Preparing for an Emergency

Emergency Planning: Prepare Now 

The best way to survive an emergency is to plan ahead. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling a supply kit or "go bag" and developing a family communications plan, are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency.  But different actions may be required for different emergencies.  For example, a sudden emergency may force you to evacuate your home while an outbreak of pandemic flu could keep you homebound for up to two weeks.  The Schenectady County Office of Emergency Management wants to help all residents be prepared for all emergency situations. 

Create a Kit of Emergency Supplies 

Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for up to two weeks.  Think first about fresh water, food and clean air.  Consider putting together two kits. In one, put everything needed to stay where you are and make it on your own.  The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you have to get away.  Some people refer to these as a “go-bags.”

You'll need a gallon of water per person per day.  Include canned and dried foods that are easy to store and prepare.  Also include warm clothes and a sleeping bag for each member of the family.

Start now by gathering basic emergency supplies - a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, a NOAA Weather radio with tone alert, extra batteries, a first aid kit, toilet articles, prescription medicines and other special things your family may need.  Also, include a manual can opener, duct tape and heavyweight garbage bags or plastic sheeting.

Make a Family Plan for What You Will Do in an Emergency 

Be prepared to assess the situation, use common sense and whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and your loved ones.  You should understand and plan for either of two scenarios: evacuating your home or remaining in place.

Develop a Family Communications Plan: Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. Identify an out-of-town friend or relative as your "emergency family check-in contact" for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Make sure all family members have the correct phone number. It is often easier to call out-of-town during an emergency than within the affected area. You may have trouble getting through so be patient.

Getting Away: Plan how your family will assemble and where you will go. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency. Keep at least a half tank of gas in it at all times. Become familiar with alternate routes as well as other means of transportation out of your area. If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Take your “go-bag” emergency supply kit and lock the door behind you. Listen to the radio for instructions.

At Work and School: Think about the places where your family spends time: school, work and other places you frequent. Talk to your children's schools and your employer about emergency plans. Find out how they will communicate with families during an emergency. If you are an employer, be sure you have an emergency preparedness plan. Review and practice it with your employees. A community working together during an emergency also makes sense. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together.

Staying Put: There are circumstances when staying put inside your home is the action to take. An outbreak of pandemic flu is just such an example. To prepare for this situation it is best to have enough supplies to last up to two weeks. The pandemic flu checklist below can be used to prepare for all emergencies requiring you to stay put for a length of time.

Pandemic Flu Checklist


  1. To plan for a pandemic:
    • Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.
    • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
    • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
    • Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response.
    • Get involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic.


  1. To limit the spread of germs and prevent infection:
    • Teach your children to wash hands frequently with soap and water, and model the correct behavior.

    • Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, and be sure to model that behavior.

    • Teach your children to stay away from others as much as possible if they are sick. Stay home from work and school if sick.

  1. Items to have on hand for an extended stay at home:


Examples of food and non-perishables Examples of medical, health, and emergency supplies

Ready-to-eat canned meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, and soups

Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood-pressure monitoring equipment

Protein or fruit bars

Soap and water, or alcohol-based (60-95%) hand wash

Dry cereal or granola

Medicines for fever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen

Peanut butter or nuts


Dried fruit

Anti-diarrheal medication



Canned juices

Fluids with electrolytes

Bottled water

Cleansing agent/soap

Canned or jarred baby food and formula


Pet food


Other non-perishable items

Portable radio


Manual can opener


Garbage bags


Tissues, toilet paper, disposable diapers

Other Resources

For additional information, including easy-to-print brochures, use the following links: 

NYS Department of Health - Emergency Preparedness and Response

Build A Disaster Supplies Kit (Red Cross)

READY America – U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Preparation and Planning

Northestern Red Cross






Mark LaViolette

Emergency Management
130 Princetown Plaza
Schenectady, NY
(518) 370-3113