The Perspective
FALL 2013

A Fresh Perspective on Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

The Perspective sat down with Jeff Quinn, senior public health preparedness planner at the Southern Nevada Health District, to discuss the importance of having a basic disaster kit at home and the best ways to prepare for any type of emergency, regardless of its magnitude. According to Quinn, being prepared isn’t nuclear science. “Preparedness, in its essence, is simply common sense.”

Quinn, who has 10 years of experience in emergency/disaster planning, doesn’t just preach preparedness; he regularly practices it in his personal life. And he suggests that many people do the same, even if they don’t recognize it.

Getting into the preparedness mindset

What most people don’t realize, explains Quinn, is that they practice emergency preparedness in their daily lives without even thinking about it. For example, families who live in rural or isolated areas typically stockpile food and common supplies since grocery stores and other amenities are many miles away.

When parents with young children plan outings, they oftentimes pack for the day anticipating the unexpected: spills, weather, diaper blowouts, tantrums … you name it. With babies and toddlers, their analogous emergency kits are a diaper bag packed with wet wipes, diapers, extra clothes, bottles, toys, pacifiers and the like.

5 Most Comment Natural Disasters in Southern Nevada

And Dad’s advice to always keep at least half a tank of gas in your car is yet another example of being prepared. (Because, as Quinn points out, if you need to evacuate, you won’t have to worry about finding a gas station that may or may not have services available.)

Understanding the nature of disasters

Quinn points out emergencies aren’t always the destructive disasters you see on CNN: they can take the form of a power outage, a government shutdown, a flash flood… you name it. Nor are hazards isolated events. “Take Hurricane Katrina for example,” he explains. “The community survived the high winds. However, the real problem started when the levees broke and the community was suddenly under water.” Typically, a naturally occurring event usually sets the stage for at least one destructive reactionary event.

For example, a three-minute earthquake may not cause direct damage inside your home, but it could uproot an unstable tree that smashes into a power line, which can’t get repaired immediately. In the meantime, your family has to function without power for 12 hours during a heat wave.

“Look at the bigger picture,” suggests Quinn, “and consider how the hazard and its repercussions will affect your safety.”

Building a kit

If a disaster occurs and affects a good portion of the community, you may need to shelter-in-place for three to seven days. During a community-wide event, the typical wait-time for rescue services is 72 hours. And even then, basic needs may be limited or unavailable due to resources being stretched thin throughout the community.

Building a kit doesn’t have to happen overnight, nor does it have to be a financial burden. Quinn suggests purchasing one extra item per shopping trip or getting supplies at dollar stores and thrift shops. (Check out thehealth district's online preparedness calendar.) “Start with the basics,” advises Quinn, “food and water, first aid, as well as important documents and tools.”

What to put in your kit.

Keeping it fresh

The biannual daylight savings switch is a great time to update your kit and conduct a quick scan of your home to identify any potential hazards. Are your heating/cooling system filters fresh and clean? Are the water hoses cracked and need replacing? Do your alarm batteries still have juice?

When updating your kit(s), be sure to do the following:

  • Check expiration dates on food, and discard any canned goods that are swollen, dented or corroded.
  • Change out water supply.
  • If your kit is stored in the garage, check for items that may have melted or disintegrated from the summer heat.
  • Check batteries in radios, flashlights, etc.

The food and water you take out of your kit can be rotated into your current food supply so it doesn’t go to waste. Quinn also suggests donating food items to a food bank or soup kitchen.

Practice makes perfect

Another component of preparedness is knowing what to do and who to contact when disaster strikes. The first step is to identify an out-of-state emergency contact for all household members to call if an emergency occurs while you are separated. Be sure all household members have the emergency contact’s phone number, and know when to call. Assign family members the task of locating pay phones located near work, school and home. (Pay phones will still be operational even if cell towers are down.)

The second step is to practice evacuating your home. After discussing with your household members the best routes out of the house during an event, practice evacuating with them. Quinn suggests making it fun by wearing a blindfold while feeling the walls and crawling to the nearest exit to mimic the poor visibility during a household fire.

While you can’t predict the next disaster that may impact your family, you can certainly take the guesswork out of the question of your safety. After all, it isn’t nuclear science.


The Southern Nevada Health District encourages everyone to develop preparedness plans that can be implemented in an emergency. To learn more about emergency preparedness or how to develop an emergency preparedness kit, visit the Public Health Emergency webpages.

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