Emergency Preparedness

Emergencies created from disasters, such as tornadoes, floods, storms, earthquakes, disease outbreaks or terrorist attacks can happen suddenly and disastrously and can leave you feeling overwhelmed and powerless. You may be without electricity, refrigeration, clean tap water or phone service for days or weeks. Establishing emergency plan procedures can better protect you, your family, and your property. The resources below can serve as a guide to make appropriate preparations.

To approach emergency planning in a comprehensive way, there are some essential steps. 

First, catalogue the personal property in your home in order to ensure a fair insurance reimbursement.  It will simplify the recovery process and make it easier to apply for federal disaster aid.  If you own your home, make sure you have appropriate insurance coverage, and if you rent your apartment or home, you should have renter's insurance.


Get Ready - Make a Plan

Develop an Emergency Plan with your family so you know what to do, how to find each other, and how to communicate in an emergency.  Additionally, know all means of egress in any building that you occupy.

Here's what your "Emergency Plan" should include:

  • Decide where your household will meet in an emergency; one location right outside your home and another outside your neighborhood.
  • Find and remember all possible exit routes from your home and neighborhood.
  • Choose a faraway friend or relative whom household members can call if separated during a disaster.
  • Anyone with special considerations (i.e. seniors, people with disabilities) may require additional planning.
  • Make sure that everyone in your household has a copy of your emergency plan, and a wallet card with important information.
  • Practice your plan with all household members.

Get Set - Prepare at Home

Keep enough supplies in your home to survive for at least three days, and store them in a place where you can get to them fast.  Tell everyone living with you that these supplies are for emergencies only.  Check expiration dates of food and update your kits when you change your clock during daylight-saving times.

Here's what your "Stay At Home" kit should include:

  • One gallon of drinking water per person per day
  • Non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned foods and manual can opener
  • Non-perishable dried foods like energy or granola bars
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlights and extra batteries (LED flashlights are more durable than traditional ones and last 10X longer)
  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries (you can also buy wind-up radios that do not require batteries)
  • Candles with matches
  • Whistle
  • Iodine tablets or one quart unscented bleach (for disinfecting water ONLY if directed to do so by health officials) and eyedropper (for adding bleach to water)
  • Personal hygiene items: soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush and toothpaste, toilet paper, wet cleaning wipes, etc.
  • Phone that does not rely on electricity
  • Child care supplies (diapers, wipes, formula) or other special care items
  • Disposable bowls, plates and utensils

And during cold weather:

  • Extra blankets and/or sleeping bags
  • Hats, gloves and scarves
  • Hand / Foot warmers

Go - With Your Go Bag

Every household should pack a "Go Bag" - a collection of items that you may need in the event of an evacuation.  A "Go Bag" should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels.  A "Go Bag" should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry.  Make sure it is ready to go at all times of the year.

Here's what your "Go Bag" should include.

  • Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.)
  • Extra set of car and house keys
  • Credit and ATM cards and cash, especially in small denominations.  Keep at least $50-$100 on hand.
  • Non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned foods and manual can opener
  • Non-perishable dried foods like energy or granola bars
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlights and extra batteries (LED flashlights are more durable than traditional ones and last 10X longer)
  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio and extra batteries (you can also buy wind-up radios that do not require batteries)
  • Whistle
  • Multi-purpose pocket knife
  • Charger for cell phone
  • A change of clothes
  • Some basic travel size toiletries
  • Keep a list of the medications each member of the household takes, why they take them, and their dosages.  If you store medication in your "Go Bag", check expiration dates.
  • Child care supplies (diapers, wipes, formula) or other special care items
  • Gas for your automobile in case you need to leave your city or town
  • Contact and meeting place information for your household (Emergency Plan), and a small regional map

CALL 911 when you are in immediate danger or witness a crime in progress, for a serious injury or medical condition, or any other situation requiring urgent attention.

DO NOT call 911 for non-emergencies or to report a power outage. 

CALL 311 when you need non-emergency services and information.  There is a live operator 24/7 and translation services for over 170 languages.

Visit http://www.nyc.gov/readyny for more emergency tips, as well as the following resources.


