Build a Disaster Kit

After a major disaster, the usual services we take for granted - such as running water, electricity, and telephones - may be unavailable.  Experts recommend that you should prepare to be self-sufficient for at least three days.  Store your household disaster kit in an easily accessible location.   Put contents in a large, watertight container (e.g. a large plastic garbage can with a tightly fitting lid and wheels) that you can move easily.

Building a basic disaster kit:

  1. Water.  You should plan on having 1 gallon of drinking water per person per day.  Individual needs vary, depending on age, physical condition, and climate; children, nursing mothers, and ill people need more;
  2. Food.  Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little to no water.  Avoid foods that will make you thirsty - choose salt-free crackers, whole-grain cereals, and canned foods with high water content.  Include foods for infants, the elderly, and those with special dietary needs.  Make sure to include a manual can opener, disposable plates and utensils!
  3.  Maps of your local area (disasters can wipe out landmarks, making getting around very difficult for even those that have been in the area a long time);
  4. First aid kit with instructions;
  5. Medicines / prescription medications;
  6. Toiletries, hygiene items, and wet wipes;
  7. Seasonal clothing (including shoes), blankets, and pillows;
  8. Flashlight and batteries;
  9. Matches in a waterproof container;
  10. Whistle to summon for help if needed;
  11. Battery powered or hand crank radio;
  12. Battery powered clock;
  13. Emergency numbers - keep a list of emergency telephone numbers including the utility company;
  14. Cash and/or credit cards;
  15. Extra keys;
  16. Pens / pencils;
  17. Entertainment - games, books, cards, etc.;
  18. Important family documents - keep them in a waterproof, portable container;
  19. Tools such as a Swiss army knife, crowbar, hammer and nails, adjustable wrench, and bungee cords;
  20. Full tank of gas in each vehicle;
  21. Pet care items: food and water for at least three days for each pet, proper identification, immunization records, a carrier or cage, muzzle, and leash;
  22. Any special needs items for children, the elderly, or those with disabilities.

Disaster Kit for your Workplace:

A disaster kit for your workplace should be in one container, such as a duffel bag or backpack, and be ready to grab and go in case of evacuation.  Make sure your have food and water in this kit.  Also, include comfortable shoes in case the evacuation includes walking long distances.

Disaster Kit for Vehicles:

A disaster kit for your vehicle should have many of the same items as above, but include flares, jumper cables, tire changing / fixing equipment, and seasonal supplies.

Maintenance of your kit:

Maintenance of your disaster kit is just as important as putting it together.  Here are some tips to help keep your supplies ready and in good condition:

  • Change stored food and water supplies every six months.  Be sure to write the date you store it on all containers;
  • Store boxed foods in an air-tight container to keep out pests and to extend its shelf life;
  • Use foods before the expiration date, and replace them with fresh supplies;
  • Place new items in the back and the older items in the front;
  • Throw out and canned goods that become swollen, dented, or corroded;
  • Check any battery operated item and replace the batteries if they do not work or are corroded;
  • Rethink your family's needs every year and update your kit as they change.

A disaster kit is useful in many situations, from flooding to tornadoes and earthquakes.  They are especially critical if supply lines of essentials such as food have been disrupted in your area, and in some cases having a kit may save your life.  While some items included will differ from one person or  family to the next, the basics such as food and water are vital and should be the bare essentials included in any disaster kit.  By properly maintaining your disaster kit, you can be prepared to care for yourself and your loved ones, no matter when a natural disaster strikes.


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