In an emergency, the last thing you have time for is putting together your emergency kit. It is important to pre-pack an emergency kit so it is ready to go. Your kit should reflect your unique situation and the geographical issues you may face. Do you need one at home and at work? Are you creating one for just you or your whole family?
FEMA, the American Red Cross, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all provide checklists to help you get started, and many items they recommend overlap. Each agency offers a basic list, which includes water, food, a battery- or hand-powered radio, a flashlight, batteries and a first-aid kit.
If you decide to make your own kit, make sure it has the basics:
Water: Storing extra water is a must, but if you need to move, it may be better to have a portable filtration system. You may also want to look into iodine water purification tablets.
Food: Three days of food per person is a good rule of thumb. There are many “survival” food options these days, and including a few boxes of your favorite protein bar is also a good idea. Just make sure to rotate them out with fresh ones.
Light: Flashlights with working batteries and a small camping lantern are a good idea, but also necessary is a headlamp. You may need to do tasks that require both hands!
Emergency whistle: This is an easy and practically foolproof way of alerting emergency crews of your location.
Breathing mask: A simple painter’s mask can filter out harmful particles and should be included in your kit at the very minimum. There are more sophisticated breathing options, such as respirators, which could also be considered. Please note that neither of these options will do anything for you in the event of a serious chemical or gas emergency scenario. They are for protecting your lungs as much as possible from dust and debris while you leave the area.
Chargers: In addition to an electrical charger, your kit should include a solar charger in the event that you have no access to electricity. You may also want to consider rechargeable battery packs in the event of little sunlight.
Spare clothing and Mylar blankets: Your climate and season should be considered when packing these items. Such items may include hats (for sun or the cold), waterproof walking shoes, a coat, and gloves. Mylar products are a light alternative to sleeping bags. Mylar thermal blankets or bags are windproof, waterproof and capable of reflecting more than 90 percent of your body heat.
Emergency radio: A radio may be your best or only way to get information on weather patterns, evacuations, or other news from authorities. The radio should tune in to AM/FM and National Oceanic and Atmospheric channels and should be powered by hand crank, battery, or solar depending on your situation.
Bleach: According to FEMA, household chlorine bleach, when diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, can be used as a disinfectant. Or, in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water.
Waterproof container: You may want to keep insurance policies, copies of identification, and any other documents you want to stay dry and safe.
First-aid kit: While you can put one together yourself, you may find it more convenient to buy one. If you choose to make one, it should include: moleskin fabric, liquid bandages, soft-wrap elastic bandages, micropore paper tape, fabric adhesive dressings and bandages in a variety of sizes, coverlet adhesive 4-wing dressing, non-adherent bandage pads, a sterile gauze bandage roll, adhesive wound closures, triangular bandages, alcohol swabs and antiseptic wipes, packets of Bacitracin antibiotic ointment with zinc, burn ointment, eye wash, a thermometer, petroleum jelly, pain relievers, anti-diarrheal medications, antacids, and laxatives.
Miscellaneous items: Pack a few days’ worth of personal medication including your prescriptions. Also include medical items you may need, hand sanitizer, a spare pair of glasses, latex gloves, wind-resistant matches, a map of your area (think about what you might need if you can’t use your phone,) a multi-use tool (Swiss Army knife, or Leatherman types), and cash.
Don’t forget Fido and Fluffy: If you have four legged members of your family, your pets need to be considered too. A few days’ supply of pet food and any medications they take need to be included in your kit. Don’t forget to count their water needs when considering your water supply. In cold weather, you may want to bring extra blankets. For dogs, you may want to consider a flotation/water safety device.
Finally, check your kit regularly for expiration dates. This includes medication, food, water, and batteries. Hopefully you will never have to use your kit, but in the event that you do, you should be prepared with this list!