How to Prepare Yourself

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This page provides you with guidance on how to start preparing yourself and your home for a disaster. Your review of the Threat page to our website should have made you realize that everyone living in the Coachella Valley needs to prepare for a disaster. Unfortunately, the most likely disaster is also the most potentially destructive: an earthquake. For that reason, most of the preparedness measures we recommend focus on earthquake preparedness and by following these measures, you will be better prepared for any type disaster.

We have chosen eight steps to help us get prepared. There are more things you can do but if you will get these eight done, you will have gotten a head start on preparedness. You can use the navigation buttons on the left side of each section to navigate between sections.


  1. Know the potential disaster threats we face in the Coachella Valley. You should have already done this when you reviewed the Threats page of our website. If you have not reviewed the Threats page, click on the “Threat” navigation button on the top of this page.
  2. Create a Disaster Plan to help you prepare for a disaster and to provide you with actions to take when the disaster occurs.
  3. Know the location of your utility shut offs and have any special tools needed to turn them off, if required.
  4. Make sure your plan includes any special measures that may be required for housemates with special needs.
  5. Plan for your pets.
  6. Make sure you have a Disaster Supplies kit.
  7. Communications during a disaster.
  8. Do a home hazard hunt to identify and fix hazards around your home that can cause death or injury in event of a disaster.



Having a plan can help you and your housemates make it through any disaster with minimal stress. A comprehensive disaster plan includes information about each person in the home, household pets, insurance and finances, the home itself and its contents. Most important, the plan outlines what each resident should do during an emergency and identifies safe places inside and outside the home.

The University of Missouri Extension has created a disaster plan template to guide you through the development of a disaster plan for your home. (Trilogy’s Preparedness Committee has tailored it to reflect local conditions and realities). Creating a plan begins with a meeting of you and your housemates to discuss and decide how you will respond to a disaster. Use this template to guide the process. Click HERE to get the plan template, then save it to your computer.



This disaster plan is designed to be filled out electronically. Download the file to your computer before filling in the plan to protect your personal information.

The plan also may be downloaded, printed and completed by hand.

Additional pages for family members, pets and household contents have been provided. If needed, those pages should be included with the completed plan.



Creating an electronic document is convenient; however, it is essential to have paper copies of the plan available because electric and wireless services may be disrupted during an emergency. A copy of the plan should be stored with your disaster supply kit in the home. A second copy should be stored off-site with a relative or friend.



Families should review their disaster plan annually and update as necessary.



Handling Utilities in a Disaster

In the event of an accident or disaster, you may lose service of one or more of your utilities without warning. You may also want to shut them off yourself should there be a break or movement in one of the lines. First, however, you will need to know who is responsible for the various utilities you use so you can contact the proper agency for help. Having this information ahead of time will save time during an actual emergency. If you are in doubt about your utility service provider, check your recent utility bills for specific information.

All utility companies (and emergency numbers) can be found HERE.


At some point, perhaps due to a severe storm or other event, you may find it necessary to turn off the electricity to your home. If there is no immediate threat to your safety, and you can get to your circuit breaker box without walking through water, you can turn the power off yourself.

Familiarize yourself with the location of your circuit breaker box ahead of time and mark the master power switch so you can immediately identify which one to throw during an emergency to stop all power coming into your house.

Portable generators can be a big help if you are without power, but remember:

Connect appliances one at a time to the generator.
Never hook a generator directly to your household wiring yourself. Only a qualified electrician can do this safely.
Use generators outdoors only. They give off carbon monoxide fumes.
Avoid using extension cords with generators. If you must use them, check them often to make sure they have not become hot.

Natural Gas

Very Important – Do not turn off your natural gas unless you smell gas leaking and you can’t find and stop the source of the leak. Gas appliances and pipes may be moved or broken during a flood, earthquake, or similar disaster. Even slight movement could cause a gas leak. If you suspect a leak or smell gas, leave your home immediately and call the gas company from a neighbor’s phone. Do not flip any light switches when you leave the house; leave the door open and shut off the gas at the meter. When you return to your home, have the gas company inspect and restore the service.

