For the second time this month, I was scrambling to get out of my third story apartment in a panic. Both my neighbors and myself are dealing with an electrical malfunction (which seems unlikely, given that we reside in a brand new complex), or we have a derelict on our hands who finds it humorous to pull a highly illegal stunt - such as pulling our fire alarm. Thing is, both times it has occurred, it has been at extreme hours of the day. First time was at 10 p.m. and this morning was at 5:30 a.m. Thankfully, they have both been false alarms, but after struggling both times to get my newborn in his car seat, grab emergency supplies and shove my cat into her carrier, it has become apparent to me that I need to be more prepared for such situations. Now that old man winter is moving in and we are lighting our fireplaces and stoking our wood stoves, we need to remember how often these creature comforts can create a hazardous house fire and be prepared for the worst.

I have decided the best place for me to store my emergency supplies would be in the coat closet right next to my front door. It’s the most logical place, considering I can grab everything as I am running out the door. I suggest you also stock a closet that would be most convenient for you. If you have front and rear exits in your house, you may need to consider filling two closets with emergency supplies. If your front door is blocked by fire, you will need another option.

Since I have a child, it is important for me to have an extra diaper bag filled with essentials. I have packed it with a few warm outfits, diapers, a can of formula, bottles and other little things I use for him on a daily basis. If you have older children, make sure to have a bag of clothes at the least. I have also placed my cat carrier in the same closet with a ziplock bag of food and a couple plastic bowls. If you have a pup, have a bag with some kibble, bowls and a leash. Basically, no matter what kind of pet you have, make sure to be prepared.

For yourself, you will want to pack a few changes of clothes, an extra credit card or some cash, a couple granola bars to hold you over for a few hours and if you take medications, you may want to have a couple pills packed until you can visit a pharmacy. If you have something special that you would want to grab in a fire, such as a photo album, you may want to make your emergency bag a permanent home for it while you are not flipping through it.

Take the time to consider what you need and pack accordingly, because when disaster strikes, you won’t have the time to get these things together. Also, make sure everyone in the household knows where to meet in case of an emergency and practice the drill a couple times a year. When an emergency arises, you will be so thankful you took the time to be prepared.