McHenry County Department of Health - Emergency Preparedness & Response
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How to Prepare

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Why Prepare?

downloadDisasters can happen at any time - every year thousands of people are affected by them. The consequences can include injury, illness, death, property damage and monetary losses. After a disaster strikes, relief and response agencies will assist affected communities. However, there could be a delay before help is able to reach impacted residents. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count. By preparing ahead of time, you can lessen the fear, anxiety and losses that accompany a disaster.

Emergency preparedness is being ready for a disaster or emergency; each one of us is responsible for our own personal and family’s readiness. You should plan on being self-reliant for at least 72 hours after a disaster hits. Preparing for a disaster does not have to be complicated or expensive, follow these four easy steps:

  • Be informed
  • Make a plan
  • Build a kit
  • Get involved

Be Informed

The first step in preparedness is to learn about the types of disasters that are most likely to affect you. Find out what protective measures to take before, during and after an incident. 

  • Consider both natural and man-made hazards
  • Think about what might affect your home, workplace, schools, where you travel to, and other places you spend time
  • Keep up-to-date on developing situations
  • Find out where/how to receive accurate and reliable information--including emergency alerts and announcements

Make a Plan

Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes or you may not have access to important personal documents. So it is essential to plan in advance. Compile all of your important information in one location. Make sure everyone in your family knows their role in the emergency plan. Exercise and update your plan regularly, at least twice a year – when you change your clocks. Keep a copy of your plan in a secure location, in your emergency kit, electronically on the cloud, or with a trusted family member.

Be sure to customize your plan to match the needs of your household – including children, pets and people with any specific needs. Here are links to a few sample emergency plan templates: MCDH Family Plan, and Family Emergency Plan. You can use these to start your own plan or create one in a different format.  

fYour emergency plan can include:

  • What you will do in different disaster situations
  • Contact information for family members, schools, daycares, employers, doctors, veterinarians, etc.
  • Local and out-of-town contact people
  • How you will get to a safe place
  • How family members will reunite
  • Medical information
  • Insurance information
  • Financial information
You should also inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare, school, faith organizations, sports events and commuting. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to community leaders, your colleagues, neighbors and members of faith or civic organizations about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance.


For larger disasters, the Red Cross also has a website where people can register to let their family and friends know they are okay. The “Safe and Well” website is designed to make communication after a disaster easier.


Build a Kit

CarEmergencyKit_infographic-01A disaster supply kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. Try to assemble your kits well in advance of an emergency. Consider assembling a few different types of kits: an evacuation kit, a shelter-in-place kit and a vehicle kit. You may already have a lot of the supplies for these different types of kits – they don’t have to cost a lot of money and you can compile the supplies over time. Like your emergency plan, supply kits need to be adapted for your household and include items for the elderly, children, pets and people with specific needs.

  • The first is an evacuation kit for "go-bag" for when you have to leave at a moment's notice.  You will probably not have time to search and assemble the supplies you need so put a bag together ahead of time.  Everyone in your household should have their own go-bag
  • The second kit is a shelter-in-place kit and contains items you may need to survive on your own, in your home.  This means having your own food, water and other supplies (for everyone in your household) in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours
  • A vehicle kit is a small emergency bag that you store in your vehicle in case you get stranded.  It is different from a roadside repair kit.

Get Involved

There are many ways to get involved in emergency preparedness before a disaster occurs. Everyone can participate in programs and activities to make their families, homes and communities safer from risks and threats. A safer community consists of volunteers, a trained and informed public and increased support of emergency response agencies during disasters. By being involved in your community’s preparedness, you help first responders to be able to focus their efforts on the most critical tasks. 

  • Volunteer to be trained through a service agency like the Medical Reserve Corps or a similar community organization (Volunteer Center of McHenry County)
  • Be part of the community planning process.  Connect and collaborate with organizations you interact with (e.g. employers, schools, daycares, churches) and your neighborhood.  Plan to help your family, friends, or neighbors who may need extra assistance
  • Join or start a preparedness project

For More Preparedness Information, Visit the Following Links:

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