How to shut off your gas meter:

Your gas meter is located outside of your house, usually on the side of the structure near the gate to the backyard. There is a valve in the gas line next to the meter. The valve is a circular device that allows you to turn it to open or close it. The top of the valve is rectangular so that you can use a crescent wrench, pliers, or similar tool to turn it on and off. The shape also allows you to tell at a glance if the valve is in the on or off position. If the top of the valve is parallel to the gas pipe, then the gas is turned on and flowing through the valve. If the top of the valve is perpendicular to the gas pipe, it is in the off position. To be sure the gas is off, write down the number on all the dials on the meter. Check the dials at least 5 minutes later. If the numbers have changed, the valve is not closed. If the gas is still flowing, contact your gas provider for help and keep clear of the area until the gas has stopped flowing.


If you are unsure of the safety of your water supply after a disaster, use it only to clean your home or for sanitation purposes (toilet flushing). Buy bottled water for drinking if you can.

A “boil order” may be issued in your community during a disaster. If such an order has been issued, do the following:

  1. Fill a large pot with water from the tap.
  2. Strain the water through cheesecloth, a sheet, a coffee filter, or other clean, porous material to remove as many solids as you can.
  3. Bring the water to a rumbling boil and keep it boiling for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Pour the water back and forth between two clean pots. This will help it cool and will also add air to the water to make it taste better.
  5. Let the water cool. After it is cool, add 8 drops of liquid chlorine bleach for each gallon of water.
  6. Let the water stand for a half hour. If it gives off a slight chlorine odor and looks clear it is safe to use.
  7. If you do not smell chlorine, or if the water is still cloudy, add another 8 drops of liquid chlorine bleach and let it stand another half hour.
  8. If you have added bleach twice and the water still does not smell like chlorine, don’t use the water for drinking or cooking.

Do not cook in pots and pans or use eating utensils, baby blankets, or any other items that could go into the mouth or be used to cook until they have been washed and disinfected in water that has been tested and approved by the water department or health department.

You should also familiarize yourself with the location of your inside and outside water cutoff valves. In an emergency where water purity could be a concern, you can shut off your main water valve to protect the water in your hot water heater from contamination and use it as a source of clean emergency drinking water.

Plan for Residents With Special Needs

Before a Disaster

  1. Develop a network of trusted individuals such as family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc. who can assist you during an emergency. Your network should be part of your planning process. These people should know about your functional abilities and limitations.
  2. Make sure your Block Captain knows your special needs.
  3. Exchange important keys with individuals in your network.
  4. Keep a list of your medications. Make sure you keep at least a 7-day spare of all medications.
  5. Make sure you have a list of any special foods you must eat. Make sure you have an emergency supply of those foods.
  6. If you require oxygen, make sure you keep extra bottles on hand and that your Block Captain knows you need oxygen.
  7. Show people in your network where you keep emergency supplies.
  8. Share copies of your relevant emergency documents, evacuation plans and emergency health information card.
  9. Consider how a disaster could affect your daily routines. Make a list of your specific needs before, during and after the event.
  10. If you have limited sight, place security lights in the wall outlets of each room to light your exit path. Make sure they will turn on, should there be loss of power. Or use some sort of audio alert devices.
  11. Always keep your shoes near your bed so you can put them on during an earthquake to avoid stepping on broken glass and other objects.
  12. If you have hearing problems:
    1. Install visual fire alarms in your residence. They might include flashing strobe lights or emit noticeable vibrations.
    2. Make sure a TTY/TDD or phone is close to your bed, within arm’s reach. Keep any emergency numbers and hearing aids (if necessary) nearby too.
    3. Keep your hearing aids in an easy to reach place.
  13. Radios for receiving National Weather Service broadcasts in accessible formats can be purchased from retailers.
  14. Remember: telecommunications devices may not work in a disaster. Plan how you will contact people in your network without those devices.
  15. Practice sending and receiving cell phone text messages.


