.” Fear may be high during an emergency, no matter how much you’ve prepared, so doing what you need to do to assuage your fears or those of your kids or friends, to the extent that it’s possible, should be a priority. For example, Marissa Widdison, in a 2018 Friend article, suggested reading Isaiah 25:8 to remind us that God has promised to wipe away the tears from all of our faces.
Don’t Forget Others
While it may be very tempting to focus only on oneself or one’s family during a crisis, sometimes extending that protective or helpful instinct to others can help both them and you. The Church, for instance, provides this guide for ministering to others and providing emotional support. Sometimes providing comfort to others, such as that found in Proverbs 3:25-26: “Be not afraid…for the Lord shall be thy confidence and shall keep thy root from being taken,” can be just the thing to give us hope.
Prepare Don’t Scare
It can be challenging to involve small children in your emergency preparedness, not only because they might not have a clue what an emergency is, but also because they might get scared when you start talking about things like burning houses and floods. But it’s still important to involve them, if for no other reason than to acclimate them to the possibility of danger in the same way you warn them of “stranger danger.” It’s all in how you frame it. Focusing on the preparedness part rather than the emergency or disaster part of it helps. Windy Hasson of Las Vegas, Nevada, involved her whole family in a “72-hour-kit scavenger hunt” to gather items for their 72-hour kit.
Be Patient and Believing
Joseph of Egypt provides an excellent example of emergency preparedness as he counseled with the pharaoh and built up Egypt’s storehouses against the famine. But more than that, he embodied faith and patience. He had to endure a lot–mean brothers and prison time– running blind as it were, before he got to the point that he could even interpret the pharaoh’s dream. The fact that he did, though, and sagely built up the pharaoh’s storehouses was part of what enabled him to reunite with his brothers. You might say that If the famine hadn’t happened, he might not have had the opportunity to forgive his brothers.
In the same way, we are called upon to “trust in the Lord with all [our] hearts and lean not unto [our] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). It might be challenging to see the Lord’s hand in any suffering, but it’s important to remember that, no matter what happens, He will comfort and guide us. He will give us peace, as he did Joseph after he’d languished in the Liberty jail for months, a longer-term kind of “emergency” (D&C 121). Heavenly Father will enable us to see that our adversity and afflictions won’t last forever, and that He will support us in our preparedness efforts, as he did the brother of Jared.