“Make a Kit” to Prepare for Emergencies

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

September is designated as National Preparedness Month by the US Department of Homeland Security in an effort to promote family and community disaster planning and bring the importance of planning to the forefront. The theme of Week 2 of National Preparedness Month advises families to “Build a Kit” before an emergency happens.

“After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days,” says the Department of Homeland Security. “Being prepared means having your own food, water, and other supplies to last for several days.”

A basic disaster supply kit should be stored in airtight plastic bags and then placed in one or two containers that are easy to carry should you need to relocate.

Recommended items for a basic emergency supply kit:

• Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)

• Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)

• Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert

• Flashlight

• First aid kit

• Extra batteries

• Whistle (to signal for help)

• Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)

• Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)

• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)

• Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)

• Manual can opener (for food)

• Local maps

• Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

A printable version of the recommended list may be downloaded from the Department of Homeland Security website, www.ready.gov.

In addition to the basic supply kit, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests considering adding cloth face coverings for everyone ages 2 and up, soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes.

After assembling a basic kit, ready.gov suggests adding additional supplies according to individual needs, including:

• Prescription medications

• Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives

• Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution

• Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream

• Pet food and extra water for your pet

• Cash or traveler's checks

• Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container

• Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

• Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes

• Fire extinguisher

• Matches in a waterproof container

• Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

• Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils

• Paper and pencil

• Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Assembly of the kit is only the first step in being prepared, however. Maintaining the kit should also be a priority. Food should be stored in a cool, dry place; boxed food must be stored in tightly-closed plastic or metal containers. Expired items should be replaced regularly, and the kit should be re-visited and updated for changing family needs.

*Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four-part series for the month of September.