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5-Minute Projects

Get ideas for quick and simple preparedness activities to do when you’re at the grocery store, at the dinner table, or while doing chores.

When would you like to increase your preparedness?

During my free time/after the kids go to bed
  • Download and fill out a family emergency communication plan card. When you're done, keep the card in your wallet or purse to reference in case your phone dies.
  • Fill out a Medical Emergency Card (history, medications, contact info) for each member in your family. Store the documents in your emergency kit for reference.
  • Make copies of your important financial, personal, and property documents and store them in your emergency kit, on a USB drive, or in the cloud. For extra security, you can send a copy to an out-of-town friend or family member.
  • Ask your homeowner’s insurance agent about flood and earthquake insurance. They are probably not included unless you specifically add them. Flood and earthquake insurance takes 30 days to take effect.
  • Keep a pair of sturdy shoes, socks, work gloves, a whistle, and a light stick or flashlight with batteries under your bed to use after the shaking from an earthquake stops. The most common injuries after an earthquake are cuts to hands and feet.
  • Print out a map and highlight at least two alternate routes to work, school, day care, and home. Keep it in your car's glove box to reference.
  • Learn how to access and purify water from your water heater during an emergency.
While I’m at the grocery store or dollar store
  • Shop the sales! Stock up on food for your emergency kit when it’s on sale. Canned goods often go on sale, and weekly specials may make it easy to stock up on oatmeal, rice or pasta.
  • Bulk food sections can often be great places to get non-perishable food items for a low cost.

Dollar Store Deals – The dollar store offers a great opportunity to stock up on preparedness items at a low cost. Here are several items you can grab next time your visit:

  • Thermometers
  • Toys and coloring books for kids
  • Manual can opener
  • Small flashlights
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Batteries
  • Lighter
  • Moist towelettes or baby wipes
  • Garbage bags
  • Bleach
  • Cat toys and dog treats
  • Work gloves
  • Rope
While I’m with my family

At the dinner table – Here are some conversation topics to have with your family during dinner:

  • How will your family cook, light, and heat your home safely if you lose power?
  • Who is your out of state emergency contact and when should this person be called?
  • Where is your family meeting place? Choose one place in your neighborhood and one in your community.
  • Where would you go if you needed to evacuate your home for three nights? What would you need to bring? If you have animals: what is your plan to evacuate with pets?
  • Do any of your family members rely on home oxygen, powered medical equipment, or durable medical supplies? What types of emergencies could affect the use of those treatments? What are your plans for continuing those treatments in the event of an emergency?
  • Challenge your family to "make" a dinner using four emergency kit ingredients and see whose idea is the most creative.
  • Pick an emergency situation and have your family members talk through what they would do. Start with something small or simple, like the stove catching fire while the whole family is home or a parent's car breaking down on the way to afternoon school pick up. As your family gets more comfortable with preparedness, move to larger events like a winter storm that knocks out power for two days.
  • If you have pets: Who's responsible for making sure they have supplies and toys, and are in the car if you need to evacuate? Where would be a good place to go that allows animals?

On a rainy afternoon

  • Test smoke alarms monthly and practice your fire escape plan twice a year. Everyone in your family should participate so they are prepared for what to do when the alarm goes off.
  • Make sure all adults and older children in your home know how to use a fire extinguisher using the P.A.S.S. technique (pull, aim, squeeze, sweep).
  • Print out some disaster preparedness activity pages for your kids. Let them spend the afternoon coloring and learning about preparedness.
  • Add some activity items to your emergency kit. These could be books, games, crafts, coloring pages, or toys. Remember, these aren't just for kids! You'll need entertainment too.
  • Conduct earthquake drills with your family. If the children are young, make a game out of shaking the couch before going to Drop. Cover. Hold On.
While I do my chores
  • Conduct a digital home inventory of the room you are cleaning, by photographing and recording everything in the room. Store the information on a USB, in the cloud, or using a digital home inventory app!
  • Move your household chemicals to lower shelves so they don't break or spill from falling off the shelf. Don’t store household chemicals beyond their expiration date or after they're no longer needed. Contact Metro Recycling Hotline (503-234-3000) and find out when the next household hazardous waste pickup event will be held in your area.
  • Install one child-proof lock per day on a cupboard or drawer until the entire kitchen is complete. During an earthquake, contents will be shaken up but won't pose a danger by falling out.
  • Set a reminder in your phone for every 6 months to check emergency supply expiration dates. Use or donate, and replace any food nearing its expiration date.
  • Take an inventory of items you need that rely on electricity. Plan for batteries or other power alternatives to meet your needs when the power goes out.
When I'm chatting with my neighbors

Your neighbors will be first on-scene when disaster strikes. Disaster response goes best when neighbors already know each other, or are at least on a first-name basis

  • Introduce yourself to a neighbor that you haven't met, and exchange home and work phone numbers.
  • Exchange verbal or written lists of the tools in your garages, closets, or sheds. Your neighbors may have tools that you don’t, which could be helpful in an emergency.
  • Learn about your neighbors’ children and families. Does anyone have special needs or will need additional help after an emergency?
When I'm scrolling through my phone
  • Visit to sign up to receive emergency messages.
  • Follow Washington County, Oregon on Facebook and Twitter (en español). These platforms will be used to post information about emergencies throughout the county.
  • Search for and follow your city on Facebook or Twitter.
During an emergency

Oh no! Now is not the time to start preparing! But here are some tips to help you get through the emergency:

  • Follow Washington County Oregon on Facebook and Twitter (en español).
  • Visit Public Alerts for in-depth information about the hazard you’re experiencing, and tips for what to do during the event.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prepare on a budget?

