The best way to handle a disaster is to anticipate its possiblity and prepare for it in advance. The havoc of an extreme weather event or even civil unrest might force you to survive on your own for 72 hours before help can reach you. You can DIY or buy your own emergency kit.
You’ll want to have at least enough hourseholod supplies on hand to cover that amount of time, and keep these items in an easy-to-carry bag(s) near the door in the event that you need to be evacuated — and make sure all members of your household know where the kit is.
This kit should include food, water, and essentials for every member of your household, including pets — assume one bag per household member. (Last we checked, there really aren’t any multi-pet carrying bags, so plan on being able to carry your pets.)
Emergency preparedness has turned into a cottage industry of shrinkwrapped products, fueled by fears of looming disasters of both the politically induced and naturally occuring varieties. Some kits have more of a food focus, while others have outdoor survival focuses — and there are even pet-specific emergency kits you can buy, although they largely cater to dogs.
As scary as emergency threats may seem, caving into these impulse purhcases wreaks havoc on your budget over something you could easily put together yourself in a way that will be of greater utility to you — especially because you want to include things that might help you deal with the stress of the emergency and even bide the time.
The foundation of the emergency supply kit is about one gallon per person per day, for at least three days, for both hygeine and drinking; also essential is least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and any prescription medications.
Here are the other items that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends including:
- Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Beyond those essentials, the following items are optional based on your own needs and discretion:
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Glasses and contact lense solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Since you never know where you’ll be when an emergency happens, it’s a good idea to stash additional emergency kits at work and in your car. Store food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers, and keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
Re-evaluate the contents of your emergency kit annually, make a point of updating your kit as your needs change, and replace expired items as needed.
Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicle. For the one you keep at work, plan to have to shelter there for at least 24 hours and have a change of clothes with comfortable walking shoes. The one for your car should include auto repair items and things like flares.
Unless you happen to be an auto mechanic by trade, you might consider springing for a storebought emergency kit for your vehicle. For your home and work, buying an emergency kit might provide you with things you won’t end up using without also including things you’ll want. You’re better off putting together your own kit for your home and workplace — and even if your employer provides you with a kit, you might want to supplement it with your own prescriptions and things that you might find comforting during an emergency.
With enough advance planning, you can put together emergency kits that could save your life and keep you sane if an emergency happens. One can only hope that nothing happens that will make the use of the kit necessary, but better safe than sorry.