Let’s Start With the Basics

Disaster planning is about keeping you safe, warm, and fed after a disaster. ReadyMarin suggests, based on recent disasters, that you prepare for at least 3 days, and preferably 5-7 days, without power or utilities. But don’t be overwhelmed. You are probably more prepared than you think and every step you take moves you forward!

• Make a family plan and practice
• Build a kit
• Store food and water
• Get informed

We’ve broken it down into 4 blocks of time. You decide how much time you have available and complete those tasks. Got it done? Come back for more!

Preparedness Resources

Pick a time. Any time.

30 min
60 min
2 hrs
2-18 hrs

Evacuation Backpack

What if you have to leave. Create your Grab & Go Checklist, which are those items to collect for evacuation, such as copies of family photos and important documents. Place your list in an old backpack and leave it in a closet by the front door. In addition to family photos and financial records, you might add a change of clothes, radio, and first aid kit. Don’t forget the pets! Your kids should also make their own Grab & Go lists.

Evacuation Backpack

Make a Family Plan

You need a plan to stay and to leave. Whether due to a house fire, an earthquake or approaching wildfire, you may have to leave your home for a safer location. Have an evacuation plan and practice it with your family. If you are able to shelter in place, you will need to plan how to survive, where to store your supplies, and how to communicate with out of town family. Make sure the whole family knows what to do.


Build a Kit

Shelter in Place. You may be sheltering on your property for an extended period of time, maybe even camping in the back yard. No ATM’s. No gas. No water. Much of what you need is already in your home and just needs to be collected in a safe place. You’ll need a flashlight, first aid kit, manual can opener, sanitation supplies, cash in small denominations, and of course water and food. Remember you are preparing for at least 3 days, and possibly 5-7 days on your own.

Build a Kit Checklist

Get Ready & CERT

Two options to train and learn more. Get Ready is a free 2-hour class focused on basic home preparedness. The class can be held in your community or gather your neighbors in your home. Learn more.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training is a more in-depth 18-hour course taught throughout the year. Take CERT just for you and your family, or offer to be an emergency volunteer and help your community during a disaster. It’s serious, but it’s fun.

Learn More

Make a Family Plan

An emergency or disaster may occur when family members are home or at work or school. Having a family emergency plan will give you the reassurance that you will be able to take care of yourselves whether you have to shelter in place or evacuate. Download FEMA’s Family Communication Plan to help organize your information. Download the ReadyMarin Checklists.

Shelter in Place
Following a large scale disaster, be it an earthquake, fire or flood, you may have the option of remaining in your home or at least on your property. You will need to decide if your home is safe to re-enter. If your home is not safe, you may need to camp out in your back yard. Your camping gear can become part of your emergency supplies, such as a tent, sleeping bags, and cook stove. Prepare to take care of yourself and your family for 5-7 days. Don’t forget that if power is out, gas pumps won’t work, ATM’s won’t work and grocery stores will be closed. Visit www.ready.gov for more information and download the Build a Kit checklist.

Family loads luggage in carThere may be situations, such as an approaching wildland fire, where you choose to, or are ordered to, leave your home. Have a family meeting to determine how you would leave your home in the event of a house fire. Find two ways to get out of every room. You can make this an activity with your children. It is important to decide a meeting place for all family members in case of a quick evacuation.

For guidelines on how to prepare for a wildfire, visit Ready Set Go Marin.

Plan ahead and build an Evacuation Backpack, including items such as copies of financial records on a USB drive, extra eyeglasses, flashlight and small battery-operated radio. This backpack can be left in a closet near your front door or under your bed. You can add last minute items from your Grab and Go Checklist just before you leave, but remember anything you can do ahead of time will save you time in an emergency! Last minute items might include medications, cell phone and charger, safe deposit keys, family jewelry and passports. Each family member should make their own Grab and Go Checklist.

You may not be home when a disaster strikes. Check with your school or daycare to find out what the plan is in case of an evacuation. Make sure your children carry an emergency identification card. One important element on the card is identifying an out-of-town contact. Often in a disaster it is impossible to get local phone service, but calls out of the area can get through. Identifying this contact allows your family, who might be separated, to pass the word that other members are safe.

