Better Safe Than Sorry: Urban Preparedness Tips

Today’s news headlines often make for dismal reading. Global economic challenges. Social and political unrest. New, virulent diseases show up suddenly, or the next superstorm may strike massively and without warning.

Those of us who live in the concrete jungle we know as Chicago and want to prepare for emergencies face unique considerations, including limited space to store food, water, and other supplies, and having to evacuate among large crowds. Below are some preparedness tips adapted from and

TIPS0003-01Emergency Kits advises people to consider two kits, one containing everything you will need to shelter in place and the other a lightweight, portable version for the purpose of evacuation. It is recommended to store one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, as well as a three-day supply of nonperishable foods. According to the Red Cross, a basic emergency kit could also include the following:

Family Emergency Planning

While making your plan, consider the requirements of children, seniors, non-English speakers, and pets in your household. Family members should also familiarize themselves with the emergency plans at places where they spend the most time: school and work.


If you haven’t already, start building a network of people you can rely on for help – and who you would be willing to help—in an emergency situation.  Ask if your local community center, school, or church group has a preparedness group you could join. These groups often have space and resources that individuals might not be able to access.


Familiarize yourself with your building’s evacuation plan. Identify the exits in your building and note the various stairways in case one is blocked by fire.

Dealing with huge crowds of people, many of whom might be panicking, is an issue when disaster strikes in cities. In a worst-case scenario, you may have to use some self-defense techniques to protect yourself or your family. Speak with local law enforcement officials to determine a suitable course of action for your safety and that of your family.

Locate your gas main and utilities

Make sure the entire household knows where your utility shut-off values (gas, electric, and water) are and how to operate them. Make sure your home is as safe and secure as possible.

First Aid

Get some basic first aid training and have a good stock of supplies on hand for sheltering at home. Basic items include bandages, tweezers, any prescribed medications, and over-the-counter medicines, as well as cleansing and disinfecting wipes and triple antibiotic ointment.

Especially if you live several floors up in a high-rise, have a plan for getting injured family members or neighbors out of the building.

Copies of all important documents

Keep copies off-site in a secure location and include passports, birth certificates, Social Security cards, wills, deeds, driver’s licenses, financial documents, and insurance information.

Knowing how to balance regular precautionary measures with the need to be ready for worst-case scenarios ensures that you and your family will not only survive, but also thrive, no matter what the elements throw your way.

— Shanti Nagarkatti

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