No, I’m not talking about a weekend getaway, although I’ll talk about that another time. September is National Preparedness Month. With a lot of the news talking about the devastating damage done by Hurricane Florence, you don’t want be unprepared should a disaster hit your home or area. Even if you don’t live in a hurricane or flood zone, disaster can hit any of us at any time. Think about a home fire, carbon monoxide, or any other reason you may need to leave your home in a hurry. You can quickly go from having everything to just having the clothes on your back. A disaster kit will even help in cases of extended power outages.
With a family of your own, it’s especially important to make sure you and the kids are prepared for whatever disaster may come your way. It’s not a fun thing to think or talk about, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Do your kids know what to do in a disaster?
Every family should have a disaster kit with enough supplies to sustain the entire household for 3-5 days (in case you need to wait for help). You may choose to keep everything together in one large kit or have each family member store their own items in separate bags. Either way, your disaster kit should be in a place that you can easily get to in an emergency. Ideally, you need to be able to grab it and go without thinking about having everything you need.
That’s where planning ahead comes into play. Depending on your family, every household’s disaster kit may be different. A great resource is ready.gov, where they spell out the common items you should include in your disaster kit. The great news is that they’re fairly inexpensive to put together. Once it’s done, you don’t have to think about it again except for regular updates.
Here are the most common items that should be in every family’s disaster kit (I’ve also included links to where you can get these items):
- First Aid Kit
- Plastic sheeting and tape for shelter
- Moist Towelettes
- Garbage Bags
- Dust Masks
- AM/FM Radio
- Can opener
- Wrench or pliers in case you need to turn off utilities
- Swiss Army Knife
- Cash and Credit Cards for emergencies only
- Note: It’s important to keep cash because you may not be able to use your credit cards.
Consider having at least two kits. Keep one at home and another, smaller one in your car.
Non-Perishable Food and Water
- At least 3 gallons of water per person both for drinking and sanitation.
- Non-perishable food items. Choose items your family will actually eat and have enough to sustain everyone for at least three days. Examples include:
- Dry cereals or granola
- Protein or meal replacement bars
- Dried fruits
- Canned juices
- Non-perishable milk
- Baby food (if applicable)
Discuss with your family the best foods to put in your emergency kit. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when getting food and water together:
- More water may be needed for nursing mothers, children, and the sick
- Double your water if you live in a hot climate
- Avoid foods that will make you thirsty
- Buy bottled water and keep it in its original container in a cool, dry, place
- Keep in mind special dietary needs
Additional Items You May Need:
Depending on the needs of your family, you may also include:
- Prescription medicines and glasses
- Paper plates, cups, utensils, and napkins
- Change of clothing, extra underwear, sturdy shoes. Consider additional items if you live in a cold climate.
- Sleeping bags and blankets
- Waterproof matches
- Paper and pencil
- Puzzles, games, books, playing cards for entertainment
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and additional water for pets
- Important documents such as insurance policies, id, and bank records in waterproof storage
- Emergency reference materials
- Local maps
- Toothbrushes, soap, and towels
- Extra sets of house and car keys
- Special needs items for child care, the elderly, or disabled
- List of emergency contacts
Keep It Updated!
Having a disaster kit full of expired food and dead batteries is almost as bad as not having one at all. Fortunately, many non-perishable food items last for a year or more but make sure you’re checking your bag every six months to make sure everything is up-to-date.
More Tips For Disaster Preparedness:
Whether your disaster is big like a hurricane or flood, or on a smaller scale like a power outage, it affects the entire family. That’s why the entire family should be involved in putting together emergency kits. Everyone should also know what they’re supposed to do in the event of an emergency or evacuation. Here are some tips on how you can plan for disaster as a family:
- Have open discussions. Disasters are not fun to talk about, and hopefully you’ll never experience one, but still discuss them frequently in order to be prepared and address any fears the kids may be having.
- Learn about what disasters can occur in your area.
- Keep your gas tank at least half-full at all times.
- Decide on safe emergency meeting places where your family can rendezvous in the event a disaster occurs and you’re apart. For example, in the event of a fire, choose a tree across the street where the family will meet. Other places could be:
- A library
- Place of worship
- Neighbor’s house
- A least one out-of-town meeting place such as a friend or relative’s home in case an evacuation is ordered and the family is separated.
- Have your entire family memorize emergency numbers in case they can’t access a mobile device
- Have fire and evacuation drills
- Give each of your kids a special list of emergency contacts to keep in their backpacks or lunch box
- Make sure everyone knows how to call 911 in the event of a life-threatening emergency
Visit ready.gov and download the Family Emergency Communication Plan and the Emergency Supply List. Be sure to review the website for more tips on disaster preparedness including what to do in different scenarios and special activities for kids.