This story is part of a series for National Preparedness Month. Stay tuned for more stories, preparedness tips and tools all month long as we help you be ready for disasters large and small. Head to to take our “I’m Ready” quiz to test your preparedness.

By Mike Tierney, Red Cross LA volunteer 

Prior to our move to Southern California six years ago, we had never heard the phrase “emergency preparedness,” much less practiced it. 

Oh, we had endured the occasional hurricane or tornado. House fires, of course, are a universal threat. Yet by our reckoning, as long as we knew the location of my wallet, her purse and our keys, we were, uh, prepared. 

Pulling up stakes back east and moving to the land of earthquakes and wildfires opened our eyes thanks partly to awareness campaigns by the Red Cross like National Preparedness Month.

Drawing from various lists of suggestions on items, we stuffed a backpack and a gym bag with supplies that would enable us to subsist for a few days in a hotel, in a shelter — even in our vehicle on the streets. Clothes, shoes and towels mixed with snacks, toiletries and cellphone chargers in a sort of ultimate grab bag. 

Where else would you find a first-aid kit tucked next to a cherished framed portrait of loved ones? 

I even squeezed in oddities such as pairs of old prescription glasses. They are outdated, but I figure fuzzy vision would be better than hardly none at all. 

Larger items, such as blankets and jackets, were stored in the trunk of the car. We even tossed in rolls of toilet paper because, well, the pandemic has somehow persuaded us that no possession is more valuable than sheets of Charmin. 

We made mental note of the location of other necessities. In a closet: cash and key documents, either photocopies or the actual ones. On the kitchen counter: keys, wallet, sunglasses and, as a reflection of these times, face-masks. Alongside the bed: a flashlight. 

Seems as if, once a year, something that had never occurred to us pops into mind. 

Fellow residents in our condo building raised the concern that, in the event of a power outage, the door openers to our garage would not operate. So a mini-class was conducted on how to manually lift the door. (It’s an involved process, so I may need a refresher course soon.) 

A new thought struck me this year: prescription medicines expire after a certain date, right? I realized that substituting older pills for newer ones was prudent. 

We also use the occasion to look for fresh apps — ShakeAlert LA, the earthquake early warning system, as an example — to add to our cellphones. While we’re at it, we refresh existing apps. 

We’re a two-car family and, if able, we likely would leave the premises together in the Honda.  However, we just discovered the aging Mazda that has been sitting idle is suffering from a dead battery — for the third *bleeping* time since mid-March. 

Hello, AAA? 

Every September the Red Cross reminds us about the need to be ready.  We rely on it to sift through our bags and see if any replacing or updating is required.  Especially during this unique phase of our lives, we appreciate you, Red Cross, for using National Preparedness Month to prod us to think about important steps that we might never have contemplated before. 

As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. 



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