Assembling an emergency kit can seem daunting — here are tips for making it a bit more manageable.

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Disaster, even one experienced through a television screen, has a way of sharpening the mind. And the recent cascade of hurricanes, forest fires and earthquakes has reminded many Americans that there is no time like the present to think about all the things that could go wrong.

We’re not going to get it done this week. But let’s say, over this year, let’s take one step at a time.”” - Diane Thomson, professional organizer and life coach

Companies that sell emergency supplies like freeze-dried food, water barrels and survival packs say sales are up, and not just to people preparing for an imminent event. Customers are calling from all along the Eastern Seaboard and on the West Coast, too, worried about forest fires, earthquakes and the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.

At Emergency Essentials (, sales are up by as much as 200 percent. “When there are people suffering in the news, other people get ready,” says Kevan Allbee, the company’s marketing director.

Those who don’t plan ahead might find themselves battling long lines at stores, as they rush to stock up on water, batteries and portable generators. “The week before Irma hit, we had so many phone calls from people desperate to have product overnighted to them,” says Paul Fulton, the president of the Ready Store (, which has seen inquiries jump 500 percent in the past months. “At that point, it’s just too late.”

How to get started

The best time to prepare is when the sky is clear and your weekend is free. But readying for the unknown can feel like a daunting and costly task — and one easily shelved. To make it more manageable, weave emergency planning into your everyday life, chipping away at the long to-do list.

In the Seattle area, start at and click on “Prepare” to get disaster plans, forms and checklists. The Know Your Plan app from the Insurance Information Institute also has detailed checklists for various emergency scenarios.

What to have

At the very least, families should keep an emergency kit on hand. Generally, you’ll be dealing with one of two scenarios: the need to evacuate or to shelter in place. To make a speedy exit, pack a backpack full of supplies for each family member. To safely stay put, you’ll need enough provisions to sustain your household for at least 72 hours.

Either way, you’ll need items like clothes, water, food, flashlights, batteries, a portable radio, cash, a first-aid kit and medicine. Keep a paper copy of important names, phone numbers and addresses. Items like baby wipes, work gloves and a multipurpose tool may also help.

Discuss an emergency response plan with your family. Decide where to meet if you have to leave your home. Select a friend or relative to be the point person to call if you become separated.

And remember, emergency supplies need to be updated. Children outgrow clothes and medications expire. Warmer months call for different supplies than colder ones. Refresh your emergency kit as part of your spring and fall cleaning routine.

Diane Thomson, a professional organizer and life coach, suggests preparing in stages, to avoid getting overwhelmed. “We’re not going to get it done this week,” she says. “But let’s say, over this year, let’s take one step at a time.”