Preparing a home emergency preparedness kit you hope never to use may seem like a waste of time and money. But when disasters happen that are beyond your control, you can take charge of how you respond.
Make sure important papers are in order. If a flood destroys your home, you could spend weeks or even months just trying to re-create the essential documents you’ll need to get back on track. That’s why it’s critical to have backups of important papers, including the deed to your house, proof of insurance, medical records, passports, social security cards and a list of personal contacts. Keep one copy at home in a portable case and another offsite in a safe place.
Tailor a preparedness kit to your personal needs. Humanitarian organizations and government aid agencies offer guidelines for creating an emergency preparedness kit. But along with the basics like food and water, it’s important to have what you need for your particular situation.
Think about what you need for the safety of your house, too. Knowing where to find the main electrical and water shutoffs — and having the right wrench to turn them — can make the difference between a house that weathers the storm and one that experiences catastrophic flooding or fire.
A basic emergency preparedness kit. FEMA recommends you keep a “grab and go” bag with these items in case you need to evacuate:
- Water: One gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation; double if you have young kids or are nursing. Bottled water is best, but you can also store tap water in food-grade containers or two-liter soda bottles that have been sanitized. Factor in your pet’s water needs, too.
- Food: At least a three-day supply of nonperishables and a can opener. Pack protein, fruit and vegetables, but make sure they’re in a form you actually like. Store food in pest-proof plastic or metal tubs and keep it in a cool, dry place.
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- First-aid supplies: Two pairs of sterile gloves, adhesive bandages and sterile dressings, soap or other cleanser, antibiotic towelettes and ointment, burn ointment, eye wash, thermometer, scissors, tweezers, petroleum jelly, aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever and stomach analgesics such as Tums, Pepto-Bismol and a laxative.
- Sanitation and hygiene supplies: Moist towelettes, paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, and plastic ties. You might also want travel-size shampoo, toothpaste/ toothbrush and deodorant.
- Radio or TV: Keep a portable, battery- or crank-operated radio or television and extra batteries to remain connected in case the power goes out, as well as an extra cell phone charger. You can buy a good emergency radio online from the Red Cross.
- Plastic sheeting, duct tape and dust masks: In case you need to seal your home or shelter from airborne contaminants.
- Extra items: A whistle to signal for help, a favorite toy or other comfort items for kids.
Update your kit as your needs change, and replace food and water approaching its expiration date. You might pick a specific time each year to check.