The Department of Homeland Security recommends a four-step approach that includes creating a kit of emergency supplies, making a plan of what to do in an emergency, keeping informed about potential hazards and getting involved in community preparedness.
An emergency kit actually should be two kits, according to the department. One kit should be for staying where you are and making it on your own; the other should be a smaller, lightweight version for if you have to get away in a hurry.
A kit should contain the following:
Water - one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation
Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Whistle to signal for help
Filter mask or cotton T-shirt to filter air
Moist towelettes for sanitation
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Manual can opener for food
Plastic sheeting and duct tape
Garbage bags and plastic ties
Unique family needs such as prescription medications, infant formula, diapers and important family documents.
John Yingling, director of the Lycoming County Department of Public Safety, said each kit should contain several rolls of toilet paper, which can be stored in a coffee can to stay dry.
Planning should include developing a family communication plan, creating a "shelter-in-place" or barrier against potentially contaminated air, creating an evacuation plan and understanding emergency plans at work and school.
Being informed simply means understanding the potential hazards and planning in advance how to deal with them.