Emergency Preparedness




Emergency Preparedness Meritbadge requirement #8C states:

“Prepare a personal emergency service pack for a mobilization call. Prepare a family kit (suitcase or waterproof box) for use by your family in case an emergency evacuation is needed. Explain the needs and uses of the contents.”

What the BSA Recommends to fulfill this requirement

What you have on hand when a disaster happens could make a big difference. Plan to store enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least three days.

  • Water. Have at least one gallon per person per day.
  • Food. Pack non-perishable, high-protein items, including energy bars, ready-to-eat soup, peanut butter, etc. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water.
  • Flashlight. Include extra batteries.
  • First aid kit. Include a reference guide.
  • Medications. Don’t forget both prescription and non-prescription items.
  • Battery-operated Weather radio. Include extra batteries.
  • Tools. Gather a wrench to turn off gas if necessary, a manual can opener, screwdriver, hammer, pliers, knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and garbage bags and ties.
  • Clothing. Provide a change of clothes for everyone, including sturdy shoes and gloves.
  • Personal Items. Remember eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution; copies of important papers, including identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, etc.; and comfort items such as toys and books.
  • Sanitary supplies. You’ll want toilet paper, towelettes, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, bleach, etc.
  • Money. Have cash. (ATMs and credit cards won’t work if the power is out.)
  • Contact information. Including a current list of family phone numbers and e-mail addresses, including someone out of the area who may be easier to reach by e-mail if local phone lines are overloaded.
  • Pet supplies. Include food, water, leash, litter box or plastic bags, tags, medications, and vaccination information.
  • Map. Consider marking an evacuation route on it from your local area.




The Plan

Perhaps the most critical test of your preparedness will be in time of emergency. Developing and rehearsing an emergency action plan will add precious time needed for response to a crisis. This is true on a day hike, overnight or longer troop camp, and all other activities.

  1. Planning ahead is the first step to a calmer and more assured disaster response. Determine what kinds of natural and man-made disasters and emergencies could occur in your community. Make a list of them, then discuss each one and what you should do as a group in each situation. For each type of emergency, establish responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work      together as a team. Because some family members might not be at home at      the time of an emergency, designate alternates in case someone is absent.
  2. Be sure everyone in the family can recognize the different sounds made by smoke, heat, and motion detectors, burglar alarms, fire alarms, and community sirens and warning signals, and know what to do when they hear them.
  3. Discuss what to do if evacuation from your house is necessary. Be sure everyone in the family knows that in that case, they must not hesitate, but must get out as soon as possible and after they are outside someone should call for help. Agree      on an outdoor meeting place for the family, such as a particular neighbor’s front porch.
  4. Be sure everyone in the family knows how to call 911 (if your community has that service) and other local emergency numbers; and how to call on different kinds of phones, such as cell phones. Gather and post other emergency numbers, such as poison control, the family doctor, a neighbor and an out-of-town person who are your family’s emergency contacts, a parent’s work number and cell number,      etc.  Post all emergency numbers near every telephone in the house and make      copies for everyone to carry with them.
  5. Because emergency responders will need an address or directions on where to send help, be sure all family members know how to describe where they can be found. Post your address near each telephone in the house. When dealing with the stress of an emergency, even adult family members could fail to recall details correctly.
  6. Plan an out-of-town evacuation route and an out-of-town meeting point, in the event all family members aren’t together at the same time to evacuate. The meeting point might be the home of a family member in another city or a hotel or landmark known to all family members.
  7. Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on a map in case the chosen roads are impassable or grid-locked.
  8. Practice earthquake, tornado, and fire drills at home, work, and school periodically.
  9. Be sure all family adults and older children know that in case of emergency, it is their responsibility to keep the family together, to remain calm, and explain to younger family members what has happened and what is likely to happen next.




Emergency Preparedness Kit

What you have on hand when a disaster happens could make a big difference. Plan to store enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least three days.


Have at least one gallon per person per day.


Pack non-perishable, high-protein items, including energy bars, ready-to-eat soup, peanut butter, etc. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water.


Include extra batteries.

First aid kit

Include a reference guide.


Don’t forget both prescription and non-prescription items.

Battery-operated radio

Include extra batteries.


