Tips to help you prepare for emergencies.

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Two simple words will help protect your family and reduce your stress during uncertain times: Be prepared.

The hardest part of planning for the unexpected is getting started. But taking a few simple steps now will pay dividends later if you need to get out of the house quickly or crouch down for a while. The goal is to have all the essentials you need, whether the crisis is due to dangerous weather, a medical emergency, or a crisis you never thought of.

If you think you really don’t need to worry about the weather or another emergency, reconsider. We have all seen the toll of Hurricane Ian, including loss of life, power outages and flooding. But even if you don’t live in a hurricane zone, weather emergencies are becoming more common everywhere. More than 4 in 10 Americans live in a county that was hit by extreme weather-related weather last year, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal disaster declarations. The World Disasters Report found that weather-related disasters have increased by nearly 35 percent since the 1990s. And over the past few years, we’ve all learned that health emergencies can strike at any time.

You don’t have to do everything right away. Just get started and expand your emergency preparedness over time. Here are seven key areas to think about.

Have a travel bag for a quick getaway from home. Whether there’s a fire, gas leak, medical crisis or family emergency that requires you to leave town, every second counts. Start building your travel bag. It should have essential documents that can’t be replaced and handy items that you’ll be glad to have. Start by gathering your passport, social security card, birth certificates, deeds, and other essential documents in one place. I use a silicone Stasher bag. It stays in a lockbox but is easy to grab during a quick outing. Add a list of important phone numbers in case your phone goes down, an extra pair of reading glasses, a phone charger, and some face masks. Record a reminder to get essential medications and contact lens cases and solutions. Another essential item you probably haven’t thought of: a whistle. If you are evacuating and become stuck or trapped, the high-pitched sound of a whistle will help rescuers find you. I have a $3 whistle in my overnight bag and in my car. Finally, some useful items: a flashlight and batteries, toothpaste and brush, first aid kit, granola bars, and water bottles.

Duck in bad weather. It’s good to have a two-week supply of water and non-perishable food. Don’t forget toilet paper, pet food, hand sanitizer, and trash bags. Also plan for power outages. Some useful items include: flashlights and batteries, headlamps, or flashlights. I have a hand crank weather radio and a solar phone charger.

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Car emergencies. Your car must be ready if you have to evacuate. Never let the gas go below a quarter tank. A solid car emergency kit includes: a jump starter and power bank, a first aid kit, energy bars, bottled water, and mylar blankets. An escape tool may sound like overkill, but it’s inexpensive and essential for breaking car windows if you’re caught in a flood or other water emergency. Wirecutter recommends the RESQME escape tool which retails for less than $11.

A medical crisis. Start creating a folder with the documents that you or your loved ones will need if you have a medical emergency. It should include: a list of emergency contacts (if they’re on your phone, they can’t be accessed by others), your medical power of attorney, an advance health directive, your will, and any financial accounts and information that would help someone manage your life if you are far away. This AARP worksheet is helpful in identifying everything someone might need to help them get through a crisis.

And don’t forget to bring a phone charger, which a doctor friend told me is the most requested item in the ER.

Leaving work. Do you know where the emergency exit from your office is? I had to evacuate the World Financial Center during 9/11 and had no idea where to go. It was terrifying. Don’t keep important personal documents at work, either. During an emergency, you will lose access to the workplace. I know friends who, both after 9/11 and during the pandemic, had essential documents on their office desks that they couldn’t access.

while traveling. Have a health plan for each trip you make. Find out what your insurance covers and the hospital system closest to where you are staying. Make sure you have your doctor’s contact information handy if you need to reach your doctor at home. Many people have found themselves in need of medical care abroad during the pandemic. Our travel experts at By The Way have advice on travel health advisories.

Have a pet plan. In every emergency, pet owners should be prepared to evacuate pets or house them in a safe place. The needs are different for large and small dogs, cats, reptiles, rabbits, guinea pigs, and fish. Do you have pet care if you are hospitalized? What if you are stranded abroad? What if you have to evacuate your house? Do you have pet carriers, bowls, leashes, and vet records gathered for a quick checkout? Think of all the emergencies above and what you might need to make sure your best pet friends are safe too.

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Talk to friends and family about misinformation

Fall is here, travel is back, and many people are making vacation plans with family and friends. If you have someone in your life who regularly spreads misinformation on social media, via text, or even at the dinner table, we have some advice for you.

Washington Post reporter Teddy Amenabar spoke with half a dozen experts who study political disinformation on the Internet, how it spreads and the ways people tell fact from fiction. He learned that arguing, yelling, and getting angry don’t help. The key is to be empathetic, which can be difficult when you disagree with someone. Listen and try to understand someone’s concerns. Share the sources you use to gather trusted news and information. And if you really want to change someone’s point of view, be prepared for multiple conversations, not just one chat.

Read about the science of stopping the spread of misinformation and changing someone’s mind in our guide, “9 Tips for Debunking False Claims Made by Friends and Family.”

Today’s daily life coach is Post Reports! Listen to a recent episode of our flagship podcast for lessons and inspiration on embracing and celebrating your body post-pandemic.

The advice: Take a moment to experience gratitude for the body that got you through the pandemic, even if you gained a few pounds or didn’t exercise as much as others you know.

why you should try it: Listening to the stories on the podcast, about everything from getting a lung transplant to going black, will remind you that there is no single pandemic experience. Some people found ways to thrive during the pandemic, others struggled, and the rest of us were somewhere in between.

How to do it: You can find the episode here at Or you can find it on your favorite podcast app.

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