Healthy Homes Are Safe: An Emergency Preparedness Checklist

We give a lot of thought to how our spaces are arranged and decorated and whether we want them to be calming or invigorating, minimalist or bohemian to create the perfect, healthy home. But is it safe? For years I lived in a chic, arty apartment with great windows that was, in retrospect, a complete disaster waiting to happen. But there's a lot you can do to keep your home safe. For some tips, I consulted everyone from law enforcement officers to neurotic family members; here's what they suggest:

I was lucky nothing bad ever happened, because I wouldn't have been ready. Wires dangled from the smoke detectors where I'd ripped the batteries out in a fit of pique when they wouldn't stop beeping. The closest thing we had to a disaster preparedness kit was my boyfriend's weird sword collection and the axe handle a Secret Santa had given me, "For when the zombies attack." But zombies are less likely than an earthquake, fire or blackout, so from now on I'm taking steps to prepare for real emergencies by stocking things like ...

Smoke detectors — I know it's annoying when they beep, but that's what they're supposed to do. Leave the batteries in and replace them regularly.

Flashlights — Keep a flashlight stashed somewhere in every room. If the lights go out, you don't want to have to stumble to the utility closet in pitch blackness. (Anecdote time: I have a scar on my forehead from a time the lights went out in the basement. "Nobody move!" I said, ever the hero. "I know exactly where the flashlight is." Then I walked face-first into a concrete wall.)

Batteries — With all the things on this list that require batteries, we should probably add those as their own category. My parents buy theirs in bulk at Costco, so they're never short batteries when they need them.

Pet Carriers — Make sure you have enough to take all your animals if you have to evacuate. The last thing you want to have to do is wrangle two freaked out cats into one carrier.

Disaster Kit — The other day I went in the front closet of my chronically organized and minimalist sister and was shocked to discover two giant, ugly, red plastic backpacks that were, to say the least, not really her style. When questioned, she explained that they were emergency backpacks for her and her dog in case a natural disaster destroys Chicago. Designed to keep a person alive for at least 72 hours in case of emergency, they contain food, water, survival blankets, night sticks, a battery-powered radio (with spare batteries), a whistle and more.

Documents — A police officer recently told me that keeping a central collection of important documents (birth certificates, insurance papers, deeds, etc.) would vastly speed recovery after a fire or flood. Keep them together in a place you can grab them on the way out. Better still, put them in a safety deposit box.

House Tour — Insurance companies often demand proof of existence, so a jump drive with photos of everything you own is a good thing in case of emergencies (fire, flood, starting your personal style blog). A walking video tour through the house is also useful.

Fire Extinguishers — The aforementioned police officer said to keep one fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and another near the furnace or central air unit.

First-Aid Kits — Even if some of the other steps seem like a bit of overkill, everyone should have a first-aid kid in their house and another in their car. You can buy them pre-packed, or check out the Red Cross' Anatomy of a First-Aid Kit for what to include if you assemble your own, and don't forget to include a booklet on pet first-aid if you have animals.

(Image: Safety First Mod Print by SugarShackStudios via Etsy)

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