When disaster strikes, preparedness is critical. Having an emergency kit and a plan in place could make all the difference in ensuring your safety and security that of your loved ones.
In a disaster, emergency services may only reach you after some time. Being self-reliant for at least 72 hours can dramatically increase your chances of survival. Emergencies can strike without warning, leaving you no time to shop for supplies.
Necessary Materials to Include in Your Emergency Kit
- Water: The human body can survive only a few days without water. Aim for a gallon per person daily, enough to last at least three days.
- Food: Regarding emergency food, focus on non-perishable options with a long shelf life and long-term storage. Canned goods, dried fruits, nuts, and ready-to-eat meals are good choices. Consider nutritional value, special dietary needs, and water availability for preparation. Include a manual can opener, and be mindful of expiration dates. Plan for alternative cooking methods, and remember to include some comfort foods. Regularly review and update your emergency food supply.
- First Aid Kit: Accidents can occur during a disaster. A first aid kit, or FAK, contains bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, medical tape, gloves, and a first aid manual to help address injuries until medical professionals can reach you.
- Lighting: Emergency lighting is crucial for safety and security during power outages or situations with limited visibility. Essential options include flashlights, lanterns, candles (used safely), headlamps, glow sticks, solar-powered lights, and emergency light sticks. Backup power sources like portable power banks or generators can also be helpful. Regularly check and maintain your lighting equipment to ensure functionality when needed.
- Communications: During emergencies, effective communication is essential. Key considerations include maintaining a list of emergency contacts, keeping mobile phones charged, utilizing text messaging and group messaging apps, following social media for updates, having an NOAA Weather Radio, staying tuned to emergency broadcasts, signing up for community notification systems, considering two-way radios, and establishing a communication plan with family or group members. Regularly test and maintain communication devices and stay informed for a safe and coordinated response.
- Tools and Equipment: When preparing for emergencies, it's crucial to have the right tools and equipment on hand. Here are some essential items to consider:
- Multi-tool: A compact and versatile device incorporating multiple tools into a single unit. It offers convenience and functionality by providing various tools in a portable package. Multi-tool tools include pliers, knives, screwdrivers, saws, bottle openers, and wire cutters. Multi-tools are lightweight and easy to carry, making them useful for everyday tasks, outdoor activities, emergency preparedness, and professional use. When choosing a multi-tool, consider factors such as construction quality, tool variety, ease of use, and durability. Familiarize yourself with each tool's functions and safety guidelines to use the multi-tool effectively.
- Duct tape: A strong adhesive tape that can be used for quick repairs, securing items, or creating makeshift solutions.
- Whistle: A loud sound created if you blow a whistle can be utilized to signal for help and attract attention in case of being trapped or lost.
- Dust mask: A mask designed to filter out dust, debris, or harmful particles from the air, helping to protect your respiratory system during emergencies.
- Survival axe: A versatile tool used for outdoor activities and emergencies. It combines the functions of an axe, hammer, and other devices into a single unit. Its primary uses include cutting and chopping wood, hammering objects, prying, self-defense, and incorporating additional tools. Survival axes are designed to be portable and lightweight, making them convenient to carry during outdoor adventures. When choosing a survival axe, consider factors such as durability, weight, handle grip, and specific features that meet your needs. Learning proper handling and safety techniques is essential to use the tool effectively.
- Fire-making materials: To ensure that you can create a fire for warmth and cooking in a disaster situation, you should have these fire-making materials at your disposal: tinder such as dry grass, leaves, twigs, or cotton balls; kindling in the form of small sticks or branches; reliable fire starters like matches or fire starter sticks; a ferrocerium rod that produces sparks when struck; magnesium that can be scraped into a pile for sparking; and char cloth, a charred fabric that ignites easily.
Keep essential documents in a waterproof container. These include identification, insurance policies, and medical records. Also, keep some cash and coins on hand.
Special Considerations for Emergency Kits
It's vital to consider the unique needs of your household. This can include:
- Medications: If anyone in your home requires prescription medication, have a sufficient supply. Also, include over-the-counter medications like pain relievers and antacids.
- Pets: Your pets will also need food and water. Remember to include pet supplies in your kit.
- Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities: Consider any special needs for seniors, children, or individuals with disabilities. This might mean packing extra blankets, diapers, or specific medical equipment.
Maintaining Your Emergency Kit
More is needed to build an emergency kit - you also need to maintain it. This involves checking expiration dates and replacing expired items, updating items as your family's needs change, and regularly re-familiarizing everyone with the kit.
Building a Family Emergency Plan
In addition to your emergency kit, a plan is crucial. A well-thought-out plan can help you stay organized and train everyone to know what to do during an emergency.
- Communications Plan Communication networks like mobile phones and computers could be unreliable during disasters. Having a family communications plan in place is vital. Decide on a meeting place, identify an out-of-state contact person, and ensure everyone knows these details.
- Evacuation Plan In some emergencies, you must evacuate your home—plan for different scenarios. Find out about community evacuation routes and shelter locations.
- Sheltering Plan You should stay put and take shelter at home. Ground floor rooms like a bathroom and basement can often provide the best protection during severe storms or tornadoes.
- Practice Regularly Practice makes perfect. Regular drills help everyone understand what to do and ensure the plan operates smoothly when needed.
How to Be Informed
Staying informed about your community's risk and response plans is vital. Learn about the specific hazards that could affect your area, understand the warning signals, and know the local disaster plans.
Certain disasters may require specific supplies. For instance, additional items such as masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves may be necessary during a pandemic. An emergency heater would be essential if you live in a colder climate.
Disaster preparedness is a responsibility for everyone. While we cannot prevent disasters, being prepared can significantly improve our resilience. By understanding what to include in your emergency kit, considering your unique needs, building a family plan, and staying informed, you are taking significant moves to ensure the safety and security of you and your loved ones.
Q: How much water should I store for an emergency?
A: Aim for a gallon per person daily, enough to last at least 72 hours.
Q: What food should I store in my emergency kit?
A: Pack non-perishable, high-energy foods that don't require refrigeration or cooking.
Q: What special considerations should I consider when preparing an emergency kit?
A: Consider the unique needs of your household, including medications, pets, and the needs of seniors or individuals with disabilities.
Q: How often should I check and update my emergency kit?
A: It's advisable to check your emergency kit every six months. Replace expired items and update items as your family's needs change.
Q: What should my family emergency plan include?
A: Your family emergency plan should include a communications plan, an evacuation plan, a sheltering plan, and regular drills to practice these plans.