Don't Wait to Prepare for an Emergency


Preparing your family for weather and other large-scale emergencies can be stressful. Think about watching the news before a big snowstorm. What do the newscasts always show?

People rush to stock up on bread, milk, and eggs. Buy more rock salt. Fill the car up with gas. Reporters on location at grocery and hardware stores tell us about chaotic scenes and anxious people.

There was a time when I could afford to wait until the last minute because the only person I had to worry about was me. Now things are different. My wife and I have a child. Somehow, every adult conversation we have ends up about our little Dixie Lee.

Avoid Scrambling

We try to avoid last-minute scrambling by preparing for emergencies ahead of time. We buy things we need for the winter in the summer and things we need for the summer in the winter. We keep the pantry stocked with canned goods, the flashlights with fresh batteries, and some cash on hand just in case we need it. There’s another reason we do this: My wife and I are both emergency managers.

Because of our careers, our family faces unique challenges. My wife occasionally has to deploy to another part of the country even if an emergency doesn't affect our area.

If your family must cope with sudden out-of-town work trips, the unplanned
absence of a parent can constitute an “emergency” you must prepare to handle.

Each family has different needs. Which supplies would you be hard-pressed to do without for a several days?

Take inventory of your family’s unique situation, particularly if  you have an infant or toddler.

Important Questions

Here are some important questions.

Do you have extra formula for the baby? What about extra purified water to mix it with?

Do you have an extra bottle of laundry detergent or dishwashing liquid available to clean clothes and bottles?

Did you remember the little things? Do you have extra pacifiers, bowls, spoons, bibs, and bottles?

In addition to supplies, what about child care? This is a tough one in our situation. In an instant, I may have to handle mom and dad duties because my wife has been whisked away to a far-off part of the country or has to pull 12-hour shifts as an emergency manager.

If you or your spouse is a medical professional or you work for a power company or a transportation agency, you know the same thing could happen to you.

Identify a backup for child care. Look beyond your immediate family to include support from your extended family and neighbors.

For detailed advice about emergency planning for your family. Check out or (Spanish language) for a myriad of preparedness tips.

Fill out a family emergency preparedness plan and stock a “go-kit” in case you need to leave in an instant — for example if a fire breaks out in your home. Download the FEMA app to your phone.

Preparing when things are calm may save your family from unnecessary stress and discomfort if a significant emergency arises.

John Dispaldo and his wife, Andrea, live in Bridgeport, PA with their daughter, Dixie. John is an emergency management consultant and Andrea works for the federal government.

Emergency Resources

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Mobile app: FEMA for iTunes and Android (weather alerts, preparedness tips, disaster resources, and more)

Website,; preparedness information,

Twitter: @FEMA (main agency account);
@FEMARegion2 (includes NJ);
@FEMARegion3 (includes DE, PA)



New Jersey



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