Gather a wrench to turn off gas if necessary, a manual can opener, screwdriver, hammer, pliers, knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and garbage bags and ties.


Provide a change of clothes for everyone, including sturdy shoes and gloves.

Personal Items

Remember eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution; copies of important papers, including identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, etc.; and comfort items such as toys and books.

Sanitary supplies

You’ll want toilet paper, towelettes, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, bleach, etc.


Have cash. (ATMs and credit cards won’t work if the power is out.)

Contact information

Include a current list of family phone numbers and e-mail addresses, including someone out of the area who may be easier to reach by e-mail if local phone lines are overloaded. A blank Emergency Contact List form is included in this section for your use.

Pet supplies

Include food, water, leash, litter box or plastic bags, tags, medications, and vaccination information.


Consider marking an evacuation route on it from your local area.

Emergency preparedness includes being prepared for all kinds of emergencies, able to respond in time of crisis to save lives and property, and to help a community—or even a nation—return to normal life after a disaster occurs. It is a challenge to be prepared for emergencies in our world of man-made and natural phenomena. The Emergency Preparedness BSA program is planned to inspire the desire and foster the skills to meet this challenge in our youth and adult members so that they can participate effectively in this crucial service to their families, communities, and nation.

When an emergency occurs, it affects every youth and adult member of BSA in the immediate area, creating the responsibility to respond: first, as an individual; second, as a member of a family; and third, as a member of a Scouting unit serving the neighborhood and community. To meet these varied responsibilities, the Emergency Preparedness BSA plan includes preparedness training for individuals, families, and units.

Reference: Emergency Preparedness, No.19-304



Why Prepare

There are real benefits to being prepared.

There are real benefits to being prepared.

  • Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters. Communities, families, and individuals should know what to do in the event of a fire and where to seek shelter during a tornado. They should be ready to evacuate their homes and take refuge in public shelters and know how to care for their      basic medical needs.
  • People also can reduce the impact of disasters (flood proofing, elevating a home or moving a home out of harm’s way, and securing items that could shake loose in an earthquake) and sometimes avoid the danger completely.

The need to prepare is real.

  • Disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Each disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property.
  • If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be ready as well. Local responders may not be able to reach you immediately, or they may need to focus their efforts elsewhere.
  • You should know how to respond to severe weather or any disaster that could occur in your area – hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme cold, flooding, or terrorism.
  • You should also be ready to be self-sufficient for at least three days. This may mean providing for your own shelter, first aid, food, water, and sanitation.

Using this guide makes preparation practical.

  • This guide was developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is the agency responsible for responding to national disasters and for helping state and local governments and individuals prepare for emergencies. It contains step-by-step advice on how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.
  • Used in conjunction with information and instructions from local emergency management offices and the American Red Cross, Are You Ready? will give you what you need to be prepared.


Using Are You Ready? to Prepare

The main reason to use this guide is to help protect yourself and your family in the event of an emergency. Through applying what you have learned in this guide, you are taking the necessary steps to be ready when an event occurs.

Every citizen in this country is part of a national emergency management system that is all about protection–protecting people and property from all types of hazards. Think of the national emergency management system as a pyramid with you, the citizen, forming the base of the structure. At this level, you have a responsibility to protect yourself and your family by knowing what to do before, during, and after an event. Some examples of what you can do follow:


  • Know the risks and danger signs.
  • Purchase insurance, including flood insurance, which is not part of your homeowner’s policy.
  • Develop plans for what to do.
  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
  • Volunteer to help others.


  • Put your plan into action.
  • Help others.
  • Follow the advice and guidance of officials in charge of the event.


  • Repair damaged property.
  • Take steps to prevent or reduce future loss.

You will learn more about these and other actions you should take as you progress through this guide.

