This is the topic of my Emergency Preparedness class at my local university. It's an graduate level course and I'll be doing random posts about the course throughout the semester. Let me know if you'd like more...
There are two important terms in Emergency preparedness: mitigation and preparedness.
Mitigation is a means of reducing or eliminating the impact from a disaster while preparedness is the state of readiness to respond to a disaster. A good analogy would be getting out of debt for a financial crisis (mitigation) and having a few months worth of cash at home (preparedness).
Step 1. Planning- creating a risk assessment to plan for the most likely disaster to happen in your area. A hurricane plan for those in Florida would be a good start, but no so much if you live in North Dakota.
Step 2. Organization and Equipment- In keeping with the hurricane scenario, you would want to have sheets of plywood pre-cut for your windows, food, water, medicine, battery powered lamps,etc...
Organization could be as simple as keeping all your supplies in the same area of the garage or a detailed plan on who in the family goes to the grocery store, who puts up the plywood, and who would collect all of the wind blown items in the yard before the hurricane makes landfall.
Step 3. Training- This might include teaching the kids how to turn off the gas line to the house, how to light the gas grill, or teaching the spouse how to assist in the placing of the plywood over the windows. Training = Knowledge.
Step 4. Exercise- This could be as simple as a mock evacuation or a weekend living without power to test the first three steps and identifying any shortfalls. Did we store enough water? Did we forget the spare batteries for the lamp? How are we going to flush the tiolet or how to go to the bathroom? How is the dog gonna do his "business"?
Step 5. Evaluation and Improvement- This final step in the preparedness cycle takes the lessons learned and applies them to future processes. The bulk of your knowledge will come from exercising the plan and actual disaster experience.
Keep Right On Prepping - K