Immediately After a Disaster

  1. Remind your Block Captain of your special needs.
  2. Check to ensure your medications are available. If not, alert your Block Captain and arrange to go through the Trilogy 1st Aid Station to the County Triage Center to get more medications.
  3. As soon as practicable, get additional prescriptions filled for your medications.


Plan for Pets

You should have the following items assembled and ready to take in a crisis (keep in a duffel bag or sturdy container, in a spot where it’s handy to grab):


Prepare: Make a Pet Disaster Kit

  1. Wire cage or carrier with good air circulation, along with bedding and cover for sun, rain, ash, etc., and/or sturdy leashes and harnesses or collars, with a ground mounting device or carabiner for tying pets up temporarily.
  2. Food, water (for several days), bowls, cat litter/pan, and a manual can opener.
  3. Several days supply of medications (including anti-stress remedies) recommended by your veterinarian.
  4. Name, telephone number and address of your veterinarian; information on feeding schedules, vaccination dates, medical and behavioral problems, and any other special issues your pet may have (attach to the cage or carrier in a waterproof, chew-resistant bag).
  5. Current identification tags on animal collars and/or microchip.
  6. Animal first aid kit and supplies such as gauze rolls for bandaging and making muzzles, towels, and blankets.
  7. Current photos of you with your pets in case you get separated (in your wallet).
  8. Outside contact information: Your own, plus someone who can take custody of your pets if you are unable to do so (attach to carrier), as well as an out-of-state contact.
  9. Pet beds and toys to reduce animal’s stress, if easily transportable.
  10. Plastic bags and scoopers to pick up and store pet waste.


Immediately After a Disaster

  1. Make sure your pets are secure.
  2. If you must evacuate to a shelter, you need to realize that not all shelters will take pets. You may need to make other arrangements for your pets.


Prepare a Disaster Supplies Kit

Everyone should have personal disaster supplies kits. Keep them where you spend most of your time, so they can be reached even if your building is badly damaged. The kits will be useful for many emergencies.

Keep one kit in your home, another in your car, and a third kit at work. Backpacks or other small bags are best for your disaster supplies kits so you can take them with you if you evacuate. Include at least the following items:

  • Medications, prescription list, copies of medical cards, doctor’s name and contact information
  • List of emergency out-of-area contact phone numbers
  • Medical consent forms for dependents
  • Snack foods, high in water and calories
  • First aid kit and handbook
  • Working flashlight with extra batteries and light bulbs, or light sticks
  • Examination gloves (non-latex)
  • Personal hygiene supplies
  • Dust mask
  • Comfort items such as games, crayons, writing materials, teddy bears
  • Spare eyeglasses or contact lenses and cleaning solution
  • Toiletries and special provisions you need for yourself and others in your family including elderly, disabled, small children, and animals.
  • Bottled water
  • Copies of personal identification (drivers license, work ID card, etc.)
  • Whistle (to alert rescuers to your location)
  • Road maps
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Emergency cash


Household Disaster Supplies Kit

Electrical, water, transportation, and other vital systems can be disrupted for several days or much longer in some places after a large earthquake. Emergency response agencies and hospitals could be overwhelmed and unable to provide you with immediate assistance. Providing first aid and having supplies will save lives, will make life more comfortable, and will help you cope after the next earthquake.

