When disasters hit, they can mean days to weeks without power, and sometimes they allow just enough time to grab a bag of supplies and go. Now is the time to prepare, well before the disaster is on your doorstep.
When a disaster strikes, you may have to get by without power, safe running water or help for several days. An important safety measure is to have emergency supplies on hand and in a safe place where you can easily get to them.
A disaster supply kit contains basic items that your household may need. Ready.gov, the U.S. government’s disaster preparedness website, suggests packing the following items:
Water: one gallon per person per day for several days.
Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, such as canned meats and fruits.
A battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
A first-aid kit.
Plastic sheeting and duct tape that can help provide protection.
Also: extra batteries, a whistle, dust masks, moist towelettes, basic personal hygiene items, blankets, extra clothing, garbage bags, a wrench or pliers, a manual can opener, local maps and a cell phone with chargers.
Some important additions
In addition to the items suggested by Ready.gov, there are other considerations that are useful when creating a supply kit.
For example, gather prescription medications and have an up-to-date list of the medications everyone in the household uses. This can be especially important for older adults and people on a life-sustaining medical treatment. With the pandemic ongoing, include extra face masks – you might spend time in a public disaster shelter.
Battery packs and portable USB power chargers are useful additions for a disaster supply kit when the power goes out. When Hurricane Harvey flooded in Houston in 2017, people used their smartphones to post pleas for help on social media. Phone batteries can run down quickly, though, so be prepared. And make sure the portable charger is charged and ready to go.
Several types of disasters may require evacuating your home, and you may only have a few minutes to prepare. Having emergency supplies ready to go is important if you need to leave right away.
These bags are different from household disaster supply kits because you might need to carry the bag on foot.
Typically, you would include food and water, a small battery-powered or hand-crank radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, a small first-aid kit, copies of crucial documents, local maps and a phone charger and battery pack.
Communication plans matter
Before a disaster forces you to move fast, make a plan for where you could go. Find destinations in several different directions in case one of the routes is blocked, and make sure everyone in your household and your emergency contacts know the plan.
September is National Preparedness Month, but the risks continue year-round. Winter storms that can knock the power out just round the corner. Talking about disasters before they strike and planning ahead can make the process go more smoothly amid the chaos when a disaster arrives.
Brett Robertson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.