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Learning from California wildfires: The time to prepare for disaster here is now

SEATTLE — “Think of being stuck on the side of the road on the mountain pass in the dark,” says Seattle mom Karen Rich. “So what will you need?”

Karen is already ready for anything Mother Nature can throw at us. And here in the Northwest we have a lot of possibilities: forest fires, landslides, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, winter storms, wind storms and even volcanoes that can pop their top every few centuries.

“We are in the bulls-eye of many potential natural disasters,” says Rich.

While Karen is with the “Take Winter By Storm” campaign, she says getting ready for one disaster means you’re ready for almost all of them.

“Winter weather preparedness is what I call ‘base preparedness’,” says Rich.

In light of the California wildfires that have destroyed entire neighborhoods with very little warning, we had her show us her "Go Kit" -- it's a backpack, to be out the door in seconds. But the kinds of things you can buy from major retailers doesn't mean you're automatically ready.

"Get it and personalize it," Rich says.

Medications that family members might need, water and non-perishable snacks should go into that "go kit". Toiletry items, first-aid kit, flashlights and batteries. But, also -- important information like hard copies of emergency contacts.

"What we have in our kit is copies of driver's licences, birth certificates, your home insurance policy and your medical insurance cards."

Rich says a USB drive can also hold those documents and family photos, too. Her pet carrier has compartments for food. She's got things like emergency ponchos and emergency blankets so everyone can stay warm and dry.  Cash is king in a disaster, so have some on hand. And a hand-crank NOAA weather radio can also charge your phones. Most importantly: do it BEFORE disaster strikes.

"The time to get prepared is now."

The Take Winter By Storm website has a ton of great safety tips and checklists for nearly every emergency so you make sure you've got everything your family would need.