Cary Farrell

Organizing for Emergencies

by Cary Farrell
July 22, 2019
For those of you that have been reading my newsletters over the past year, you will remember that this time last year we were getting ready for our oldest daughter’s wedding in Texas.  Well this year we are getting ready for that same daughter’s first baby!  Yes, I am going to be Nana to a baby boy.  I am very excited and look forward to spending time with them.

Unlike planning a wedding where you have an exact date, time, location, guest list, menu, etc., a baby comes on its own date, time, location, etc.  Life can be like a baby in the sense that you can plan to a certain point and then you have to be flexible. I have a plane ticket to fly out for the birth but I am prepared to change the flight if necessary.  As fun as it is to prepare and wait on a new baby, other life events are not always as much fun to prepare for.  This month I interviewed Sonia Estroff, an active member of Cary Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), to help us get organized for potential life events that can be easier to handle with just a little preparation.  These are not doomsday preparations but common emergencies that we see on the news everyday.  
What are the most important emergencies to prepare for?
Emergencies range from inconveniences like power outages and neighborhood evacuations that may be issued because of a gas leak or fire to the larger weather related events like hurricanes and tornadoes. The key to being prepared is creating a 72-hour emergency kit, making a family emergency plan and staying informed on the types of emergencies that can occur in your area.  Discussing possible emergency situations and responses with your family now can help everyone be calmer and respond more quickly if they do occur.  Most people think of emergencies happening when everyone is at home, however, it’s also important to think through situations where family members may be at work, school or on the road in between.
If time and money are factors, what are the most basic emergency needs to focus on first?
Decide where and how you are going to store your supplies.  Choose a container, or containers, that can be taken with you if emergency officials tell you to evacuate. I use plastic bins, but suitcases or backpacks are easier to carry and also great ways to reuse items you already own.  Start with the basics and continue adding to your kit using as your guide.  Most items on the Emergency Supply List are items you already own.  Even though you may have them in your home, it’s important to keep the items together so you can quickly access them in an emergency, whether you “shelter-in-place” or are instructed to “evacuate”.  The most essential supplies relate to food, water, clean air and being able to receive updated information from authorities.
  • Water (1 gallon per person per day for a minimum of 3 days).   If you have 4 people in your household and one pet, this would be 5 x 3 = 15 gallons stored.
  • Food – non-perishable (preferably, ready to eat); store a manual can opener with any canned food.
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Dust masks
  • NOAA Weather Radio that has multiple sources of power such as chargeable battery pack, hand-crank and/or solar.  S.A.M.E. technology allows a more localized setting for Weather Alerts.
  • First aid supplies
  • Unique family needs – baby needs, daily or life-saving medications, extra eye glasses, etc.
  • Cash – Access to ATMs may be limited and stores may operate without power.
How important is it to update your emergency supply and how often?
As with staples you keep on hand in your kitchen, it’s important to be aware of expiration dates and shelf lives of the items
you store in your kit so you can rotate them out and use them before they go bad.  Food, first aid supplies, personal hygiene supplies and batteries all need to be checked.  At a minimum, kits should be checked the same time every year. Consider storing batteries with, but not in, your flashlights or radios so it’s easier to check the dates AND so they don’t destroy the device if they corrode.
What are the most important documents to have in an emergency and how do we need to store those documents?
I keep an updated copy of the following documents in a zip top bag inside my plastic Emergency Kit bin:
  • personal identification (photo id, social security number) for EVERY family member,
  • insurance policy numbers along with contact names and phone numbers,
  • important contacts (phone, email and address) – remember cell phone batteries will eventually die
  • medical records for any special conditions and a list of prescriptions including prescribing pharmacist information, doctor’s name and dosing information.
  • recent vaccination records for your pets in order to shelter them or take them to pet-friendly hotels.
What are unrealistic items to store for emergencies 
Don’t store food that will require water or long cook time.  Remember that you need to store the water and fuel source you need for any preparation, so it’s recommended that food is ready to eat.  Even if you have grills or camping supplies, you may not be able to cook outside because of bad weather.  Open flames such as for candles, grills or a fireplace should be avoided if there is ANY chance of a gas leak (structure damage, compromised utilities, etc)!  
What are some of the agencies to find out more information regarding emergency preparedness?
The best place to start is which offers a step by step plan in addition to Emergency Supply Lists for different audiences.  Some great local resources offered online include: www.readync.organd
Information provided by Sonia Estroff,, active member of Cary Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) since 2007. CERT is a training program under FEMA that prepares citizens like you to help yourself, your family, your neighbors and therefore, your community in the event of a disaster.  The Cary team is an organized group of volunteers that reports through the Cary Fire Department. Sonia has coordinated a variety of community events and also teaches “Are You Prepared?” classes through Cary’s Park and Recreation Department. The next scheduled “Are You Prepared?” class (#69195) will be Sept. 19, 9:30-11:30 am at Cary’s Senior Center for anyone 55 or older. Registration is required through Cary’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. Click here. to register. For more information about Cary CERT, go to For for a listing of all registered programs in NC, go to