Emergency Response Preparation Tips

This is a brief list of some of the less-obvious lessons I've learned over the years I've been a civil defense volunteer. For more information on emergency communications, visit Jim Yuen's Disaster Radio page.

Make checklists of equipment and supplies you'll need to respond to an emergency.
When you think about what equipment and supplies you'll need, you'll probably find that there are many things you can pack away in a jump kit that can sit in a closet until you need it, while other things are hard to pre-pack. Personal medication, for example, or things you use regularly like your radio equipment or certain articles of clothing. Or things that may leak or require rotation like batteries or some foods.

So what I've tried to do is determine in advance both what I'll take and how I'll carry it. I've pre-packed some things, and I've made checklists of other things I have to gather or take care of. That way, when I'm activated, I'm less likely to forget something, and I'm less likely to stress out worrying if I've forgotten anything.
Pre-pack written material you may need in the field
Maintain a collection of the written and printed information you may need when called out to respond to an emergency, and keep it in something like a small plastic file case that you can grab and go. This collection can include:
Things I've learned to keep in my vehicle:
A hands-free flashlight — You never know when you might have to do something inside a building during a power failure. I have a headband-mounted flashlight that I can wear on my head, or over a hard hat. It has three selectable lights — a bright halogen flashlight bulb; a white LED (which is actually bright enough to read by) that conserves battery power; and red LEDs, which is less obtrusive than white, and doesn't desensitize night vision. One of those tiny LED squeeze lights with a lock-on feature hanging on your keychain can really come in handy as well.
A flashlight with lithium batteries — I started storing my flashlight empty after leaking batteries ruined one. But that's inconvenient. Lithium batteries are long-lasting, and are supposed to be significantly less likely to leak than alkaline batteries. So I bought an inexpensive LED flashlight and loaded it with AAA lithiums.
Lots of disposable vinyl gloves and filter masks — I used to keep three or four pairs of gloves in the car, but now I keep at least a dozen. A major disaster, or even a serious car accident, could have you caring for multiple casualties. A flood could expose you to real, but manageable, hazards like contaminated water. Latex and nitrile gloves are easier to work in, but I've found that vinyl gloves last a lot longer stored in a car than latex gloves do.
Reusable ear plugs — I used to keep a pair of disposable ear plugs in the car. But during a long-duration event, not only might you find yourself repeatedly exposed to noisy environments, but you also might end up sharing sleeping quarters with people who snore.
A soft full-brimmed rain hat — Protects you from both sun and rain, keeps your head warm when it's cold, and if you wet it down it'll cool you off when it's hot.
An old phone book — In addition to the obvious utility of being able to look up an address or a phone number, phone books in Hawaiʻi have the maps of the tsunami innundation zones.
Sunscreen lotion and insect repellant — The sunscreen was common sense, but I had to learn about having the insect repellant the hard way.
Leave a note to remind yourself to get gasoline and cash.
I have a clipboard that I have set aside to take with me if I'm called out, and I leave a note on it to remind me to stop off at the gas station and the automatic teller machine, and to record my odometer reading so I can claim for milage reimbursement from the agency I serve.
Carry some clean, crisp one dollar bills.
As Hurricane Iniki approached the islands in 1992, stores and restaurants closed. Electrical service, however, remained available where I was, and having some dollar bills let me buy stuff out of vending machines.
Buy bottled water.
Not earth-friendly, and not something I do for routine consumption. But storing potable water on your own is a pain in the neck. Commercially bottled water keeps for at least two years without chemical purification, won't leak, and when it's time to change out your stash, it will still taste good and be safe to drink. And when it's time to respond to the call, grabbing some bottles is a lot faster than filling a container.

I would advise you to mark the bottle caps with the month and year you bought the water. I had a case of bottles on which the expiration date stamps were either missing or had faded away.
Keep paper plates and plastic forks in your survival kit.
Another un-eco suggestion. But if clean water is scarce following a disaster, you don't want to waste it washing your mess kit.