Keep a Work Kit in case you have to leave work quickly, or have to walk home. Include comfortable shoes, a change of clothes, flashlight, snacks, first aid kit, and of course, water. If a disaster occurs while you are in your car, a Car Kit will come in handy. Download the Mini-Survival Checklists for Work and Car.

First, take a few minutes today and register your cell phones with the Telephone Emergency Notification System (TENS) of Marin County. This system will send you an alert in the case of flooding, wildfire, evacuation or other public safety incidents. Visit www.alertmarin.org to sign up.

The phone systems, as well as electricity, may be down after a disaster. So how do we share information, contact our families, and get help? There are a few options that might work, depending on the situation. Planning ahead, arranging meeting places for your family, identifying an out-of-town contact and participating in a neighborhood radio network will help provide options in case of a disaster.

Out of Area

If you are not able to get a call through in our area, try an out-of-area call, as that is sometimes more successful.


If you, or a neighbor, have an original landline in your home, it may work when other digital systems are down.


Even if you do not have cell service, you may be able to text (SMS) since it operates on a different frequency.

Hand-held Radio

Hand-held radios will work within your neighborhood but do require protocols and have limited range. Learn more >

Build Your Kits

Emergency kitIt is important to collect and store your supplies so they are readily available in an emergency. Having a Family Plan so everyone understands how to get out of the house and where to meet if separated, takes a minimal amount of time to complete but could save lives later.

The ReadyMarin Checklists provide you with the information you need to get prepared. You can download all the ReadyMarin Checklist bundle or each one separately in the links below.

Build a Kit Checklist
If you are able to shelter in place in your home, this kit provides you with the items needed to stay warm, fed and safe. Store your supplies in a safe place, check expiration dates on food and water twice a year and replace as necessary.

Grab & Go Checklist
If you had 10 minutes to evacuate, what are the 10 items you would take? A great exercise to do and this checklist provides you with some ideas and a place to record them. You might even collect some ahead of time and put them in your Evacuation Backpack.

Evacuation Backpack
If you have to evacuate, this backpack will contain cash, important papers, change of clothes, and more. Fill out the Grab & Go Checklist and keep it in the backpack for last minute items, such as medications and phone charger. Make a backpack for each member of the family.

Evacuation Plan Checklist
It is important that your family have a discussion about what to do in an emergency, how to get out of the house in a fire, and where to meet if you are separated. Learn more about how to talk to your children on the ReadyKids page.

Emergency Contact Cards
Make sure all members of the family have an emergency contact card in their possession at all times. Keep copies in your Evacuation Backpack and Mini-Survival kits.

Mini-Survival Kits: Car and Work
Disasters can occur at any time. Both the Car and Work Kits provide you with a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, first aid kits, water and nutritional snacks.

Store Food and Water

water_jugsYou will need to store food and water for a minimum of 3 days and preferably 5-7 days. Choose non-perishable food that is low-sodium (reduces your thirst) and pick items that you will want to eat. Don’t forget to put a can opener in your kit! The Build a Kit Checklist contains a list of food ideas.

Storing water is a critical component of your disaster planning. In the event of an earthquake it is best to turn off the water to your home. You can always turn it back on.  This will keep the water in your home from being contaminated from sewage coming in from broken pipes. Wait to hear on the radio if there are water delivery issues or sanitation problems in your area before turning it back on. Always drink the best water you have first, before boiling or treating water that is suspicious.

The rule of thumb for water storage is 1 gallon of water per person (and per pet), per day. ReadyMarin suggests you be prepared for 5-7 days without utilities. That adds up! Download  Water Usage & Guidelines for more information. Remember that in your home, you have between 30-50 gallons of water in your hot water heater. While you can access this water from the valve on the heater, you will need to filter it (a coffee filter works well) since sediment builds in the bottom of the tank.

Get Informed

Your best defense in a disaster is being educated. Marin County offers both the Get Ready and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training to all residents. Learn how to take care of yourself and your family, or expand your knowledge and learn about first aid, search and rescue, disaster organization and help your community. Download the ReadyMarin Checklists for more information about preparing for a disaster.