Prepare for emergencies

The standard recommendation in developed countries is to have enough supplies to last 72 hours after a major disaster. The idea is that it can take up to three days before help reaches you. It may take much longer in the Philippines where emergency services are under-resourced so it’s best to store as much as is practical.

Prepare yourself ahead of time by making a plan and putting together an emergency kit. Remember: the best way to avoid disasters is to prepare for emergencies.

Make a family emergency plan

  • Designate an out-of-town contact person. This should be someone who is unlikely to be affected by the same emergency and can communicate among relatives who may be separated. Make sure each member of your family knows this person’s contact details.

  • Have backup copies of important documents and keep them in a separate location. These can include: passports, drivers licenses, social security numbers, insurance details, and financial information.

  • Make your home safe and minimize any potential hazards. This is especially important for earthquakes.

  • Set meeting points. During the initial emergency, relatives may be caught at work and children may be at school. Locate at least two meeting points where family members should go if separated; one should be close to home and another should be out of town in case you need to evacuate Manila itself.

  • Learn how to shut off utilities to your home. You may need to switch off your home’s electricity and water supply to avoid further damage after an earthquake or flood. Unlike some other countries, we do not have gas mains supply pipes in the Philippines. However, if you use LPG (liquid petroleum gas) tanks for cooking, be aware that these pose a substantial fire or explosion hazard.

  • Put together emergency kits for each member of the family.

A emergency plan card is a useful way to ensure that all your family members have the important elements of your plan with them at all times. You may download a printable template from the resources page. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can install the Emergency Plan for iPhone app to keep a digital version on your device.

For other articles on this site about planning, please see the Preps category listing.

Emergency kits

There are generally three types of emergency kits: household disaster supplies with enough stock to last your family until things return to normal or help reaches you; a ‘go-bag’ or ‘bug-out bag’ with kit to aid you should you need to evacuate your home; and a ‘get-home bag’ that will help you get home as soon as possible during an emergency.

Household disaster supplies

  • Water – 4 liters (1 gallon) per person per day to be used for drinking and sanitation.
  • Ready-to-eat, dried and canned food, vitamins.
  • First aid kit and guide. Remember to have stock of medicines and equipment for family members who have special ailments.
  • A manual can opener, paper or plastic dining ware and cooking supplies.
  • A portable or camping stove.
  • Generator and fuel.
  • Flashlights with spare batteries, glow-sticks, candles and matches.
  • A battery operated or wind-up radio.
  • A whistle and other signaling devices like a mirror or flares.
  • Spare clothes and rain wear for all members of the family.
  • Garbage bags and a plastic bucket for waste and sanitation.
  • Personal hygiene items like toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, feminine supplies, and alcohol.
  • Plastic sheeting, duct tape and tools.
  • Mosquito net and insect repellent.
  • Rope and cord.
  • Utility knife.
  • Liquid household bleach for disinfection and water purification.
  • Heavy work gloves and dust masks.
  • Maps of your area.
  • Paper, pencil and permanent markers.
  • Books, board games and other forms of entertainment to keep you occupied.
  • Extra cash.
  • Self-defense tools like firearms, pepper spray and batons. (Remember: get training on these items otherwise you may cause more danger to yourself and your family.)

Go-bag and get-home bag

Your go-bag and get-home bag should have a subset of the above items stored in a back-pack or sturdy bag. Remember not to make the load too heavy as you may need to carry these items while on foot.

The main difference between the two is that the go-bag would be stored permanently in your home ready for a quick evacuation. Your get-home bag should be kept with you when you’re out, such as in your vehicle trunk if you often commute. Some people prefer to use the same bag for both purposes but keep it close to hand at all times.

For other articles on this site about emergency kits, please see the Kit category listing.

First aid kits

Many people often rely on store-bought pre-packaged first aid kits but these are often inadequate. Usually they contain nothing more than the bare minimum and won’t be of much use in a major disaster. It is much better to assemble your own as you will become more familiar with the contents and have a chance to tailor it to your family’s needs.

There are many excellent resources online that list first aid kit contents. You may find the following pages useful:

For other articles on this site about first aid, please see the First Aid category listing.