Local Citizen
It is sometimes necessary to turn to others within the local community for help. The local level is the second tier of the pyramid, and is made up of paid employees and volunteers from the private and public sectors. These individuals are engaged in preventing emergencies from happening and in being prepared to respond if something does occur. Most emergencies are handled at the local level, which puts a tremendous responsibility on the community for taking care of its citizens. Among the responsibilities faced by local officials are:

  • Identifying hazards and assessing potential risk to the community.
  • Enforcing building codes, zoning ordinances, and land-use management programs.
  • Coordinating emergency plans to ensure a quick and effective response.
  • Fighting fires and responding to hazardous materials incidents.
  • Establishing warning systems.
  • Stocking emergency supplies and equipment.
  • Assessing damage and identifying needs.
  • Evacuating the community to safer locations.
  • Taking care of the injured.
  • Sheltering those who cannot remain in their homes.
  • Aiding recovery efforts.

State – Local Citizen
If support and resources are needed beyond what the local level can provide, the community can request assistance from the state. The state may be able to provide supplemental resources such as money, equipment, and personnel to close the gap between what is needed and what is available at the local level. The state also coordinates the plans of the various jurisdictions so that activities do not interfere or conflict with each other. To ensure personnel know what to do and efforts are in agreement, the state may offer a program that provides jurisdictions the opportunity to train and exercise together.

Federal Government – State – Local Citizen
At the top of the pyramid is the federal government, which can provide resources to augment state and local efforts. These resources can be in the form of:

  • Public educational materials, such as this guide, that can be used to prepare the public for protecting itself from hazards.
  • Financial grants for equipment, training, exercises, personnel, and programs.
  • Grants and loans to help communities respond to and recover from disasters so severe that the President of the United States has deemed them beyond state and local capabilities.
  • Research findings that can help reduce losses from disaster.
  • Technical assistance to help build stronger programs.

The national emergency management system is built on shared responsibilities and active participation at all levels of the pyramid. The whole system begins with you, the citizen, and your ability to follow good emergency management practices— whether at home, work, or other locations.

Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness is organized to help you through the process. Begin by reading Part 1 which is the core of the guide. This part provides basic information that is common to all hazards on how to create and maintain an emergency plan and disaster supplies kit.

Part 1: Basic Preparedness

  • A series of worksheets to help you obtain information from the community that will form the foundation of your plan. You will need to find out about hazards that threaten the community, how the population will be warned, evacuation routes to be used in times of disaster, and the emergency plans of the community and others that will impact your plan.
  • Guidance on specific content that you and your family will need to develop and include in your plan on how to escape from your residence, communicate with one another during  times of disaster, shut-off household utilities, insure against financial loss, acquire basic safety skills, address special needs such as      disabilities, take care of animals, and seek shelter.
  • Checklists of items to consider including in your disaster supplies kit that will meet your family’s needs following a disaster whether you are at home or at other locations.

Part 1 is also the gateway to the specific hazards and recovery information contained in Parts 2, 3, 4, and 5. Information from these sections should be read carefully and integrated in your emergency plan and disaster supplies kit based on the hazards that pose a threat to you and your family.

Part 2: Natural Hazards

  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Thunderstorms and lightning
  • Tornadoes
  • Winter storms and extreme cold
  • Extreme heat
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanoes
  • Landslides and debris flow
  • Tsunamis
  • Fires
  • Wildfires

Part 3: Technological Hazards

  • Hazardous materials incidents
  • Household chemical emergencies
  • Nuclear power plant emergencies

Part 4: Terrorism

  • Explosions
  • Biological threats
  • Chemical threats
  • Nuclear blasts
  • Radiological dispersion device events

Part 5: Recovering from Disaster

  • Health and safety guidelines
  • Returning home
  • Seeking disaster assistance
  • Coping with disaster
  • Helping others




As you work through individual sections, you will see reference points. These are reminders to refer to previous sections for related information on the topic being discussed.

FEMA Publications
Throughout the guide are lists of publications available from FEMA that can help you learn more about the topics covered. To obtain these publications, call the FEMA Distribution Center at 1-800-480-2520 or request them by mail from:

Federal Emergency Management Agency
P.O. Box 2012
Jessup, MD 20794-2012

Other Publications
Other publications cited throughout this guide can be obtained by contacting the organizations below:

American Red Cross National Headquarters 2025 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 303-4498

National Weather Service
1325 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333, U.S.A
Public Inquiries: (404) 639-3534 / (800) 311-3435

U.S. Geological Survey
Information Services
P.O. Box 25286
Denver, CO 80225
1 (888) 275-8747


Disaster Public Education Web Sites

You can broaden your knowledge of disaster preparedness topics presented in this guide by reviewing information provided at various government and non-government Web sites. Provided below is a list of recommended sites. The Web address for each site reflects its home address. Searches conducted from each home site’s page result in the most current and extensive list of available material for the site.

