Create a Preparedness Binder

Make a preparedness plan so your family knows how to react safely and wisely in the event of an emergency large or small.

  • Talking with your kids and educating them in how to react to a stressful situation will leave them feeling safe if an emergency does arise.
    Photo by Getty/Vi_L
  • “Prepping 101” by Kathy Harrison shares practical steps families can take to prepare for the worst.
    Cover courtesy of Mars Vilaubi

Prepping 101 (Storey, 2018), by Kathy Harrison, is a guide for families hoping to prepare for emergencies and disasters that could threaten them and their surrounding community. Harrison is a national spokesperson who promotes family preparedness and foster parenting. In addition to authoring Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat, she has also appeared on the National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers, The New York Times, People, and NPR. The following excerpt walks through the steps of creating an emergency plan, or preparedness binder.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I never met a list I didn’t love. In the face of an emergency, I’m as likely to organize my sock drawer as anything else. Being organized helps me quiet my mind and think rationally as opposed to panicking and forgetting essential tasks. So it should come as no surprise that the first thing I suggest you do on your journey to a more prepared life is to get yourself organized with a preparedness notebook.

I call this the grab-and-go binder because it’s the one you’ll want to grab on your way out the door in an emergency. If the worst happens — you wake up to the smell of smoke or the call comes telling you to evacuate now — this will be the thing you grab after your kids and pets. Your binder holds hard copies of all the details of life that help you navigate the electronic and bureaucratic world we live in. If nothing terrible ever happens, if your life flows by without a single serious event, you will still be grateful to have your paperwork organized and at your fingertips.

Your notebook might look different from mine. If you live in an apartment in a big city, keep a plan for how to get beyond the city limits. Are you in a hurricane-prone area? Keep a copy of local evacuation routes, as well as the numbers for places you can stay once you have evacuated the area. The beauty of this binder is that, as your personal guide to getting by in a crisis, it’s a continual work-in-progress. Pages can be added or removed, updated, and refined. It will serve you well in an emergency.

You can use whatever kind of binder you like; I prefer the type with a plastic overlay that allows you to insert a picture. I stenciled “Home Sweet Home” on mine, but you might prefer a picture of your house, your family, or maybe even a zombie. Add some filler paper, lots of dividers (I like the kind with pockets), and clear page protectors for important paperwork. Plastic sheets with small pockets designed to hold baseball cards are perfect for holding business cards and single keys.

A Section for Everyone

Prepare a section in the binder for each family member. Include documents that would be potentially important to your ability to function and difficult to replace, such as the following:



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