Columbia resources

Columbia University Emergency Management Operations Team: During emergency situations, EMOT is the central team responsible for unified information sharing with the Columbia community, as well as for determining and implementing a coordinated response strategy.  CUMC: The Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) Emergency Management Team is responsible for guiding the campus in the event of an emergency situation.

Columbia University Department of Public Safety: Public Safety maintains a secure and open environment where the safety of all is balanced with the rights of the individual.  You can sign-up to receive text message notifications from Public Safety during situations such as weather emergencies, major transit interruptions and campus closures. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/publicsafety/alertsignup.html 

Columbia University Human Resources: The Safety section of HR's web site provides information about safety measures for the Columbia community, along with links to other Columbia departments and organizations in the community.

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness: The NCDP works to understand and improve the nation's capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. NCDP has four focus areas: system readiness, disaster recovery, citizen engagement, and vulnerable populations. NCDP carries out research and policy analysis in these areas, and provides education, training and technical support to public health workers, local and regional governments, and public health, hospital, and community partners.


For Columbia University Officers and Staff: 

Humana/HRI employee assistance program can help with:

  • Identifying federal, state, and charitable emergency recovery: assistance finding temporary housing
  • Finding local home repair professionals, consumer education resources for replacement of appliances and other household needs
  • Locating house and yard clean-put companies
  • Identifying financial and legal services to help with debt relief, insurance claims, and other issues
  • Providing personal assistance for coping with stress and anxiety

Calls are free and confidential. 

In addition, the following information has been prepared by Humana/HRI:

All above services are provided by HRI at no cost to you or your family.  Humana/HRI's counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-673-1153. For more details, visit the Humana/HRI website (username: columbia; password: eap).


City-wide resources

New York City Office of Emergency Management: Established in 1996, the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) plans and prepares for emergencies, educates the public about preparedness, coordinates emergency response and recovery, and collects and disseminates emergency information.  

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: The NYC Department of Health works to prevent, protect against, respond to, and increase NYC's ability to recover from public health threats. DOHMH works to build NYC community resilience against public health emergencies through collaboration with NYC healthcare facilities and community organizations.


NY State resources

American Red Cross - Greater NY Region:

Greater NY Chapter relief workers arrive at emergencies within minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, an average of 7 times a day, and provide food, shelter, health services and mental-health support to the thousands of adults and children affected by these emergencies.

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES): For more than 50 years, the New York State Office of Emergency Management and its predecessor agencies have been responsible for coordinating the activities of all State agencies to protect New York's communities, the State's economic well-being, and the environment from natural and man-made disasters and emergencies. 

Department of Health - New York State: Information about emergency preparedness including biological & chemical attacks, accidents and weather related disasters.

New York State All-Hazards Alert: The New York State All-Hazards Alert and Notification is part of New York State's ongoing commitment to provide New Yorkers with information so that they will understand the risks and threats that they may face and know how to respond accordingly. 


National organizations

American Red Cross: The Red Cross disaster relief focuses on meeting people's immediate emergency needs caused by disaster. When disaster threatens or strikes, the Red Cross provides shelter, food, and health and emotional health services to address basic human needs and assist individuals and families in resuming their normal daily activities independently.

ASPCA: The ASPCA provides a step-by-step guide to keep your pets safe during a disaster.

DisasterAssistance.gov: DisasterAssistance.gov provides information on how you might be able to get help from the U.S. Government before, during and after a disaster.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): FEMA provides information and assistance on prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery from a disaster. 

Ready: Launched in February 2003, Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. 

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: OCHA is the part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian efforts to ensure a coherent response to emergencies.


Other general information and resources

Emergency Management: Emergency Management is a publication for emergency management, public safety, and homeland security stakeholders charged to protect our communities, critical infrastructure and the security of our nation.

5 Steps to Preparing Your Home for a Natural Disaster: This blog provides information on how to take measures to reduce your risks, protect your home and keep your family safe during a natural disaster.

Whathappensnow: This website provides tips from disaster victims, home improvement professionals and FEMA to help prepare people by making their home a strong shelter.




Listing of the websites above does not constitute a recommendation of these websites nor is the accuracy of the information listed in these web sites verified by the Office of Work/Life.

Columbia University assumes no responsibility in connection with any of these web sites and recommends that any information listed therein be independently verified.