Melissa Kaplan's
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Last update January 1, 2014

Emergency Preparedness

The better prepared you are, the better you will be able to cope with your family, pets, and neighbors



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by Melissa Kaplan

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If you aren't prepared, what are you waiting for?

While state and federal agencies urge people to be prepared to take care of themselves for three days, assuming that it will take that long for first responders (such as fire, police, and trained medical personnel with ambulances), first responders and other trained disaster responders believe we should be prepared to be on our own a week or longer.

Why? Because unless you live in the areas of heaviest devastation, your area won't be considered critical enough to send limited first responder resources to. Even in the epicenter of major destruction, it may take time for first responders to reach the scene because of having to dig themselves and their equipment and supplies out, and then get into the disaster area.

The only person you can rely on is yourself and those around you who are similarly prepared. You can increase your chances of survival and reduce the problems associated with being the only prepared person in a neighborhood (or mobilehome park, or large apartment complex, or cul de sac buried in suburbia) by getting some training yourself in emergency preparedness, and working with some of your like-minded neighbors to get your neighborhood trained and organized.

If you think I am being overly pessimistic, just read these recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle, keeping in mind that most police and fire personnel in San Francisco don't live in San Francisco:

Health Dept., OES fail study on readiness: Agencies ill-prepared to cope with disasters, says grand jury

Grand jury finds SF hospitals lack preparation for disaster

For those who live in Santa Rosa and the surrounding areas, compare the location of the Rogers Creek Fault that underlies most of the city east of the 101, and look at where the sheriff's office, police department, Memorial and Sutter hospitals, and the radio and television stations are, not to speak of the highway 101 overpasses that cross the main east-west streets across town. West Sonoma County is thus bordered by two major faults: San Andreas on the west (running through Tomales and Bodega Bays) and Rogers Creek. The county is situated on sandy, alluvial soil, which increases the degree of damage to anything sitting on and just under the earth's surface. A recent (2007) study says that the Rogers Creek fault is due for a major shift (Experts say local fault primed for big quake).

The City of Santa Rosa and Community Media Center has available for viewing on its site a short documentary on the 1906 earthquake which devastated the city, and an overview of how the city has been planning for the next big one, recognizing that the city and county with both sustain major destruction and loss of life due to the nature of the soil on which we have built. The DVD of this documentary, Earthquake 1906: A Santa Rosa Centennial, can be purchased from the producer, Community Media Center.

Fire Safety Information Resources
Electrical Safety for Kids Sake

Jump to:

    Animal Poison Hotlines


    Get Your Block, Neighborhood or Workplace Together

    Get Your Kits Together

    People with disAbilities

    Get Your Emergency Information Together

    Training Opportunities

    Other Disaster & Emergency Information Resources

    Melissa Kaplan's Personal Emergency Planning Checklist for People & Pets (PDF)

    Now That You're All Prepared...

Animal Poison Hotlines
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC)

Additional Animal Poison & First Aid resources


American Red Cross Sonoma & Mendocino Chapter Pet First Aid/CPR

American Veterinary Medical Association Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness for Bird and Reptile Owners

Disaster Preparation for Pets

Emergency Planning for Reptile and Amphibian Collections

Emergency Tips For Service Animal And Pet Owners (ILRSF)

First Aid Kits for Reptiles, Dogs & Cats

First Aid/Wound Management for Reptiles

Giant Snake & Lizard Bites: Open Letter to Emergency Responders

PetFinder's Emergency Preparedness

Preparing Your Pet For The Big One PDF

Signs of Ingestion of Toxic Substances

When Disaster Strikes: Are your pets prepared?

Search the articles database at for more first aid and emergency handling of injured pets...

See CERT-LA's Special Considerations page for more booklets and resources for people with disabilities, kids, and pets


People with disAbilities

NFPA Fire Safety For People with Disabilities

National Organizaiton on disAbilities Disaster Readiness Tips

Emergency Preparedness: Taking Responsibility for your Safety PDF

Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities PDF

Emergency Tips For Service Animal And Pet Owners PDF

Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs (FEMA)

See CERT-LA's Special Considerations page for more booklets and resources for people with disabilities, kids, and pets


Be Proactive: Fill Out A Household & Emergency Infomation Form
Computers aren't always available, so you should have critical information in writing stashed in your car and wallet as well as your go bag or box of emergency supplies.

