I’m from southern California. The land of earthquakes, Hollywood, and perpetual sunshine. And living in Oklahoma, the land of tornadoes, I always get asked which I prefer – earthquakes or tornadoes?

The answer might surprise you. Tornadoes. Hands down. No question.

Why? Because when you’re 11 years old and go to bed without a care in the world and are jolted from sleep by a violently shaking world – you tend to a get a little gun-shy about when the next disaster will strike (thanks 1994 Northridge quake). There are no warnings, sirens, or shelters that will shield you from damage. A weatherman doesn’t stand for hours in front of a green screen telling you about the latest rotation that may or may not cause the right conditions for a funnel cloud. You’re just going about your day and WHAM – the earth moves. Unnerving to say the least. People may disagree, but that’s my opinion.

But here’s one thing I will say about where I grew up. We were PREPARED. From earthquake drills (“DUCK AND COVER! DUCK AND COVER!”), to parent meetings dedicated to how the school would respond in a disaster situation, and my mom painstakingly preparing a Disaster Preparedness Kit for our home – we knew what to do. (And, I’m sorry, but Mom it’s your fault for storing said kit in the barn, where we played, and packing away the best granola bars. The results were inevitable.)

Disaster Preparedness Kit

Disaster Preparedness Kit

The best day in elementary school was the all-day earthquake drill. As students, we LIVED for this day. And you always wanted to be the kid who was selected to have the “broken arm” or was slipped a note by the principal and told to “go crazy.” The alarm went off, we did our duck-and-cover routine, and when the all-clear sounded – we got to spend the entire day in the school’s wide-open field. I’m sure the teachers didn’t have as much fun as we did – what with practicing releasing students to parents, administering first-aid, clearing classrooms, and managing the chaos of several hundred students roaming the grounds (or trying to coax the “go crazy” kid out of tree). Regardless of how we spent that day, it still prepared us.

Because of being raised in this culture of preparedness, I adapted fairly well to life in Tornado Alley. Don’t panic. Assess the situation. Make a plan. Be prepared.

So that’s why my family and I have a plan. We know what to do with our animals, and ourselves, if we are in a severe weather situation or other potential disaster situation. Just recently we finished putting together our own Disaster Preparedness Kit. I compiled a list using resources I found online through the American Red Cross, FEMA, or reading someone’s blog about their own family’s plan. Every grocery trip I would buy a few things and put them in a storage tote in our garage. We budgeted about $100 to $150 for supplies, hence buying a few things at a time.

Just this last shopping trip I finally marked the last item off my list (thanks Dollar Tree!). And it also happens that FEMA has designated April 22-28 as National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. According to the American Red Cross and FEMA, your disaster supplies should include enough essential food, water, and other supplies to last your family 3 days (and don’t forget your fur-family too!).

That might be how long you are without utilities or how long it takes emergency response workers to reach your area. What is important following a disaster is that we stay calm, and not add to the chaos by venturing out to locate food, water, and supplies. This is also why they tell you NOT to self-deploy to a disaster area in order to help others. Wait. First-responders need to establish order, and we can help them do their jobs by staying put and taking care of ourselves to the best of our abilities. FEMA has created an excellent website, www.ready.gov, which provides instructions and a run-down of the basic contents of a disaster kit. The American Red Cross, www.redcross.org, is also an excellent resource and has a great preparedness campaign going called “Do More Than Cross Your Fingers!”

If we want to learn more about helping first-responders, I encourage every able-bodied Oklahoman to join the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps. Created after the Oklahoma City bombing, it is a group of medical and non-medical volunteers working together to supplement first-responder emergency systems. I joined about two years ago and have enjoyed the trainings and information it provides. To learn more visit www.okmrc.org.

Creating a culture of preparedness begins in our own homes. During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, please take the time to make a plan, prepare a kit, and stay informed.