Government Web Sites

Be Ready Campaign
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Citizen Corps
Department of Commerce
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Interior
Department of Justice
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Food and Drug Administration
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The White House
U.S. Department of Agriculture
U.S. Fire Administration
U.S. Fire Administration Kids Page
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Office of Personnel Management
U.S. Postal Service
USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station

Non-Government Web Sites

American Red Cross
Institute for Business and Home Safety
National Fire Protection Association
National Mass Fatalities Institute
National Safety Compliance
The Middle East Seismological Forum
The Pan American Health Organization


Getting Serious about it

The following list is to help you determine what to include in your disaster supplies kit that will meet your family’s needs.



First Aid Supplies





Adhesive bandages, various sizes
5 ” x 9 ” sterile   dressing
Conforming roller gauze bandage
Triangular bandages
3 ” x 3 ” sterile gauze   pads
4 ” x 4 ” sterile gauze   pads
Roll 3 ” cohesive bandage
Germicidal hand wipes or   waterless, alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Antiseptic wipes
Pairs large, medical grade,   non-latex gloves
Tongue depressor blades
Adhesive tape, 2 ” width
Antibacterial ointment
Cold pack
Scissors (small, personal)
Assorted sizes of safety pins
Cotton balls
Tube of petroleum jelly or other   lubricant
CPR breathing barrier, such as a   face shield
First aid manual

Non-Prescription and Prescription Medicine Kit Supplies





Aspirin and non-aspirin pain   reliever
Anti-diarrhea medication
Antacid (for stomach upset)
Extra eyeglasses/contact lenses

Sanitation and Hygiene Supplies



Washcloth and towel Heavy-duty plastic garbage bags   and ties for personal sanitation uses and toilet paper
Towelettes, soap, hand sanitizer Medium-sized plastic bucket with   tight lid
Tooth paste, toothbrushes Disinfectant and household   chlorine bleach
Shampoo, comb, and brush A small shovel for digging a   latrine
Deodorants, sunscreen Toilet paper
Razor, shaving cream Contact lens solutions
Lip balm, insect repellent Mirror
Feminine supplies

Equipment and Tools


Kitchen items

Portable, battery-powered radio or   television and extra batteries Manual can opener
NOAA Weather Radio, if appropriate   for your area Mess kits or paper cups, plates,   and plastic utensils
Flashlight and extra batteries All-purpose knife
Signal flare Household liquid bleach to treat   drinking water
Matches in a waterproof container   (or waterproof matches) Sugar, salt, pepper
Shut-off wrench, pliers, shovel,   and other tools Aluminum foil and plastic wrap
Duct tape and scissors Resealable plastic bags
Plastic sheeting Small cooking stove and a can of   cooking fuel (if food must be cooked)
Small canister, ABC-type fire   extinguisher

Comfort Items

Tube tent Games
Compass Cards
Work gloves Books
Paper, pens, and pencils Toys for kids
Needles and thread Foods
Battery-operated travel alarm   clock

Food and Water





Ready-to-eat meats, fruits, and   vegetables
Canned or boxed juices, milk, and   soup
High-energy foods such as peanut   butter, jelly, low-sodium crackers, granola bars, and trail mix
Special foods for infants or   persons on special diets
Cookies, hard candy
Instant coffee
Powdered milk

Clothes and Bedding Supplies


Complete change of clothes
Sturdy shoes or boots
Rain gear
Hat and gloves
Extra socks
Extra underwear
Thermal underwear
Blankets/sleeping bags and pillows

Documents and Keys



Personal identification
Cash and coins
Credit cards
Extra set of house keys and car   keys
Copies of the following:
Birth certificate
Marriage certificate
Driver’s license
Social Security cards
Inventory of household goods
Insurance papers
Immunization records
Bank and credit card account   numbers
Stocks and bonds
Emergency contact list and phone   numbers
Map of the area and phone numbers   of places you could go