Five Simple Things to Do Today to be Prepared for an Emergency

Apr 7, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Sean D. Andersen

What if your doorbell rings tonight, and a policeman tells you your neighbor’s home is on fire and you and your family must get out of the house immediately?

What if a family member starts choking at the dinner table?

What if a tornado warning is issued at this very moment?

Although scary to imagine, all of the above are realistic scenarios families face here in New Jersey, and throughout the United States. Would you know what to do? Are you prepared?

Disasters can strike quickly and often without warning. Being prepared and knowing what to do in an emergency can make all the difference—it can even save lives.

The American Red Cross wants to help. Here are five simple things you can do today to be better prepared for emergencies:

  1. Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Every household should have a family disaster plan in place. Household members may not be together when a disaster happens—during the day many people are at work and school. The plan should include ways to contact one another and two predetermined places to meet—one near the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and one outside the neighborhood in case circumstances prevent you from returning home. The Red Cross can help with fun ways to get your children involved in the discussion.
  2. Build an Emergency Preparedness Kit. Whether you purchase a kit or build your own, it’s important to have emergency supplies on hand in the event of an emergency. Supplies should be stored in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that can be stored at home or taken with you in case you need to evacuate.
  3. Download the Free Red Cross Mobile Apps. The Red Cross has a suite of free mobile apps that put expert first aid and disaster preparedness information in the palm of your hand, including what to do before, during and after disasters. The apps are available for iPhone and Android devices. See the unique features of each of the apps at
  4. Sign up for a Red Cross First Aid, CPR/AED Course. Learn lifesaving skills by taking a Red Cross course. With an emphasis on hands-on learning, the CPR/AED course teaches how to properly administer CPR and utilize an automated external defibrillator (AED) to provide immediate care during a cardiac or breathing emergency until medical personal arrive. Learn how to respond to common first aid emergencies including cuts; burns; head, neck and spinal injuries; and more during the First Aid course. Find a course near you.
  5. Don’t Forget about Your Pets. Pets are part of the family, too, and planning ahead for your pet can help save its life. In the event of a disaster, if you need to evacuate, you need to evacuate your pets as well. Be sure that you family disaster plan includes the furry members of your family.

Learn how to Be Red Cross Ready.

In observance of National Public Health Week, RWJF employees will learn how to be ready, too. With help from New Jersey Red Cross volunteers, they'll develop Family Disaster Plans, build Emergency Preparedness Kits, and learn how to use the Red Cross free mobile apps to help them and their families be better prepared.

Sean D. Andersen is a member of the American Red Cross of Central New Jersey Board of Directors and serves as chair of the Services Delivery Committee. Sean is also a partner and strategic account executive with Aon Hewitt in Somerset, N.J.