5 ways to prepare for an emergency | PEMCO

September 19, 2023 by PEMCO Insurance

emergency_preparedness.pngWe get it – when everything’s going fine (hello, gorgeous PNW early fall days!), who wants to spoil the mood with somber “what ifs?” However, we know that even in our blissful corner of the country, Mother Nature can take some rough turns, from scorching heat and wildfires; to windstorms and power outages; to flooding, mudslides, snowstorms, and more. That’s why during this National Preparedness Month, we’re encouraging PEMCO members to get ready for the unexpected.  

Our claims experts, with help from our partners at the American Red Cross, suggest these five practical things you can do to feel confident and ready, should an emergency ever arise. Pick any of them to get started. As one of our prep gurus put it, “One ‘done’ beats a dozen ‘good intentions!’”  

What's the first thing I should do to prepare for an emergency?

You feel better when the people you love feel better! Here are five great ways to make sure your family’s ready for whatever PNW weather comes your way:  

  1. Build a ‘bug-in’ kit. Being stuck at home (think closed roads and no electricity, water, or gas) is the kind of weather emergency Northwesterners are most likely to face. Having the right supplies on hand can make the difference between “inconvenient” and “intolerable.”  

    In flip-top plastic storage boxes, gather these essentials to sustain your family for at least three days (more if you have extra room for storage): 

  • Ready-to-eat food: pop-top soup, granola bars, tuna pouches, peanut butter, crackers and, if you have furry friends, pet food. You can build a stash slowly by picking up an item or two each time you visit the grocery store. Or, if you mostly eat fresh food and don’t keep a stocked pantry where you can rotate supplies, check out buy-it-and-forget-it emergency food options like these from Costco

  • Water (one gallon per person, per day). If you use a coffee maker that recommends distilled water, buy a few weeks’ worth of water bottles ahead and keep rotating them so they stay fresh. 

  • Essential medicine (in original bottles). To make sure you have a few extra days’ worth on hand, try to refill your prescriptions as soon as your health plan allows. Don’t forget to keep extra infant formula on hand if you have a baby in the house. 

  • Personal care and hygiene items. Include baby wipes as a *sort of* shower substitute when there’s no hot water. 

  • Flashlights and additional batteries. Don’t rely on candles for light. They’re a potential fire hazard

  • Small camp stove. Yep, coffee makes the whole world brighter! Heat water for your instant brew and more on a mini-stove like these from Northwest neighbor REI. Always use camp stoves outside to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Sleeping bags. Even if you never go camping, invest in a good sleeping bag for each member of the family. During a power outage, you’ll sleep snug and warm when the furnace isn’t working. 

  1. Add a ‘bug-out’ kit. Combine it with your bug-in kit in case your home becomes unlivable and you need to leave in a hurry (think wildfire or flood evacuations). Keep both kits in a hallway closet so they’re quick to grab and go: 

  • Cash (smaller bills). Cards and ATMs won’t work if the power is out. 

  • Phone charger for the car. 

  • Change of clothes and shoes for every family member.  

  • Leashes, water bowls, and carriers for pets. 

  • Copies of key documents. Ideally, you’ll have digital copies stored in the cloud (and remember, you always can use your online PEMCO member account to access help and your policy information), but consider making paper copies of things like deeds, titles, passports, medical directives, and birth certificates. 

  • A few N95 or KN95 masks, left over from your COVID stash. They’ll protect you from wildfire smoke during an evacuation. 

  1. Practice a family emergency/evacuation plan. Include children and elders, and make sure caregivers know the plan, too, including where to find extra medical essentials like oxygen and insulin. In case you’re separated when an emergency happens, choose a meeting spot where family members can reconnect if neighborhood roads are closed and people are unable to return home. Everyone should know the location’s address and phone number, and if possible, more than one route to get there. Keep pets in mind, too. Knowing a few pet-friendly hotels in neighboring communities can give you a head start on finding temporary accommodations to welcome all members of the family. 
    During storm and wildfire season, don’t let your EV’s charge dip below 50% or your gas tank drop below half full. You’ll need to drive to neighboring areas to find a working charger or fuel pump – and chances are, they’ll have lines around the block. 
    If you need help with your family emergency plan, check out for tips and a handy form you can fill in. 

  1. Know how to connect. Local phone service can be spotty during emergencies. To help ensure you can connect with loved ones, ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact.” It may be easier to call long distances after a disaster than it is to connect locally. This person would act as a go-between so far-flung family members can leave messages for each other. Also, download the Red Cross and FEMA apps for real-time weather alerts and help locating shelters in an emergency. 


  1. Learn CPR and basic first aid. Everyone in the family (from teens to adults) can save a life. Our partners at Red Cross Northwest may offer a CPR/first aid class near you. Also, if it’s time to upgrade your first aid kit, check out these affordable options from the Red Cross Store (scroll to “First Aid Supplies”). 

Can my insurance help in a weather emergency? 

Absolutely! Insurance is the cornerstone of your emergency preparedness. 

Generally, your homeowners, condo, and renter insurance can cover most damage from events like storms and wildfires within policy limits. It will even pay for things like hotel bills and takeout meals when your home is made unlivable by a covered loss, like a fallen tree that damages your roof. You also have limited coverage (subject to your policy’s deductible) for food lost in your freezer due to a power outage. PEMCO spoke with Oregon’s KGW to give a rundown of what you can expect your insurance to cover following the kind of storms we’re likely to see in the coming months. 

However, some kinds of damage, including that from earthquakes and mudslides or seasonal flooding (like atmospheric rivers and snowmelt), require separate policies for coverage to apply. While PEMCO doesn’t sell them, you don’t have to go it alone. We’ll help you find coverage! Just talk with your local PEMCO agent or call 1-800-GO-PEMCO to get started. 

When you’re faced with an emergency, the last thing you need is more what-ifs. And that’s the power of your PEMCO membership! If you need to make a claim, we’re ready to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Log on at or call 1-800-GO-PEMCO anytime and talk with a real person – not an automated phone tree – and reclaim your peace of mind.



Tips for shutting off utilities in an emergency | PEMCO 

3 things to know before the next power outage | PEMCO 

Free hands-on wildfire help for your home | PEMCO 


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