Get Ready New York!: A Guide to Emergency Preparedness

Karen Duffy |

Karen Duffy, or “Duff,” is a journalist, actor and bestselling author. She is also a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member with Community Board 2 in downtown New York City.

As a proud daughter of the Empire State and daughter of a cop, I encourage all New Yorkers to get ready for all types of emergencies. Between the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, it has been a jittery week. I believe in the philosophy that “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”

Everyone can and should prepare for an emergency situation. The Office of Emergency Management breaks it down into three simple steps: Create a kit, make a plan and be informed.

When it comes to hurricanes, there are a few extra steps:

Before the storm

  • Bring in anything that can be swooped up by high-winds, like bicycles, barbecues or lawn furniture.
  • Close windows and screen doors.

During the storm

  • Stay indoors and track the storm. 
  • If you need to evacuate your home, unplug appliances to prevent damage in case of an electrical power surge.

After the storm

  • Continue listening to the local news for the latest updates.
  • Even after the hurricane has ended, stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials declare that it’s safe to make any moves.
  • Stay clear of dangling or power lines.
  • Inspect your home for damage. For insurance purposes, take pictures of both the building and its contents.
  • Check on your food and make sure it didn’t spoil.

Take the following steps to make sure you are ready for any disaster:

Step 1: Create a “go bag” and emergency supply kit for your home.

Each household will need two kits, a “go bag” and an emergency supply kit.

A “go bag” is a collection of items you may need in case of an emergency evacuation. Every person in the house should have a “go bag” stocked and readily accessible in case you have to leave your home or office in a hurry.  The best option is a backpack, which will leave your hands free so you can carry a flashlight, a cell phone and the hand of a loved one.  A backpack on wheels or a rolling suitcase is a good alternative.


An explanation of what to put in your “go bag.” Duff hosted this “Ready New York” video for the Office of Emergency Management.

Your “go bag” should contain:

  • Copies of your important documents in a waterproof zip lock bag. (Insurance cards, ID, proof of address, special family photos, etc.)
  • Extra house and car keys.
  • Credit and ATM cards.
  • Cash in small denominations. At least $50 to $100 according to Barb Brown, Community Board 2 CERT Deputy Team Chief.
  • Bottled water and non-perishable food, energy and granola bars.
  • Flashlight and batteries. (LED flashlights are more durable and last 10-times longer than traditional flashlights.)
  • A manual radio, or battery operated radio. Manual radios often have cell phone charging features, solar power options, flashlight, siren and compass.
  • A list of medications for each family member, why they take it and the dosage.
  • Extra medication and extra eyeglasses.
  • First Aid Kit.
  • Waterproof matches, Swiss army knife, sharpie markers to write ID info on children, rain ponchos, thermal blankets, extra socks and underwear.
  • Hygiene items.
  • Childcare items.
  • Small map of the region.
  • Personal comfort items, playing cards.

Emergency Supply Kit:

This kit should contain survival materials you and your household will need to shelter in place, meaning survive in your home on your own for at least three days. Your household should know that this kit is for emergencies only and you should check perishables for expiration dates and update your kit every six months.  When I change my clocks for Daylight Savings Time, I check my go bags and emergency supply kit. We are the primary caretakers of my husband’s 101-year-old grandmother, so we keep a kit for her at our home, even thought she lives in another neighborhood.


An explanation of what to keep in the emergency supply for your home. From the Office of Emergency Management’s “Ready New York” video.

Your Emergency Supply Kit should contain:

  • One gallon of drinking water per person, per day.
  • Non-perishable, ready to eat packaged and canned foods and a manual can opener.
  • First Aid Kit.
  • Extra medications and instructions on dosage.
  • Flashlights, candles, matches.
  • Manual radio or battery operated radio and extra batteries.
  • Whistle.
  • Water purification tablets or a quart of unscented bleach to use as directed by the health department. An eye dropped to add bleach to water. The standard is 16 drops of bleach per one gallon of water.
  • Hygiene items.
  • Childcare items.
  • Special needs items.
  • A phone that does not need electricity (non cordless) and a manual or solar cell phone charger.

Step 2: Make a Disaster Plan


How to prepare a disaster plan and review it with your family. From the Office of Emergency Management’s “Ready New York” video.

Discuss emergency preparedness with your loved ones and create a plan for your family.  Designate a location where you will meet that is not your home. Pick a street corner, public park or landmark or Emergency Shelter.  A list of Emergency Shelters in your neighborhood is online. Designate a location in NYC and outside of NYC.

Decide on a contact person outside of the Tri-State area.  New York phone systems may overload and you will only get a busy signal.  Establish a number of a contact person outside of our geographic region so you and your loved ones can communicate via messages through your agreed upon third party.

Step 3: Stay Informed


Once you’ve made your preparations, make sure to stay informed. From the Office of Emergency Management’s “Ready New York” video.

Check in on elderly and infirmed neighbors. Stay informed.  The Office of Emergency Management has plans in place for every kind of emergency. Listen for their guidelines.


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