In addition to your personal disaster supplies kits, store a household disaster supplies kit in an easily accessible location (in a large watertight container that can be easily moved), with a supply of the following items to last at least 3 days and ideally for 2 weeks:

  • Water (minimum one gallon a day for each person)
  • Canned and packaged foods
  • Wrenches to turn off gas and water supplies
  • Charcoal or gas grill for outdoor cooking and matches if needed
  • Work gloves and protective goggles
  • Cooking utensils, including a manual can opener
  • Heavy duty plastic bags for waste, and to serve as tarps, rain ponchos, and other uses
  • Pet food and pet restraints
  • Portable radio with extra batteries (or hand crank for charging)
  • Comfortable, warm clothing including extra socks
  • Additional flashlights or light sticks
  • Blankets or sleeping bags, and perhaps even a tent
  • Copies of vital documents such as insurance policies

Use and replace perishable items like water, food, medications and batteries on a yearly basis.

Store your kit in a location that you can get to if your home is damaged. If you usually have a car in the garage, that may be a good place (watch the summer heat) since a car should provide protection for your kit if the garage should collapse.


Disaster Communications

When a disaster happens, one of two things happens to the phone system, (both land line and mobile): Either the phone system is also damaged by the disaster and will not function until repaired, or; the phone system is overloaded with people trying to find out what happened or people trying to tell others what happened.

When the local system becomes overloaded, it may be possible to call some one who is physically out of the local area so set up an “out of area” contact for your friends and family to call to find out what has happened to you. Then after a disaster happens and you find that you can’t make local calls, try calling your “out of area” contact and give them an update on your situation.

Make sure your family and friends know that this person will have information.


Do a Home Hazard Hunt

Identify potential hazards in your home and begin to fix them.

Several people died and thousands were injured in the Northridge earthquake because of unsecured building contents such as toppling bookcases. Many billions of dollars were lost due to this type of damage. Much of this damage and injury could have been prevented in advance through simple actions to secure buildings and contents.

You should secure anything…

1) heavy enough to hurt you if it falls on you.

2) fragile and/or expensive enough to be a significant loss if it falls.

In addition to contents within your living space, also secure items in other areas, such as your garage, to reduce damage to vehicles or hazardous material spills.

There may be simple actions you can do right now that will protect you if an earthquake happens tomorrow. START NOW by moving furniture such as bookcases away from beds, sofas, or other places where people sit or sleep. Move heavy objects to lower shelves. Then begin to look for other items in your home that may be hazardous in an earthquake.

Some of the actions recommended on this page may take a bit longer to complete, but all are relatively simple. Most hardware stores and home centers now carry earthquake safety straps, fasteners, and adhesives.


In the kitchen

Unsecured cabinet doors fly open during earthquakes, allowing glassware and dishes to crash to the floor. Many types of latches are available to prevent this: child-proof latches, hook and eye latches, or positive catch latches designed for boats. Gas appliances should have flexible connectors to reduce the risk of fire. Secure refrigerators and other major appliances to walls using earthquake appliance straps.


Objects on open shelves and tabletops

Collectibles, pottery objects, and lamps can become deadly projectiles. Use either hook and loop fasteners on the table and object, or non-damaging adhesives such as earthquake putty, clear quake gel, or microcrystalline wax to secure breakables in place. Move heavy items and breakables to lower shelves.


Hanging objects

Mirrors, framed pictures, and other objects should be hung from closed hooks so that they can’t bounce off the walls. Pictures and mirrors can also be secured at their corners with earthquake putty. Only soft art such as tapestries should be placed over beds or sofas.



Televisions, stereos, computers and microwaves and other electronics are heavy and costly to replace. They can be secured with flexible nylon straps and buckles for easy removal and relocation.



Secure the tops of all top-heavy furniture, such as bookcases and file cabinets, to a wall. Be sure to anchor to the stud, and not just to the drywall. Flexible fasteners such as nylon straps allow tall objects to sway without falling over, reducing the strain on the studs. Loose shelving can also be secured by applying earthquake putty on each corner bracket.


In the garage or utility room

Items stored in garages and utility rooms can fall, causing injuries, damage, and hazardous spills or leaks. They can also block access to vehicles and exits. Move flammable or hazardous materials to lower shelves or the floor.

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