Assembling a natural disaster kit could be mean the difference between life and death in any number of emergencies. In a disaster, survival instincts can only do so much for you and your loved ones. Assembling emergency supplies ahead of time is one of the few proactive things you can do to make a dangerous situation safer. We’ve come up with a shopping list of all the necessities to include in your disaster kit. When putting together your own kit, consider the size of your family, your mobility, and the emergencies you are most likely to face. Understanding these factors will leave you better prepared.
Water — Ready recommends a minimum three-day supply of at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation. Children, nursing mothers and the ill may need more than that. More water is necessary for those living in a warm climate, and in very hot temperatures water needs can double.
Food — A minimum three-day supply of non-perishable food is required. Choose foods your family will eat and remember any special dietary needs. Avoid salty foods as they will make you thirsty. Choose salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with liquid. Stock foods that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water or special preparation.
Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio — A radio allows you to stay updated on changing weather conditions as well as evacuation procedures if they become necessary. Some devices, such as Energizer’s Emergency Weather Station and Radio Crank Light, combine a radio and light into one unit.
Flashlight and extra batteries — During an extended power outage following a disaster, a flashlight is necessary for navigating through the darkness and avoiding injuries due to unseen debris.
First aid kit —Injuries are likely to occur during a natural disaster as well as after, due to power outages and falling debris. The Red Cross provides a comprehensive list of essential items for a family of four’s first aid kit. Remember to include any personal medications and items such as glasses as well.
Whistle to signal for help — Most natural disasters can create a situation in which you may become trapped inside a building. Dust and smoke, as well as noise from emergency response vehicles, limit your ability to call for help. People trapped in attics or behind debris after a flood may go unnoticed by search teams. Blowing a whistle allows you to be heard and rescued.
Dust mask — A dust mask will prevent the inhalation of airborne dust from collapsing structures and can help filter out airborne diseases. It does not protect from harmful vapors, airborne toxic particulate matter or gases.
Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place — This is necessary in conditions where there are large amounts of debris in the air, or if local authorities say the air is badly contaminated as in a pandemic. Depending on the type of natural disaster, choose an appropriate room of your house (for example, an interior room or basement in the event of a tornado) and seal off the doors and windows.
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation — Due to the possibility of no running water for days or even weeks, staying clean with moist towelettes may be your only option. Given a probable lack of sewage services, personal waste will need to be sealed in garbage bags so that it does not contaminate you or your family.
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities — Natural gas leaks and explosions cause many fires after disasters, and electrical sparks have the potential of igniting leaking gas. Household members should know how to shut off natural gas, electricity and water. Do not turn water back on until authorities have reported it as safe for drinking, and do not turn the gas back on without a qualified professional.
Manual can opener for food — In the event of a power outage, you will need a manual can opener to open sealed containers of food.
Local maps — If evacuation becomes necessary, local maps will help you plan your route out of the affected area. Familiarize yourself with alternate routes, and choose several destinations in different directions so you have options.
Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger — A solar charger will allow you to keep your phone charged in the event of a power outage, when you may need to be in contact with family members or emergency responders.
Both the Red Cross and 72hours.org offer additional suggestions for your kit. In the event of a pandemic, your minimum food and water supplies will increase to two weeks. While extended power outages are unlikely in this scenario, quarantines may force you to stay inside your home.
Pre-made kits for various disasters such as tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes can be purchased from CERT-Kits, which is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) registered vendor. In rural areas there is less chance of exposure to dust and debris from falling structures or to contaminated air; more emphasis should be placed on food, water and your first aid kit, as it may be very difficult to reach the nearest store or hospital which is often miles away. Emergency kits generally do not need to be tailored to a specific disaster, as these events all tend to result in similar problems such as power and water outages.