Apocolypse NowAn ideal day turns disastrous when California’s notorious San Andreas Fault triggers a devastating, magnitude 9 earthquake, the largest in recorded history. The premise of a Hollywood disaster film, or the start of an emergency for you and your family? Just in case, are you prepared?

Disaster movies and TV shows are big business in Hollywood, with razed cities, tsunamis, earthquakes and zombie plagues dominating airwaves and movie theaters. These doomsday scenarios bring huge money to box offices as excited fans show up to cheer for their favorite characters. We enjoy disaster movies because they make us feel grateful we’re not the victims. We also picture ourselves being the hero and leading everyone to safety. But what happens when the apocalypse comes off of the screen and meets you at your front door? Do you and your family have a plan?

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so a communication plan is key. Make sure your family members have an emergency contact card with information for each person in your family, including phone numbers for workplaces, schools and places of other activities. Besides emergency contact cards, it’s a good idea to label your closest contacts in your cell phone with “ICE,” for In Case of Emergency. That way, if you or your family member is incapacitated, emergency responders can contact people.

Sometimes mobile signals can be limited or lost. Satellite phones are ideal, but expensive, so make sure your family signs up for other communication tools that don’t use cellular signals. Luckily, a design firm called Pensa has developed a piece of hardware called the GoTenna, which pairs with most Android and iOS messaging apps. Messages are sent via Bluetooth from the phone to the GoTenna, which then converts the message to an analog version that’s sent over radio signals to receiving GoTenna users. Messages can be sent to groups, and location information can easily be sent to contacts already in the phone. GoTenna also has a recreational use, like staying in contact while hiking since it allows people to communicate anywhere without a signal. It’s cheaper and less bulky than walkie-talkies, and offers far more mobility than HAM radios.

Besides maintaining contact with family, make sure you’re also able to receive information from the outside world to know exactly what the situation is, the areas affected and estimated resolution time. Power is a precious commodity for emergency communications. Disasters may cut off electricity to your home or shelter. Have flashlights, battery operated radios and extra batteries on hand. Even if your phone has service, how long will the power last? That’s where Goal Zero, a company that makes solar-charging devices, comes in. They’ve got solar panels, solar generators and power packs to keep your devices charged in any emergency. But what if cloudy weather keeps the sun from shining? The small portable BioLite CampStove charges USB devices using any burnable biomass (sticks, pinecones, etc.). Since it’s also a stove, the BioLite CampStove lets you boil water or cook. It’s really a handy device for emergencies and recreation.

Always keep a basic emergency supply kit with items that will keep you and your family comfortable and nourished for three to five days. Your kit should include water (a gallon of water, per person, per day) non-perishable food, manual can opener, changes of clothing for weather conditions, matches, bleach and wet wipes for sanitation, and books and games for entertainment.

Hopefully, disasters remain in the movies, but failing to plan is planning to fail. Planning with your family makes you a hero – even without a disaster.

11 THINGS TO CARRY IN YOUR VEHICLE

  1. A Full Gas Tank – Always Top Off When Half Full
  2. First-Aid Kit
  3. Cell Phone Charger and Backup Battery
  4. Flashlight with Extra Batteries
  5. Water and Snacks
  6. Ice Scraper and Snow Brush
  7. Boots, Gloves, and Warm Clothes
  8. Music and Games
  9. Jumper Cables
  10. Flares
  11. Tire Chains