We cannot predict when disasters or emergencies will strike. But we can work to make sure that all households, businesses, and communities are prepared. Ideally, everyone should be prepared to be self sufficient for at least 72 hours. Being prepared may sound like an overwhelming task, but it doesn't have to be. Follow three steps to get started: make a kit, make a plan, and stay informed.
Make a Kit
A disaster-supply kit should provide a collection of basic items that household members may need in the event of a disaster. A disaster-supply kit can be used in your home if there is an extended power outage or it could be used if you have to leave your home and go to a shelter. During an emergency, you will probably not have time to shop or search for the items you need. A basic disaster-supply should include:
- Water (one gallon per person per day)
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Weather radio
- Cash (banks and ATMs may be unavailable)
- Manual can opener
- Disposable plates and utensils
- First aid supplies
- Bedding (blankets, pillows, sleeping bags)
- Sanitation supplies (toilet paper, soap/liquid detergent, feminine supplies)
- Toiletries/personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer)
- Prescriptions and medications
- Keys for house and car
- Toys, books, or games
- Important documents
- Special needs items (walker, cane, glasses, oxygen, incontinence supplies, durable medical supplies)
- Infant needs (formula, diapers, wipes)
- Pet care needs
Once you have gathered all of your disaster kit supplies, it is important to store them properly so they are safe to use when you need them. Here are some tips to help keep your supplies safe and ready to use:
- Keep canned foods in a cool, dry place. Throw out any canned good that becomes swollen, dented or corroded.
- Keep boxed foods in tightly-sealed plastic or metal containers. This protects the boxed food from pests and extends its shelf life.
- Change stored food and water supplies every six months. Write the date that you store items on the containers.
- Every year, check your disaster kit and make sure all items are in good working order. At the same time, check to see if there are any new items that need to be added to the disaster kit.
- Put all of your supplies in one or two easy to carry containers like a backpack, duffel bag, or a suitcase with wheels.
- Consider making disaster kits for work and for the car.
Make a Plan
Emergency plans can help to make sure you keep in contact with important family and friends.
- Create and practice a family communications plan in case you are separated during an emergency.
- Select a family meeting spot where everyone can go in case you are separated.
- Make sure all family members have an emergency contact list. (The contact list should include a friend or family member that lives out of state. It may be easier to make a non-local call after an emergency.)
- Learn where your city or town's shelter is located and how to get there.
Reliable, accurate information is an essential resource before, during, and after an emergency or disaster.