Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

Working with the community... for a healthier community.




By Jillian Stowe, Peoria City/County Health Department


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) initially launched National Preparedness Month (NPM) in 2004 with September as the chosen month to highlight the tragedies of September 11, 2001, as well as it being hurricane season. The primary goal of NPM is to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies, as they can occur at any time. With FEMA utilizing its Ready Campaign (, each year there is a different focus to assist by bringing awareness and being more inclusive by engaging a variety of different communities.

This year is targeted toward preparing older adults and their caregivers before disasters strike. While many older adults have experienced at least one disaster in their life (if not more), the process of aging plays a role in their vulnerability in how well they are able to respond. A few examples of these from the American Red Cross are:

  • Greater likelihood to suffer from chronic conditions and the need for associated medications.
  • Greater reliance on assistive devices such as walkers or glasses, as well as support from caregivers and others.
  • An increased likelihood of social isolation.


By planning ahead and preparing for disasters that can occur, individuals increase their safety awareness, while also helping to reduce the fear and impact that disasters may leave behind.


Not if, but When: How Prepared Are You?

Because disasters can strike at any time, do you have a plan in place? This is one of several questions to consider when thinking about how ready you are to respond. In order to be better prepared, you need to design a plan that would fit your and your family’s needs. Several factors to consider when developing your plan would include:

  • How you will receive your emergency alerts and warnings
  • How you will contact one another and reconnect if separated
  • Different ages of members within your household
  • Responsibilities for assisting others (this may include neighbors)
  • Locations frequented, with one place being a meeting place that is easy to find
  • Dietary needs
  • Medical needs including prescriptions and equipment
  • Disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment
  • Languages spoken
  • Cultural and religious considerations
  • Pets or service animals
  • Households with school-aged children


Once you have a plan in place, it is important to practice. You can do this as often as you would like, but it is recommended to do at least two if not three times per year. By doing so, you (and your family) will be more confident in focusing on what is important, while helping minimize some of the impact that could occur. The primary concern is the safety of you and your loved ones.


Building a Kit

Being prepared by having a plan in place is a great starting point, however, having an emergency kit stocked and ready when a disaster occurs is another benefit to have. These would need to include enough food, water, and supplies to last for several days. A basic list below serves as a starting point, but you and your family may have other specific needs to consider as well if you have older adults in the home, young children, or pets. It is important that you are able to put your kit together in easy-to-carry plastic bins or a duffle bag. Recommended items for a basic kit are:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and an NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery


Additional items to consider based on individual needs would be:

  • Masks (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces
  • Prescription medications.
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, or laxatives
  • Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children


Be sure to maintain your kit by updating your kit as your family’s needs change, replacing expired items as needed, and storing your kit in a dry, easy-to-find and accessible place. Keep in mind that disasters can strike at any time and anywhere. Consider a kit for your home, your work, and your car (with the extras that you would need in your car, such as phone chargers, jumper cables, blankets, and ice scrapers) as well.

Knowing the hazards that you and your family may face, creating a plan, and building a kit are all beneficial to preparing for disasters. Not only will these help keep you safe, but will also give you the confidence to maneuver through an event when and after it happens.


     For tips and ideas on creating plans and kits, visit Ready at

     For weather information, visit the National Weather Service at

     For health alerts, visit the Peoria City/County Health Department at


              Jillian Stowe is the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Planner at the Peoria City/County Health Department and is responsible for planning, evaluating, and implementing emergency response planning activities in Peoria County.