This is the place for the real Homer Simpson's out there. This is where I will try to answer how much of this "preparedness" stuff is really essential even if you're a skeptic. I'll try hard not to "guilt" you or freak you out with doom and gloom, but as the adage goes, "you get what you pay for." This page is a work-in-progress, so please be patient.
First, The Bare-bones List. Below you will find the absolute top things I feel will help you survive a disaster, regardless of the kind. It's incredibly subjective, so don't bother arguing with me if you feel something is missing or should be in a different order. Change the list! If you're thinking about it at all, then you're ahead of the game.
1. Water. At the very minimum, save a half dozen two liter soda bottles and fill them with fresh water. Shove them under your bed and know that you have just done more to save your own life in a disaster than 95 percent of America.
2. A working flashlight. Without getting up, ask yourself if you know right now where a working flashlight is in your home. Are you sure it works? Are you certain that it's where it's supposed to be and not out in your car? Are you sure you could reach it from your bed in the middle of the night, in pitch-black darkness, with glass on the floor? Be sure.
3. Shutting off the gas. Do you know where your gas shut-off valve is? Do you know how to turn it off? Do you have a wrench that fits it? Is that wrench handy... in the dark? Or is it out in your car with your flashlight? This is essential even if you live in an apartment building. In an emergency, it's likely your landlord is going to be plenty busy themselves or unable to reach your building to do it. Same with the fire department.
4. Have a plan. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's not. If a police officer came to your door and said, "You have to evacuate right now," would you know what to do? Where would you go? Another family member's house? Do you have their phone number handy? What do you really need to take with you if you had to leave now, in five minutes, an hour, tomorrow morning? Figure it out ahead of time. Do you need to have cash handy? Do you have a spare key to your car and house that you can leave with someone if necessary? What if you have to leave while your kids are at school? Or your spouse? Do you have a backup meeting place if you can't reach them by phone? What if you have to walk out? Do you have pets that need to be evacuated too? How much gas do you have in your car right now? Would it be enough? Are you even going to be able to get more and what do you do if you can't? Do you take meds? Should you bring your glasses instead of your contacts? Do you know how to contact your insurance agent?
You better know this stuff before you need it.