If you find it difficult to set aside time to prepare for emergencies, you’re not alone. Public surveys list “lack of time” as the primary reason people cite for not taking steps to prepare themselves and their families for a major emergency.

Rather than viewing emergency preparedness as an insurmountable task, consider what you could accomplish in just 5 minutes. Below is a list of recommendations from our Take 5 to Survive project list. Make it a team effort and involve your family. Once you meet your goal, celebrate for being prepared for the emergencies ahead!


  • Discuss how your family will re-unite if an emergency separates you.
  • Choose an “out-of-state” contact person. Instruct family members to call this person to relay information on their welfare if they’re separated from their family and local phone lines are not working.
  • Introduce yourself to a neighbor that you haven’t met, and exchange home and work phone numbers. Your neighbors will be first on-scene when disaster strikes. Disaster response goes best when neighbors already know each other, or are at least on a first-name basis.
  • Purchase and store bottled water – one gallon per person/per day for at least three days. If you have pets, remember that they need water, too. Watch our water tips public service announcement.
  • Buy extra canned goods and a manual can opener on your next visit to the store.
  • Keep a running list of disaster supplies in your purse or glove box, and purchase an item or two each time you go to the store. Be sure to purchase foods that you normally eat, so you can keep the supplies fresh. Rotate through them at least once each year.
  • If you lose power for an extended period of time, make sure you follow food safety guidelines. Take five minutes to print these guidelines and then attach them to your refrigerator or keep a copy in your emergency supplies kit.
  • Don’t store household chemicals beyond their expiration date or after they're no longer need them. Contact Metro Recycling Hotline (503.234.3000) and find out when the next household hazardous waste pickup event will be held in your area.
  • Discuss how your family will cook and light and heat your home safely if you lose power. Become familiar with all utilities before a disaster strikes.
  • Test smoke alarms and practice your fire escape plan.
  • Make sure all adults in your home know how to use a fire extinguisher.
  • The most common injuries after an EQ are cuts to hands and feet, so do your best to protect them. Place a pair of shoes, socks, work gloves, a whistle, and a light stick or flashlight with batteries under your bed. You want to be able to reach them after the EQ shaking stops. You’ll have ready access to protection for your feet and hands, a signaling device, and a light source – all in an easily-accessible place.
  • Identify your utility shut-off valves, and place a shut-off tool by the door nearest to them. You won’t have to search for the shut-off tool when you need it most. Teach the adults and older children in your house when and how to use them. Natural gas customers click here for directions.
  • Pets are not allowed in emergency shelters. Create a plan for your pets in case you need to evacuate your home.
  • Work with your doctor to make sure you and your family members have at least a one-week supply of necessary medications. Don't forget to include special plans if someone is reliant on home oxygen, powered medical equipment, or durable medical supplies.
  • Replace outdated medications in the emergency kit.
  • Install a child-proof lock on a cupboard or drawer, each day. During an earthquake, contents will be shaken up but won’t pose a danger by falling out.
  • Fill out a Medical Emergency Card (history, meds, contact info) that can be used in any medical emergency but should also go into an emergency kit.
  • Conduct a digital home inventory. Set your timer for five minutes, and concentrate on only one room. Take digital photos of everything in the room, making sure you capture enough detail to prove make/model/vintage/price range. Download your photos to a special file on your computer. Continue each day and soon you will be done.
  • Take five minutes to make several copies of your digital inventory photos on DVDs. Store one in a safe place at your home and one in your go-kit that you take if you have to evacuate, put one in your safe deposit box, and send one to a friend or relative that lives at least one state away.
  • Ask your homeowner’s insurance agent about flood and earthquake insurance. Both may require special riders on your policy, and may not be included unless you specifically add them. Do it now, before disaster strikes!
  • Write down your insurance policy numbers and you agent’s phone number, and put them in your wallet. You don’t want to have to search for them when you need them.
  • Ensure your "financial readiness" by having your important financial, personal, and property documents available after an emergency. Make copies of these documents (or scan to a CD-ROM) and send to a trusted counsel, friend, or family member.
  • Teach your kids how to avoid catching or spreading contagious diseases. Model the behaviors: wash your hands, sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve, and stay home when you’re sick.
  • Find the dispenser at your favorite grocery store for the disinfectant wipes, and use them to sanitize the handle on your grocery cart. There is usually a dispenser at the store entry, near where the carts are stored. This is especially important if you put your child in the seat!

See a complete list of all Take 5 to Survive preparedness flyers on www.ocem.org.