Crisis Preparedness Handbook--A Complete Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli.

It's a Disaster—And What Are YOU Gonna to Do About It? by Bill & Janet Liebsch. This basic first aid and disaster preparedness manual helps individuals, families, and corporations prepare for many types of emergencies and natural or man-made disasters before they strike. The book is designed to help people examine how best to react in any emergency situation and prepare each family or corporate member to participate effectively. It also includes special sections that specifically address the unique needs of infants, disabled, and elderly family members. 


The U. S. Small Business Administration has an excellent loan program in place for homeowners and business owners who suffer loss from natural disasters. To be considered for all forms of federal recovery assistance, disaster victims must first call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). You'll also find information about SBA's disaster assistance program on its Web site at

Copyright © 2000-2015 by Barbara Brabec. All Rights Reserved.

Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

Tips for Setting up a "Grab-It-Quick" Box

by Barbara Brabec

Have you ever taken the time to think what you would do in case of a fire, flood, hurricane, or tornado warning? A fire in the house is everyoneís worst nightmare, and this problem is twice as severe if your home is also your place of employment. Stopping to grab "stuff" on your way out of the house could actually cost you your life, so it behooves all home-business owners to have a fireproof file or drawer to hold important papers that canít be kept off-premise. And the more business information you can get on computer and backed up for safe storage offsite, the better. (I now have great peace of mind in this department because I use Carbonite's online backup service.)

It was the terrible wildfires in California a while back that once again brought this message home to me, and how little time some folks had to consider what personal possessions were most important to them. Victims of the four 2004 history-making hurricanes that devastated many parts of Florida and caused serious damage in nine other states had more time to prepare, but I'll bet many folks lost possessions important to them simply because they didn't have a disaster plan in place before these storms hit their homes and businesses.

Now, whenever I hear about the latest natural disaster, be it fire, flood, hurricane, tornado or earthquake, I always wonder how many of those affected were doing business out of their home and whether they had made plans in advance to protect their business records and most treasured possessions. I am always overwhelmed with sadness whenever I hear someone say they have lost everything they owned, and I think of all the precious irreplaceable personal possessions, photos, treasured collections, antiques, books, music, music instruments, artwork, handcrafts, jewelry and other items that are always lost in a disaster simply because their owners never thought about protecting them beforehand, or even documenting their existence with photographs or videotapes.

I also thought about fire a lot the summer our area was hit by one severe lightning storm after another. Several homes—one in our immediate area—were stuck by lightning and burned as a result. Flooding is not a problem in our area, but we had more tornado warnings than usual that year, and every time the siren sounded, I scurried to pack my "Grab-It-Quick" box so I could get my most valuable papers downstairs, just in case.

Making a List and Checking It Again and Again

Making a list of everything thatís important to save is a good idea, but even with a list, you might not have time to grab it all if a tornado warning has just sounded or you suddenly find your house on fire. Having everything important in one place or central location is vital, as is keeping a box or bag nearby thatís big enough to hold it all. For example, I have a bookcase with a built-in desk and, on the shelf above this work area, I keep all incoming mail, bills to be paid, record books, tax receipts, checkbooks/bank statements, and other important personal and business files that I access on a regular basis. I keep one of Harry's old briefcases in the closet that will hold all this stuff and, many times that summer when I first began to get serious about preparing for a possible disaster, I simply scooped up everything on this shelf, dropped it in the briefcase and hauled it down to the basement (grabbing my purse, as well, which always hangs on my office doorknob).

Just knowing what you need to protect can take a lot of thinking. After each of these trips to the basement, I came back upstairs and thought of one more thing I had forgotten to put in that box, and it took all summer for me to actually think of everything that was especially important to me. Since I could never carry it all, I finally opted to move several scrapbooks, personal journals, photo albums. and reference files to filing cabinets and shelves in the basement, figuring a tornado that took the top half of the house might hop over certain areas of the basement. I also put a few more precious things into the large personal safe deposit box I've always had for irreplaceable personal treasures.

One of the most important things to grab if you have to leave your office is your list of passwords and other essential financial information needed to do business or manage your personal financial life. I regularly update my passwords list and booklet containing all information related to my financial life. I have print copies for reference and backup the information on a CD kept in my fireproof drawer on the lower level. From time to time I move a copy of this information to my safe deposit box.

As a writer and family historian in her senior years, I find that the things I am most concerned about losing are my resource files for books in progress and my personal journals, scrapbooks, and photos. Bit by bit, Iím trying to scan photos and copy some of my handwritten material to the computer, but it all takes so much time. The best I can do in the meantime is to just keep the files I'm working on handy so I can grab them in a minute if necessary. 

I hope these random thoughts have prompted you to rethink your own strategies for how youíre protecting your most valuable personal and business possessions, and how you would recover emotionally from a disaster that took most of everything you cared about. People always say, "Well, we're alive, and that's what counts," and I have to agree with that. But with just a little planning prior to a disaster that threatened everything you own, you might end up with a lot more than just your life, and this would make life after a disaster much more bearable.

If you have learned anything about this topic from experience, your tips for others would be appreciated.


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