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Building a personal emergency kit

Creating a Personal Emergency Preparedness Plan

By Kristy Warren

When disaster strikes, does your family have a plan? As Coronavirus COVID-19 spread around the world, we saw what a difference preparation and planning made in reacting quickly to the virus. With COVID-19 continuing to spike across Pennsylvania, preventive health measures and personal preparedness plans are more important than ever.


We are seeing more active cases in Tioga County now than at any other time in the pandemic. The Laurel Health Centers have prepared extensively for handling this influx in cases, and encourage everyone to develop their own emergency preparedness plans, not only for COVID-19 but for common emergency situations like flooding and fires. A detailed plan helps you act quickly to tackle emergencies of any kind.




While we all hope we won’t have to use it, having a plan in place to deal with a worst-case scenario allows you to stay calm, react faster, and exert some control over an uncertain situation while minimizing disruption to your daily routine. 


Being vigilant day in and day out can be hard. It may be tempting to lower your guard after months of dealing with this pandemic's “new normal,” but as our COVID-19 case counts rise, preventive measures like masking, social distancing, and washing your hands are critical to slowing community spread and having a personal emergency preparedness plan can help you navigate the changes and uncertainity more confidently.


An influx of COVID-19 patients can increase exposure risks, overwhelm already busy healthcare facilities, and create a domino effect that interrupts the workforce, economy, transportation, education, and food supply chain. If schools or daycare facilities must close, who will take care of your children? That's where a personal preparedness plan comes in!



The Laurel Health Centers are well-prepared to tackle healthcare emergencies, as we train extensively each year to respond quickly and effectively to care for our community. We have tracked and implemented COVID-19 best practices and safety protocols since the beginning of the pandemic and continue to finetune our response daily. Laurel Health put a strong series of infection control protocols in place for prevention, patient / staff screening, testing, and directing patient care.


Our flexible, thorough emergency response plan allows us to pivot quickly and effectively—and a personal emergency preparedness plan helps you and your family do the same. Remember, the more contingencies you think through now when you are calm and have ample time to plan, the better prepared you’ll feel and the faster you can respond in a stressful situation. Read on for tips on assembling your plan!



Three simple steps for creating your emergency plan

Step 1: Write a detailed plan. Think through the roles each family member would play during an emergency and how you would communicate, then write it down in detail. If you have young children, elderly family, or pets, outline your backup plan for their care. To jumpstart your planning, imagine scenarios that could disrupt your routine and ask yourself hypothetical questions you'd need to address in your plan like "what happens if I'm held up at work and can't pick up my child? Who will take care of my kids while I'm at work if the babysitter is unavailable or school / daycare must close?"


Walk through your plans together for common types of emergencies like fires, severe weather, natural disasters, or illness. Make sure everyone understands what to do. Consider making an out-of-state friend one of your family contacts, as calling locally during an emergency like a weather disaster is sometimes impossible. Learn your community’s warning signals (e.g., tornado sirens, Swift911 county alerts) and what you should do if you receive them.


Here’s an example checklist preparing for family quarantine following exposure to COVID-19:

  • Make a list of everyone you've come into close contact with (i.e., closer than six feet) beginning two days prior to developing symptoms through now and advise them of their potential exposure so that they can quarantine as well and seek testing if recommended.

  • Ensure you have at least a 14-day supply of all needed medications, food, and essentials. 

  • Ask a healthy friend, relative, or caregiver to stock up on supplies and deliver the items directly to you.

  • Use household cleaners and disinfectants to clean your home. Kitchens and bathrooms need extra attention. Take special care to clean commonly touched items like doorknobs, light switches, remotes, phones, computer keyboards, handles, refrigerators, and microwaves.

  • Stay connected safely and don’t be afraid to ask for help. This time can be stressful and lonely, so arrange phone calls or video chats with family, friends, and your care team for extra support.


Step 2: Assemble an emergency response kit. Your kit should include the supplies you need to tackle an emergency, including medical supplies, non-perishable food, water, lists of emergency contacts, allergies, and prescriptions, pet food, and utility supplies like flashlights with extra batteries, emergency blankets, and weather radios. When creating your kit, make sure to account for the size of your family to ensure you have enough for everyone.


A good rule is to make sure you have at least one gallon of water per person and an emergency kit with enough antiseptic, sterile wipes, bandages, and medication to tend multiple people. For help with building your kit, visit ready.gov or health.pa.gov.


Step 3: Stay informed and keep your materials up-to-date. Once you build your emergency kit, keep it updated with the most current actions, information, supplies, and contacts. Periodically go through your kit to check for dead batteries and make sure to replace any expired items. Update your response plan to reflect changing roles as people grow, as your child will have a different role in your family’s emergency plan at age 8 than they will at 16. Be sure to reflect changes to family dynamics, too, like moving into a new home with a different fire escape plan or sending a child away to college.

While it may feel uncomfortable planning for an emergency, your future self will thank you! For more tips on keeping your family safe and healthy, stay tuned to the Laurel Health Centers' news page or visit us on Facebook at facebook.com/laurelhc.