The Ultimate East Bay Disaster Preparedness List

 In Building, Caring

Following an earthquake, fire, flood, or terrorist attack, you’ll be in a much better place if you’ve prepared for such a disaster beforehand. And yet, less than half of Bay Area residents have prepared a disaster plan, while just over half (53%) have disaster kits.

Disasters are a matter of “when,” not “if.” And because they’re so unpredictable, why not prepare now?

That’s why, taking a proactive response to the concerns expressed by our congregations and organizational partners, Federation and Foundation hosted an emergency planning workshop. At the workshop, community leaders representing 26 congregations and organizations came together to learn how to prepare for future natural and man-made disasters. Here are some pointers from that workshop that are relevant to all individuals.


1. Be an Optimist

'Be Optimistic' Sign on Door

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

This may seem paradoxical at first glance. But contrary to popular belief, having a positive outlook does not mean denying reality. Rather, it’s trying to find the brighter side of the current situation. And in a disaster setting, this could literally save your life.

Optimists tend to be very resilient people, and resilient people cope with hardship better than non-resilient people. In a situation where you are at risk, your mental and emotional endurance will hold up much better if you tend to see the “glass half-full.”

But how do you cultivate optimism if you’re not an optimist by nature? Try re-framing the reasons behind your decisions in a more positive light. For example, many people learn martial arts in order to avoid becoming crime victims. But if you instead re-frame this as a way to learn a new skill and build strength, confidence, and calmness in a fun and social setting, that would be cultivating optimism.

Likewise, instead of preparing for disasters because something terrible could happen to you, think of it as an opportunity to affirm your commitment to your family, health, and wellness.

2. Cultivate Mindfulness

Meditation on the beach

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

Similar to cultivating optimism, mindfulness is simply the state of being present and fully engaged with whatever you’re experiencing at the moment.

If you practice mindfulness in your day-to-day life, you will respond much better to disaster situations: you will be more attentive, alert, and clear-headed, while simultaneously being less anxious and stressed.

So how do you cultivate mindfulness? At least once a day — and preferably a few times each day — do the following mindful breathing exercise:

  1. Comfortably sit down and close your eyes
  2. Breath in slowly, through your nose, counting to four as you inhale
  3. Pause for a moment
  4. Breathe out slowly, through your mouth, counting to four as you exhale
  5. Pause, repeat as much as you can.

If your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to your breath. Don’t be hard on yourself; we all wander! And you will get better with practice; just keep bringing it back to your breath.

3. Make a Plan, Get a Kit, Be Informed


Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

This three-step process will ensure you and your family are prepared for whatever hits our area:

a) Make a Plan: Sit down with your family, staff, neighbors, and other community members and discuss what each person should do in an emergency. Be sure and answer the Four “W’s”: who, what, when, and where to do.

Commit to memorizing the plan, share it widely, practice with regular drills, and make sure the information is current (this is especially important if an emergency contact/number changes).

b) Build a Kit: Look at the people around you: family, pets, neighbors, staff. What do you think you’ll all need in the event of a disaster? Your kit should meet both your needs and the needs of those around you for at least three days. Things you should keep in your kit include:

* Food (non-perishable)

* Water and water treatment tablets

* Torches/flashlights/candles

* Matches

* Batteries

* Power banks (for charging mobile devices)

* handheld radio

* Glowsticks

* Medicine / First Aid

* Tools / Utility knives

* Blankets/tents/tarps

* Whistles

* Reflective clothing

* Hand sanitizers (with >60% alcohol)

* Breathing or gas masks

* Automatic generators

* Cash

* Gas

* Glasses/contacts

Water is particularly important. Make sure you have at least 1 gallon per person, per day (half for drinking, half for sanitation).

For a comprehensive, ready-to-use disaster kit checklist, please click here.

c) Be Informed: Learn what to do when disaster strikes. You can sign up for a disaster preparedness class or get certified for a life-saving skill like CPR. Either will put you in a better place when disasters occur.

Finally, designate at least one local and one out-of-area emergency contact to touch base with.

4. Download an App or Two (or Five)


Photo by Rahul Chakraborty on Unsplash

In this day and age, there’s an app for everything — including disaster preparedness. From apps that send alerts in the event of an earthquake to services that allow you and your family to instantly check in with each other, there truly is an app for every facet of disaster preparedness. Here are a few popular ones:


1. Give Yourself Time to Adjust and Cope


Photo by Aron on Unsplash

There’s no getting around it: recovering from a disaster is going to be a hard and stressful chapter of your life. Allow yourself to feel sad or angry, and allow yourself to mourn any losses you may have experienced. As best and as often as you can, remember: this too shall pass.

Life will eventually go on, the way it normally does. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack. You’ll get there.

2. Stay in Constant Contact

Phone call

Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash

Communication during and after a disaster is key to survival. Make sure your kit includes a handheld/crank radio set to the Local Emergency Warning System, and subscribe to text alerts (if your city/county offers them) so that you always have access to the latest and most accurate information — this is important, as rumors and misinformation abound in new disaster zones.

Let someone know if you leave, and constantly update those around you as best as you can (through texts, emails, messages, or good, old-fashioned sticky notes). Always carry your cell phone, make sure it’s always charged, and designate ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts — but remember, landlines and cell phones alike may not work immediately following a disaster.

3. Practice Self-Care

Walking as self-care

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Self-care is critical for your mental recovery. Reach out to loved ones, people who’ve been through similar situations, or licensed professionals (such as therapists or social workers) and talk to them about what you’re going through. Create and stick to routines: eat and sleep at the same times every day and incorporate healthy behaviors into your daily routine such as going for a long walk or reading a good book.

Eat healthy. Get enough sleep. Get enough exercise. Avoid making major life decisions like switching jobs, getting engaged, or breaking up. Start a creative project, such as drawing a painting or learning an instrument. No matter what, take care of yourself first; otherwise, how will you help those around you?

4. Reach Out to Your Community

Group hug

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Nobody gets through disasters alone. Communities survive and recover together; just as it’s important to reach out to others, you should also be available to others who need you. Even if it’s just a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on.

Be sure to also reach out to your Rabbi, synagogue president, or Federation to participate in disaster recovery and aid efforts from a Jewish lens.

Special thanks to Ana-Marie Jones, Dr. Robin Keller, ReadyCare LLC, Corporal Wade MacAdam, and Lisa Katzki for their informative presentations and materials, and for being available as resources to the community!

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