How to Prepare for Emergencies Like the COVID-19 Global Health Crisis

COVID-19 has unleashed a global health crisis around the world.  While many Asian nations such as China, Singapore, and Taiwan have largely contained the outbreak due to strict containment and quarantine measures, Europe and the U.S. are scrambling to institute a variety of measures to contain the outbreak, including social distancing and shelter-in-place orders.

According to FEMA’s emergency preparedness article, everyone must be prepared for emergencies.  Whether it’s the coronavirus or a natural disaster such as earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes, it’s helpful to have an emergency plan and supplies in place.

While you should still have an “Emergency Go-Bag” ready at your disposal, you should also have emergency supplies ready in the event you have to self isolate for two weeks or more.  With many countries suggesting that its citizens hunker down and stay at home as much as possible, there are several important supplies to keep at home. 

Get Your Emergency Plan Ready and Prepare Your Emergency Go-Bag

Update your Go-Bag

As mentioned above, put together an Emergency Preparedness Go-Bag for you and all members of your household. A go-bag should be no larger than a backpack. It should include a change of warm or layered clothing and a ziplock bag full of toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, tampons, and toilet paper. Along with a change of clothes, include preserved and dry foods that can last six months or longer. Bottled water, water purifiers or purifying tablets, a first aid kit, flash light, and medical prescriptions are also a must. For an updated list of what to store in your go-bag, you can refer to the Basic Disaster Supplies Kit provided by the Department of Homeland Security. 

Make copies of important documents

Don’t forget about the deed to your house, the code to your family’s safe, or the authorization form for your kid’s prescription refill. These important details are often left behind in the wake of an emergency or disaster.  Important documents, including custody papers, birth certificates, identity cards, passports, 401K plans, and legal papers, should be stored and safeguarded against damage, fraud, and theft. Copy and upload files onto a password-protected thumb drive. Additionally, upload these documents to a secure online cloud platform and make extra hard copies for the Go-Bag.  Store copies with a trusted neighbor or local friend and include their contact information along with your plan. 

Update and maintain emergency contacts

You probably already have your most trusted people listed under speed dial. During a disaster,  your community is your best resource for communication and safety. Update the contacts on your cell phone, and if your kids have one, on theirs, too. Put “ICE” or In Case of Emergency underneath your names and the names of friends and relatives that you trust. Familiarize your kids with 911. Print out hard copies on emergency contacts complete with addresses, numbers and emails of your contacts and slip them into a waterproof case or bag. Put copies near your home phone, car, and also in each Emergency Preparedness Go-Bag. 

What happens if you lose contact with your relatives and friends? 

If you are cut off from your home and can’t remember the particular phone number of a relative or friend, use Spokeo’s Reverse Address Search. With Spokeo’s Address Search tool, you can find the phone number of your relatives or friends. If you can’t remember their address, you can look them up by name or even email address. 

Maintain your car and get periodic check-ups

While the CDC is advising that people stay at home as much as possible, you still need to ensure that your car is maintained and ready in case there’s a need to evacuate to a hospital or temporary housing.

Check your tires periodically and get regular oil changes. Store a spare tire in the trunk and keep a tire pressure gauge to ensure your tires are filled with the proper amount of air. Bottled water, insurance plans, blankets, flashlights, first aid, and tool kits are also useful things to store in the trunk or underneath the car seat. Car owners often overlook several important items, including a small hand shovel, jumper cables, granola bars, and print outs of your emergency contact list. 

Everything You Need for A Home Quarantine 

Stock up on a 14-day supply of food for each person in your household – including pets.

Focus on dry and canned goods that are easy to prepare, including rice, pasta, beans, and oats. You should also stock up on canned foods that contain liquid, such as tomatoes, beans, and tuna.  Use the excess liquid to cook dried food like rice and pasta. (Make sure you have a manual can opener in case the electricity isn’t working.)

Don’t forget to include your favorite comfort foods, whether it’s chocolate, candy, or coffee.  Even if they’re not strictly essential, these small pleasures will go a long way to making self isolation manageable.

Stock up – but don’t hoard – household products like soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, tissues, feminine care products, and diapers

According to the CDC, regular and thorough handwashing is one of the best and easiest ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus.  So remember to include hand soap and sanitizer in your home quarantine kit. Don’t forget other hygiene items such as toilet paper, tissues, feminine-care products, and diapers if you have small children in the household.

If possible, get a 30-day supply of your prescription medications

According to the New York Times, people should have at least a 30-day supply of their medications.  The US Department of Homeland Security recommends periodically checking your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.  While many prescription drugs have quantity limits, you can ask your doctor to help you submit an exception form

Maintain a first-aid kit with supplies to treat common injuries

To be prepared for any kind of emergency, the American Red Cross recommends keeping an at-home first aid kit to treat common injuries, including cuts, scrapes, swelling, sprains, strains and more.  This kit should include things like antibiotic ointment packs, gauze, bandages, thermometers, scissors, tweezers, and an emergency blanket.

Check to see if you need other medical supplies such as contact lenses, contact solution, hearing-aid batteries, and over-the-counter medicines like pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, stomach remedies, and vitamins. 

Stock up on a two week supply of water

The US Department of Homeland Security suggests stocking up a two-week supply of water before a pandemic.  The coronavirus pandemic likely won’t affect the availability of drinking water in the US so experts say buying bottled water isn’t necessary for most people.

However, if you live in a remote area with limited access to supplies, make sure you have a 14-day supply of water to last through a possible quarantine.  A general rule of thumb is to have 1 gallon a day for each person or pet in your household. 

Get copies of your health records

In the event of a pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security recommends getting copies and maintaining electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies.

Don’t forget about your mental health

While it’s important to stock up on the essentials such as food and water, don’t neglect your mental health. Whether it’s binging on Netflix shows, taking a walk around the block, or catching up on your reading, do what you need to to keep your mind active and engaged.  Make sure to have interactive entertainment items on hand such as board games and card games suitable for kids and adults.