There are several ways to increase your preparedness in no and low cost ways!

No cost preparedness activities

  • Attend a local preparedness event! Virtual events can help you connect with people in your communities, and learn more tips for preparing, and in-person events often give out free preparedness items.
  • Meet your neighbors! In today’s world, it can be difficult and awkward to knock on someone’s door and introduce yourself, but you will be extremely grateful you did during an emergency. Responding to an emergency as a community is easier than doing so alone because you can share supplies, split work that needs to be done, and fight loneliness.
  • Follow response agencies like Washington County, your city, TVFR or another fire department, and the weather service on social media. They will help keep you alerted and informed before and during emergencies.
  • Talk to your family and make plans. Having a plan for quickly evacuating your home and meeting up with your family some where in town if you get separated is a great way to be prepared.
  • Watch preparedness videos. Some videos can teach you how to act when the ground is shaking, what the warning signs are for a tsunami or landslide, or how to talk to your kids about emergencies.
  • These videos can help you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about what hazards are in your area and how to respond.
  • Make copies or take pictures of your important financial, personal, and property documents and store them on your phone, in the cloud, or in a plastic bag in your emergency kit.
  • Download and fill out a family emergency communication plan card. When you're done, keep the card in your wallet or purse to reference in case your phone dies.
  • Print out a map and highlight at least two alternate routes to work, school, day care, and home. Keep it in your car's glove box to reference.

Low cost preparedness activities

The Dollar Store, Winco, and Goodwill are great places to visit when looking for preparedness items on a budget. If you are just starting your preparedness journey, remember it doesn't have to all get done at once. You can take months or years to become fully prepared. Pick a timeframe and budget that work with your lifestyle. The important part is to just keep going!

  • $5-$10
    • Buy furniture straps to secure large pieces of furniture to the wall. This will help them stay up right during an earthquake. A pack of straps for one item is about $10.
    • Make your own first aid kit! If able, make one for your house and your car.
    • Buy an extra package of pre-filled water bottles during your grocery next trip. A 24 pack of 16 ounce bottles provides 3 gallons of water for $2-$5.
    • Bring $5 or $10 to the dollar store and pick up as many preparedness related items as you can.
  • Under $20
    • Buy a water heater restraining strap to increase the likelihood that you will be able to access and use the water in your heater after an earthquake. A metal strap costs about $18.
    • Buy a refillable 5-7 gallon water container. You can sanitize and store water from your tap in the containers. One container can range from $7-$15.
    • Invest in a portable water filter. Some filters come as part of a bottle; others are standalone straws. These can be found online for $15-$20. Beware though, these can quickly get costly ranging upwards of $75.
My home doesn’t have much available space. How do I store my supplies and water?

Storing two weeks’ worth of food, water, and supplies for your family can take up a lot of space. Here are some creative ways to store preparedness kit items when space is limited:

  • Inside suitcases – if you own a suitcase, most of the time it's sitting in a closet empty. Utilize that space by putting parts of your emergency kit in there
  • Hang a shoe organizer in the closet – shoe organizers have several small pockets that can hold things like extra prescriptions, baby wipes, small flashlights, anything that is light enough that it won’t tear the pocket.
  • Under beds – if your bed is raised off the ground, you may be able to store items underneath. Consider looking into bed risers to give yourself more space.
  • Create new "furniture" – cover a plastic tub of supplies with a tablecloth or blanket and use it as a bed or couch side table, or a plant stand
  • In your trunk – if you have a car, you can use part of the trunk to hold emergency supplies. This can double as your car emergency kit, which will be helpful if you break down or get stuck.

Remember to make a list of all the places your supplies are stored. This can help refresh your memory when it’s time to use or change out supplies.

After a disaster, how do I know if my water is safe to drink?

Avoid drinking, cooking or cleaning with:

  • flood water,
  • water that has an unusual odor or color, or
  • water that you believe has been mixed with fuel, heavy metals, or toxic chemicals

Water that has bits of dirt or plants, or is cloudy can still be used after it has been strained through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter.

To make water safe for use, you can treat it by boiling, disinfecting, filtering, purifying, or distilling it. To learn how to do each of these processes, the Regional Water Providers Consortium has put together step by step instructions.

What supplies should I keep in my car?

For a list of supplies to keep in your car, visit the Take 5 Emergency Supplies page. To stay up to date on road conditions visit Oregon Department of Transportation's TripCheck.

Can I use my camping stove indoors?

Using a gas, propane, or charcoal grill or camp stove indoors may cause a buildup of carbon monoxide which is a deadly gas that you can’t see or smell. To keep yourself and your family safe from this potential hazard, it is recommended that camping stoves be used in a dry place outside, away from open windows. This is true for portable generators as well.