Plan, Prepare and Stay Aware. Natural Disasters and Emergency Action Plans

You don’t think a natural disaster will happen to you…until it happens to you. Let me tell you a story. It was February 2017 when I was renting a house on the East Side of Downtown San Jose near Coyote Creek. The “100 Year Storm” brought a downpour as no one had ever seen. Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill filled well above capacity and as a result, large amounts of water raged northward through poorly maintained Coyote Creek. Highway 101 in Coyote Valley was flooded and impassable and Monterey Road was beginning to be saturated with water. I got off work two hours early that day and while I was strategically placing sandbags around my childhood house in Coyote Valley, my roommates in San Jose sent me a video of floodwaters reaching our porch step. Ten minutes later I received a photo of the three of them being evacuated by boat as the water started to go over their makeshift barricade in front of our entry door. You could imagine the wreckage in and outside of the homes that our neighborhood came back to after the floodwaters subsided the next day. What was learned from this experience?

  • Always have an emergency bag packed and ready with a few pairs of clothing, toiletries, and cash
  • Know which sentimental or useful things you would grab if forced to evacuate quickly
  • Know escape routes, emergency contact numbers, and the location of where you will meet up with others in the case of separation

California has seen earthquakes, flooding, now what? In recent years, the Golden State has been ravaged by wildfires. Not only do wildfires pose a burning threat and contribute to unsafe levels of air quality, but they can cause blackouts as well. What are some proactive things we can do to plan for a natural disaster?

  • Create a checklist:
    • Designate an emergency meeting location outside of the hazard area
    • Practice different escape routes from your home or community
    • Have an evacuation plan for pets and large animals if needed
    • Have a Family Communication Plan that designates a friend or family member out of the area as a point of contact to act as a single source of communication among family members in case of separation
    • Ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric, and water main shut-off controls are located and how to shut them off in an emergency
  • Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit
  • In the case of a Wildfire, have N95 masks and a fire extinguisher in your home and train your family how to use it
  • Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers in your family’s phones
  • Make sure all members of your household are familiar with the plan well in advance
  • Each family’s plan will be different, depending on a variety of needs, issues, and situations

The 6 P’s Ready for Immediate Evacuation

  • People & Pets
  • Papers, phone numbers, and important documents
  • Prescriptions and eyeglasses
  • Pictures & irreplaceable memorabilia
  • Personal computer
  • Payment (credit cards, ATM cards, cash)


  • Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked
  • Remove flammable window curtains
  • Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors
  • Shut off gas at the meter and turn off pilot lights
  • Shut off the air conditioning


  • Create a buffer zone 360 degrees around your home’s exterior by removing any dead trees, fallen limbs, or dense undergrowth
  • Gather flammable items in the yard and bring them inside (patio furniture, children’s toys, doormats, etc.) or place them in your pool
  • Turn off propane tanks
  • Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures
  • Connect garden hoses to outside water valves and place filled water buckets around the house for use by firefighters
  • Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible to firefighters in the smoke or dark
  • Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals
  • In the case of a flood, place sandbags around the home to create a barrier and secure impenetrable material such as plastic in front of doors and windows
  • If known to live in an area prone to flooding or wildfires, retrofit building exteriors and grounds accordingly
  • Monitor the natural disaster for any updates.
  • Have a portable radio so you can stay updated on the natural disaster