One Page Sample Information Stash - everything you'll need in condensed form (PDF)

MedID's Free Emergency Medical Informationj Form


Be Proactive: Training Opportunities
Check out these agencies and organizations to find emergency preparedness training courses in your area.

American Red Cross - check your local chapter's courses

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

Sonoma County CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams)
Do you live in Santa Rosa and want to take a CERT course? Call the Fire Chief of the Santa Rosa Fire Department and tell him you want CERT in Santa Rosa! (707) 543-3531


Be Proactive: Get Your Block, Neighborhood or Workplace Together

City of Santa Rosa COPE

Get Organized: Neighborhood Census Form Word; PDF

Sonoma County CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams)
Do you live in Santa Rosa and want to take a CERT course? Call the Fire Chief of the Santa Rosa Fire Department and tell him you want CERT in Santa Rosa! (707) 543-3531

CERT-LA's Home/Work Preparedness Resources


Be Proactive: Other Things You Need To Know For, During, and After Disasters
Will your Disaster Personality save you?

How To Survive a Disaster  - Lessons learned

Your Brain In A Disaster

Disaster Mental Health Resources (for professionals and the public)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Information Center

Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering from Natural Disasters

Managing Traumatic Stress: Disasters and Terrorism

National Mental Health Information Center (


California State and Sonoma County Emergency Services Agencies

Californa OES > Sonoma County Dept of Emergency Services > Emergency Preparedness Maps

California WE Prepare

California Veterinary Medical Associaton > Disaster Planning

California Department of Food & Agriculture > Disaster Preparedness

Sonoma & Mendocino Chapter of the American Red Cross - provided by the City of San Francisco

Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (COPE) (Intro video)


Be Proactive: Get Your Kits Together
Make a kit for home, office, and each of your vehicles. If your kids have lockers at school, make sure they have a basic kit, too, including emergency contact information for relatives or friends in the area and out of state in case local communications are down or overloaded.

QUAKE! Living on the Fault Line

Family Disaster Supply Calendar: A 24 Week Plan to Preparedness - A good plan for those on limited income or otherwise too overwhelmed with trying to do it all at once.

Family Disaster Supply Calendar: A 16 Week Plan to Preparedness - Another good plan for everyone

Get A Kit, Make A Plan, Be Informed (Red Cross interactive)

Preparing Your Pet For The Big One (Peninsula Humane Society)

Personal Emergency Information - everything you'll need to remember on one piece of paper (Word; PDF)


Other Disaster and Emergency Information and Resources

American Red Cross  

American Red Cross - Sonoma, Mendocino & Lake Counties Chapter

FEMA Guide to Emergency Preparedness

Homeland Security's

Vial of Life Project

What's Your RQ (Readiness Quotient)?

USGS: Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country


Now That You're All Prepared...

You've done a great job! You have all of your emergency contacts and other info noted down, you have your will, advance care directive and other instruments executed, you've got your pets and kids and other criticals documented...the only problem is, it's five years later and you haven't even looked at them since you first put them down on paper or in a computer file! People change, lives change, situations change, but your original documents don't know that unless you sit down, review them annually, and make the necessary updates. You've done such a good job - it would be a shame to let all that hard work go to waste!

Schedule time with yourself, putting your appointment with you in your date book - every year. You and your family is going to be stressed enough when the unthinkable happens, so why make it worse by having only outdated information to refer to? Just do it.



Recommended Reading

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why?
by Amanda Ripley
ISBN 9780307352897

"The Unthinkable is the thinking person's manual for getting out alive." - NPR Radio

“Engrossing and lucid … An absorbing study of the psychology and physiology of panic, heroism, and trauma … Facing the truth about the human capacity for risk and disaster turns out to be a lot less scary than staying in the dark.” - Oprah Magazine

"This book will help those who've never faced disaster to understand their own behavior and be prepared should their luck runout one day." Nando Parrado, Miracle in the Andes

Amazon US; Amazon.CA; Amazon UK;  

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