Recent disasters in Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan really drive home the need for individual preparedness. While Japan's earthquake was extraordinary, catastrophes come in many forms, and few places in the world are exempt from such tragedy. The Japanese people proved that individual, home, and community preparations are prudent precautions which not only provide a greater sense of security, they can ultimately mean survival for you and yours during a crisis.
First, if you don't already know, find out your area's risk of experiencing: blizzards, droughts, earthquakes, volcanic activity, wild fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, avalanches, tsunamis and/or storm surges. Establish household safe-places, draw floor plans, prepare exit ways, and find safe locations to meet outdoors. Learn about community emergency programs, meeting places, and all potential shelters and evacuation routes. Encourage your work-place, if they haven't already done so, to create their own emergency plans. Familiarize yourself with measures in-place at your children's school(s). Get trained in first-aid and encourage other family members to learn also. Prior to an emergency, assign roles to household members to first ensure family safety and then secure the home post-emergency. British Columbia's Provincial Emergency Program website has a handy 26-week guide and a all-hazard preparedness checklist (Section 6) to help you prepare.
Next, gather essentials like water, food, first aid, clothing, bedding, flashlights, etc. Fuels for cooking or power equipment like generators and pumps should be stored outdoors or in a well ventilated shed. Store emergency kits where they'll be quickly and easily accessible, near exit ways, and don't forget to add one to each vehicle. Not all things can be stocked for extended periods, though. Certain foods and most medicines will deteriorate in storage so you'll need to keep larger quantities on-hand, at all times, and rotate supplies regularly. This is when sensible bulk shopping practices are of real benefit. To quote Aesop, "It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow." For help collecting necessary items, here's another handy checklist. Even if only homebound during an extended power outage, illness or injury, you'll have the advantage of these preparations. Just make sure to replace anything you use, as soon as possible.
Along with the basics, you'll also need to collect important documents, personal data, contacts' information, medical records and prescriptions. Keep these together, ideally in water-proof packaging, and ready for easy retrieval. If an emergency involves hazardous materials, you may need to shelter in-home. These guidelines can be printed and kept with other critical documents you might need during an emergency.
With all the natural crises shaking the world, there's one promising augury: heightened awareness. Like a few other places, British Columbia is overdue for its own seismic event, so Japan's extraordinary destruction served as a chilling prompt to prepare, as best we can. It certainly won't prevent catastrophe, but preparedness makes it more survivable. There's empowerment in taking proactive measures.