Make Your Own Emergency Preparedness Kit

Pack up these sensible essentials in your emergency preparedness kit for natural disasters.

  • Sturdy footwear can be vital in the event of a natural disaster.
    Photo By Brad Calkins/iStockphoto

It’s easy to tell ourselves that emergency preparedness is for other, more organized (or paranoid) people. After all, it’s hard enough to get out the door each morning with lunches packed, let alone set aside time to prepare for a worst-case scenario. But we can’t always count on the lovely perks of civilization that make our lives run smoothly; during and immediately after a natural disaster, you’ll need to have essential supplies at the ready in order to stay warm, dry, hydrated, fed and informed. Preparing ourselves for a natural disaster doesn’t have to be overwhelming or confusing—and making plans we hope we never need can help us all sleep a little bit better at night. Simplify the process by checking out these basics, recommended by the American Red Cross, and then answer the questions that follow to customize your family’s emergency preparedness kit.

1. Stock emergency preparedness kit basics

The American Red Cross recommends that every household have these items on hand in case of emergency. Keep your supplies in a bag (except for the water and food, which likely won’t fit) at the ready and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is located; experts call this a “go-bag.” Keep a three-day supply of water and food packed near your go-bag, and a seven-day supply of medications and medical items. It might be helpful to package these items together in a bin or basket to separate it from your regular kitchen supplies. You will also want a two-week supply of food and water available at home in case you need to shelter in place during a natural disaster. Consider housing this supply in the basement or another non-kitchen location to reduce the temptation to dig into it when your usual grocery supplies are running low. Don’t forget to include any pets in your food-and-water-requirement math.

• Water—one gallon per person, per day
• Food—nonperishable, easy-to-prepare items (canned foods, vacuum-sealed dried foods, etc.)
• Flashlight
• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
• Extra batteries
• First-aid kit
• Medications and medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, extra pair of contact lenses, syringes, etc.)
• Multipurpose tool (knife, can opener, screwdriver, etc.)
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items (toilet paper, deodorant, soap, feminine hygiene products)
• Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
• Extra cell phone charger(s)
• Family and emergency contact information (crucial when many of us no longer know phone numbers by memory)
• Extra cash
• Extra set of car keys and house keys
• Emergency blanket
• Map(s) of the area

2. Customize for your family

What you have on hand for an emergency depends on who lives in your household.

Babies: For infants, you will want to have crucial baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers) at the ready.
Kids: For older children, stock games and activities to divert their attention.
Seniors: Seniors or disabled people are more likely to depend on medication for comfort or survival. Don’t forget to pack medications and medical supplies.
Pets: Keep food, collars, leashes, medications, copies of medical records and carriers ready. Disaster shelters often cannot permit pets, so check the pet policy at hotels along your potential evacuation route. Check in with friends and relatives where you might shelter, and ask if pets are welcome in an emergency. Other options include boarding facilities, veterinarians and temporary care at animal shelters; call and ask about emergency shelter for pets during a disaster. When you know where your pet could stay during a disaster, make a list with 24-hour phone numbers and keep it with your go-bag.

3. Customize for your location

The kind of natural disasters you are likely to experience depends on your location, as will the type of supplies you need to brave the elements in your area.

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