For an agonizing 10 to 20 seconds on January 17, 1994, the magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake rocked Southern California, killing dozens of people and injuring 9,000 others. Collapsing buildings and destroying sections of freeways, the massive quake was a terrifying wake-up call for Alyssa Milano.

“I will never, ever forget it,” reveals the former “Mistresses” and “Who's the Boss?” star. “We were not far from the epicenter. I was not prepared at all. I had just moved out of the house, and didn't have a plan with my parents on how to find them or what we would do.”

A lesson learned

As shocking as the experience was, there was one positive takeaway. “It was almost a blessing, because I realized how important it is to be prepared," says Milano.

FIRSTHAND: Knowing how unprepared she was when the Northridge earthquake struck, and seeing the repercussions of disaster in India, Milano has ensured she and her loved ones are prepared for an emergency.

"I've taken that lesson with me not only throughout my single adult life, but also married with two children and how we run our family, and what happens if, God forbid, we're faced with a disaster.”

Having a plan

“We have emergency kits we've put together — not only for us, but also the pets,” she explains. “We have water, food that won't spoil, a first-aid kit, any medications we might need, extra batteries, flashlights and I just added a solar phone charger. Fire extinguishers are also super important."

“‘When you see the repercussions of a major disaster, you realize it can happen at any time to anyone.’”

Milano adds that performing drills, educating your kids and knowing how to stay informed if a disaster hits your specific region is vital.

"In California, we have such a wildfire issue. I have a separate plan for evacuating our home, because we have ten horses on our property and our dogs. Just having a list of all the things you don't want to leave, if the house isn't standing when you get home.”

Experiencing disaster relief

As an ambassador for UNICEF, Milano has witnessed devastation on a global scale, from Angola to Kosovo.

“I was able to go to India six months after the tsunami hit, and see how that disaster affected the community,” she notes. “It was colossal. To see how UNICEF works to get supplies to children who need them — things like hygiene kits, medical kits, tents and water purification tablets. They do amazing, outstanding work.

“When you see the repercussions of a major disaster, you realize it can happen at any time to anyone,” Milano says. “We have to be mindful and ready to not only take care of our own family, but also the community.”