As a parent, you've got a lot on your mind. Between packing lunches, chauffeuring your kids around town, getting everyone to school on time, and the dozens of other to-do items on your everyday list, some things tend to get shoved to the side. And preparing for disaster is one of them.

True, the likelihood of a major earthquake hitting your home or an F-5 tornado lifting it into the air is small. But disaster does happen. And, as history has proven, no one believes it's coming their way until it arrives.

So where to start? Luckily, there's a lot of information out there. Here are a few things to think about.

  1. Make a plan: Before disaster hits, have a game plan ready. Contact your local Red Cross and talk to them about likely disasters. Then talk to all the members of your family about where you'll meet (pick one spot outside your home for events like a fire, and one outside your community for events like a flood). Check with your child's school about their disaster plans and make sure you know where they'll take students and how you can meet up with your child.
  2. Choose a contact: Pick a friend or family member outside your state that every member of the family can call in case of a disaster. Often it's easier to call out of state when phone lines are jammed. Make sure all your children know the contact's phone number by heart. If they're too young, have your kids carry this contact information in their school backpack and program it into their cell phone.
  3. Hoard water: In a disaster, hydration is a huge issue. Buy a supply. But in an emergency, the Red Cross says you can also get water from your hot water tank, your pipes, ice cubes in your freezer, and, as a last resort, the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).
  4. Create a disaster kit or buy one: Dozens of companies sell them online, you can also purchase one from the Red Cross at, or you can create one of your own. Here's a list of essentials for your disaster kit provided by the Ready Campaign at
  • Food: at least a 3-day supply of non-perishables like canned goods.
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps

You might also want to consider...

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person; consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate
  • Complete change of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes; consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – when diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container

Though all of this may seem like overkill now, there's no harm in being overprepared and as the old adage goes--it's better to be safe, than sorry.