How to be Prepared for Any Apartment Emergency

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The following article is a guest post from Sam Radbil.

Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. And in just three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding and helps more than half a million renters find a new home each month.


View of colorful apartments and condos in the city.
View of colorful apartments and condos in the city.

Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and brutal winter storms are just a few of the hazards for which people all around the U.S. have to be prepared. Even smaller disruptions, such as a water main break, can be mitigated with just a few early steps. And it’s not just homeowners. As a renter, your landlord might have had the responsibility of installing emergency lights, smoke detectors, and a standby power system, but you have your share of preparedness measures to take, too. At ABODO, we want to make sure every renter is prepared.


Household Emergency Supplies

Citywide catastrophes aside, small-scale household emergencies need preparing, too. For example, make sure you have an easily accessible flashlight with working batteries, a few candles, matches, a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, and a small store of potable water. The average person needs 1 gallon every three days, which is the minimum recommended to have on-hand.

emergency-kitStore-bought and sealed water is a great, simple, and sanitary option, but you can also prepare your own by completely sanitizing water or soda bottles (not milk or fruit juice containers, because leftover sugars can lead to bacteria growth), filling with chlorine-treated water, and replacing every six months.

These supplies will come in handy during severe weather or a kitchen mishap, but you should also have a full-scale emergency kit packed in the event of larger disasters.


Disaster Supplies Kit

Like insurance, it’s something you should always have but hope you never need. Since space is at a premium for many renters, you could consider storing your disaster supplies in the trunk of your car (if you have ready access), so they’re ready and waiting if you need to hit the road. If that’s not possible, keep the kit as available as possible — don’t let it end up in inconvenient, offsite storage.

But what to pack? recommends some of the aforementioned items, such as a flashlight and first aid kit, as well as extra batteries, radio (and NOAA weather radio), a whistle, dust masks, plastic sheeting, duct tape, moist towlettes, garbage bags, plastic twist-ties, wrench/pliers, manual can opener, maps, cellphone with charger (solar, if possible), and a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water for every person.


Other Helpful Tips

There is the possibility that in the event of a serious disaster, you won’t be able to charge your cellphone, or you could lose your phone. Add a little extra protection by making a list of pertinent phone numbers (emergency services, family members, etc.) and keeping it in your disaster kit.

  • Sign up for emergency alert texts, so you can respond quickly and appropriately to changing circumstances.
  • Keep a map of your building and surrounding roadways in your disaster kit, which should be provided with your lease. Some apartment complexes can be very large and winding, and in case of an emergency, your regular route might be blocked. It’s important to know all of your exit/evacuation routes.
  • Have some cash on hand as well — ATMs and card readers won’t work with no power.



25 Responses

    • Garbage bags have many uses. Sanitation issues, help bundle waste (human or trash in event of services being disrupted) help prevent spread of disease. U can use bags to keep gear dry. Use it as emergency rain pancho. Can use it as another layer of insulation to stay dry. Can make a make shift temporary tent with them. Can insulate your windows to keep our sun and heat during hot times without power or keep heat in during winters. Can use as a make shift water reserve. I keep about 3 boxes stashed in reserve for a long term emergency.

    • If you can’t leave, and the water stops flowing, you will need to take a crap somewhere. That and all those empty cans of food you’ve gone through will attract flies if you don’t have somewhere to put them. Basic cleanliness is very important to survival

    • Garbage bags have 1001 uses.
      As mentioned, garbage bags can keep you and your supplies dry.
      There’s no running water with no power, how do you flush the toilets? Line a bucket with Garbage bags to handle human waste and pet waste.
      Sealing windows/doors during inclimate weather (remember, no heat or cooling available), seal a door if someone gets sick and needs isolating, blackout windows, on and on…

    • Human waste , garbage bags make a great portable toilet.
      always keep a box of kitchen
      (small) trash bags around.

      supermarket checkout bags work great because of there size and handles,and are free.

    • Andre, You are not thinking very well.
      Garbage bags are a very good supply to have.
      1) They are cheap to buy.
      2) small and compact. I.e. you can store them easily in additional locations.
      3) Uses:
      a. for lining toilet buckets if the plumbing is down.
      b. for collecting garbage.
      c. for using to cover broken windows to keep the wind/rain out.
      d. for keeping supplies dry.
      e. use as a impromptu rain jacket.
      f. for wrapping and protecting wounds.
      g. for using to cover a surface so you can lay out supplies or food or ???
      h. the above is a start but there are so many more.

      Many times its the small stuff along with having the skills and experience to use it that will make all the difference.

