You never know what you’re missing from your Home Preparedness Plan or emergency supplies list if you don’t periodically hold a realistic drill*.

Imagine what would happen if you tried to restore your computer backups after years of backing up once-in-a-lifetime photos, only to find out that half of what you backed up couldn’t be recovered. (You do test your backups periodically, don’t you?)

When planning for disasters around the home, you’ll need to take into consideration every potential problem you may encounter, such as extended power outages, no potable (drinking) water, no telephone, and no heat. Don’t forget about natural disasters, such as fire (both structural as well as wildland), floods, hurricanes, typhoons, tornados, and so on.

Run your test scenario at least twice a year when the clocks get changed for an entire weekend – 48 hours – and don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke & CO detectors. Every quarter would be ideal, if feasible for your situation.

Did you run out of anything? Did you have enough toilet paper? Personal medications? Did everyone, including pets, have enough food to eat? What if your town/city issued a boil order for the next few days – do you have enough water for cleaning dishes and brushing your teeth?

Use what you learn from your weekend drill to improve your plan, and modify your items list(s).

Here are some examples of things we tend to forget about when making a list of items to have around, just in case:

– Personal hygeine items (toilet paper, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, dental floss, shaving cream, etc.)
– Cleaning supplies (dish soap, sponges, towels, rags, etc.)
– Pet needs (water/food bowls, cat litter, leash, waste bags, etc.)
– Child/infant supplies (extra diapers, bottles, formula, clothes, blankets, diaper wipes, etc.)
– Minor first aid items (band-aids, first aid tape, tweezors, scissors, topical antibiotic ointment, burn cream, etc.)
– Spare batteries, including charged battery power packs for phones, tablets, laptops, etc.
– PRINTED contact lists (relatives, neighbors, doctors, work contacts, insurance agents, banks)
– Automotive supplies (fuel, oil, windshield wiper fluid, windshield scraper, chains, jack, etc.)
– Generator/Backup Power supplies (fuel, oil, extension cords, connectors, repair tools, air filters, etc.)
– Anything needed for your daily routines, however insignificant, that you might not think about.

(These are just suggested items you may not think about when making your own lists – there are tons of lists elsewhere on the Internet that are more complete, and far more extensive.)

Other Considerations

Do you have a plan in place in case your house is on fire? Does everyone know where to meet? Who calls 911? Who makes sure your pets are safe? What if one of your family members doesn’t meet at the designated meeting place? Do you or someone else go back into the house to look for them? (HINT: The answer is NO!)

What about a medical emergency? Do you have a list of medications (and dosages) available on your refridgerator for EMS personnel to access if you can’t speak? If you or a loved one that lives with you has a DNR (“Do Not Resuscitate” order), make sure it’s readily available to provide to EMS – without it in writing and signed, they aren’t required by law to cease life-saving efforts.

Do you have a recent full-body picture of your child(ren) and other family members to provide to the police in the event they are missing?

Are your important documents in double freezer bags to prevent them from getting soaked in water/snow/other fluids that could render them unreadable? If they’re in a fire-proof safe, will you be able to access them before you have no choice but to leave the house? How long is your safe fireproof for? How long is it rated to protect the contents?

The most important thing you can do, once you have your plan and your items gathered, is to put your plan to the ultimate test. Thinking about what would or could happen is great for planning, but if you never test your plan, you won’t know what you’ve left out until it’s too late.

And remember: Graveyards are full of people who said, “That can never happen to me!”

*Realistic, meaning as real as you can SAFELY make it.