In California, as recent wildfires have painfully demonstrated, emergencies can happen in an instant and get out of control just as quickly. Here are some things you can do now to prepare for emergencies you may encounter later.

Here is a checklist for things to put together and try to take with you should you be forced to evacuate:


What to take

(Time permitting)


Food and water (for up to seven days, if possible).

Pets (if advance warning, take to an approved shelter).

Pet ID tags, medications, leashes, water bowls, food.

A photo of you with your pet in case they get separated from you.

Change of clothing for each person (for one to seven days).

Cell phones and chargers.

Health and car insurance cards and related documents.

Property deeds.

Marriage license.

Tax papers.

Birth certificates.

Drivers’ licenses.

Checkbook, credit cards, cash, wallet, purse.

Medications, including analgesics and motion sickness tablets.

First-aid kit.

Prescription eye wear, dentures, hearing aids.


Irreplaceable keepsakes.

Flashlights and Portable radio with extra batteries.

How to prepare for an emergency

Inside the house

Put together an emergency kit. Stock water, flashlights, a transistor radio and a fire extinguisher. Get extra batteries. Buy or create a first aid kit. Store water and nonperishable foods.

Purchase a high-capacity battery pack that can keep smartphones and other devices charged in the event of a power outage.

Store things that matter most. Everything might seem important in the face of loss, but family documents are essential in the recovery process. Gather birth certificates, insurance papers and mortgage documents. Keep some cash on hand. Then store everything in one convenient place where you can grab it in an instant. There are fire-proof safes that can help protect these items even if you cannot make it home to retrieve them.

Check/maintain all home smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Change batteries as needed. The National Fire Protection Association recommends replacing smoke alarms altogether every 10 years. Determine the age of ones in your home by looking at the date of the manufacturer on the back of the alarm. At the very least, a good way to remember to check these devices is to do so every time the time changes for daylight savings.

Locate where the utility connections are and learn how to shut off the gas, electricity and water if necessary. 

Clean and maintain clothes dryers (a potential source of house fires). Always use a lint filter and clean it before or after a load of laundry. Make sure to clean lint around the drum.

Draw a diagram of your home. Plan two ways out of every room, especially the bedrooms.

Make provisions as to how your pets will be taken from the home.


Outside the house

Clear leaves and other debris from roofs, gutters, decks, patios or porches.

Trim all trees near the house, particularly getting rid of overhanging branches, and cut back shrubs and bushes.

Walk around the house and remove anything that might burn that’s within 30 feet of the structure.

When landscaping, create a buffer around your home. Use hard, nonflammable surfaces such as tile or concrete in appropriate places. Use plants that aren’t likely to burn easily. It’s called firescaping. “While no plant is fireproof, simple firescaping can be the solution, whether it’s choosing plants with fire retardant abilities, knowing proper defensible landscape maintenance or keeping irrigation systems in excellent shape,” Gary Jones, Armstrong Garden Centers’ chief horticulturist, said in a statement. “Vegetation can either lead a fire to a structure or stop it.”