  • Garbage bags are multi use if you use a bit of imagination. Sure they can be used for their intended purpose of keeping trash sealed away for sanitary purposes. Or you could poke a few holes and make a poncho. Or open them up and use it to seal broken windows. Or if opaque, use them to block light from inside your home. If you can’t be flexible enough to imagine other uses for common items you will have trouble surviving any serious event. Think outside the box or in this case, bag. 😉

  • Plastic bags are extremely useful. They obviously can be used to hold garbage, but also to carry other things or keep items contained in a car, and the larger bags can be used as a makeshift rain poncho. If you are small enough, two hooked together can make a makeshift warm weather sleeping bag. Black bags can be placed on top of a car to get attention should you break down or go off the side of the road during a winter snow storm. Lots of uses!!!

    • Staying cool can be as little as battery powered fans, wet body wipes, generator/AC units (not practicable in an apartment) a good 200-250 AH battery with a small inverter can run a simple fan for many hours and can recharge you battery with a solar panel in a window of your apartment.

    • Keep a wet bandana around your neck. wear light colored clothes. Hang a damp sheet in interior doorways. Keep your hair wet. Of course all of these use water so make sure you have plenty. On that note. There are always those spaces in the back of your cabinets that things fall into that you cannot reach. Line the back row of your cabinets with bottles of water. I used empty 2 ltr soda bottles I washed with bleach water. Refilled with filtered water from my Berkey. You can use tap water if you want to. Then put your regular boxed canned pkg items store in fromt of the bottles of water.

    • Not a lot you can do but there are a couple of things that will help.
      1) Try to keep your movements to a minimum during hot periods. Work during the twilight and early in the morning.
      2) Stay hydrated! Drink lots of water. If this is the case for you the 1 gallon per 3 days, which is really to little for everyone, but you are going to need at least a gallon or two a day. Prepare.
      3) Stay under cover if possible. Stay out of the sun. Stone, caves, concrete will be cooler than tarps of wood shelters. They block the light better. Conduct heat poorly and take a lot of energy to heat up. PLUS, they help cool in the day and with stone may allow some extra warmth in the night as the heat bleeds off. Something that is important in deserts. Nights are COLD.
      4) Wear solid colors, but light and loose. Think or how the Arabs dress, there is a reason they developed wearing clothing like that.
      5) If you must be out. Wear a hat or turban or scarf. Helps prevent heat stoke and keeps the sun off your head!
      Hope those are a start for you.

    • The only thing I have found to cool off is a small battery-operated fan, which takes quite a few D-size batteries. I ordered mine on Amazon, but you might be able to purchase one at Walmart, etc. Since I live in hurricane territory, I try to reduce my frozen foods by mid-August (historically my area might have a hurricane from August 15 – end of Sept), and use the remaining space to freeze water in gallon & 2-litre plastic containers, so I will have ice already on hand to fill my Max-Cold Igloo cooler (but that will only last 3-5 days depending on the ambient temperature.

  • @ Nora, there are a few things that I would do to stay cool in an emergency. I would go to the lowest level, perhaps basement to stay cooler as heat raises. A small battery powered fan would help circulate air near you to stay cooler. I have also found that “Evaporative Cooling Bandana or Evaporative Cooling Towel” help quite a bit to stay cooler. Search for them on the net or at your local store. I found large ones at a welding supply store. Hope this helps.

  • The property “manager” refused to come up with a generator for a power outage during a hot summer after storms went through. I have my own small freezer and some things spoiled. These are Ground floor apartments with 9 units. She knows I’m housebound, low income, and my driving is limited. What do I do next time? She also refused to replace the old furnace and AC unit. The owner lives in California.

  • Well I would recommend a solar panel and a high amp hour battery such as 200-250 AH for prolong use. Perhaps one at Could ustilize it sort of as a solar generator. And only use it to run your freezer for like 30 min at a time each 4 hours for your freezer. If you leave the door constantly closed the freezers will keep things frozen for a while. The 30 min boost from your solar generator will help keep things frozen while allowing you to maintain some sort of charge on your high amp hour battery for future use vs strait use of maybe 2-6 hours depending on the wattage you draw on your freezer. Most freezers draw around 800 starting and 400 running watts. (This would require you to run an inverter off your battery) I have done this for my brother that knows nothing about being prepared for any emergency.


    In the Summer of 1995 a heatwave and power outage killed over 700 people (primarily elderly) in Chicago. In high multilevel Apartment buildings where there is NO POWER FOR THE ELEVATORS, the elderly are unable to traverse the many stairs to exit the Apartment as younger people can. With no power for the Air Conditioning, this leaves limited options to stay cool.

    Experts have suggested bathing in cool bath water, pooring cool water over your head, eating the perishable foods first from the Refrigerator, trying to acquire a GAS STOVE & OVEN (as opposed to electric) that will function during a power outage, and a Portable Generator if you have a balcony, and can afford one. Also if you are LDS making sure your Home Teachers & Bishopric are aware of your vulnerabilities during Power Outages. Or friends and family, if you are not LDS.

    Sincerely, A Child of God.

  • Garbage bags? I’m not sure why someone would care about that in an emergency. Your focus should be to survive, not to be ecologically correct.

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