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Making Sure You've Got What It Takes

Supplies you should have on hand in the event of an emergency

Getting Set

  • Think about it this way--you and your family need to get together whatever you will need to camp out for three days. Assume you'll be out of reach of electricity and running water.
  • You may have many items on hand; you just need to be sure you've assembled them all (or that you can do so quickly) and that you have sufficient quantities of the consumable items.
  • If you are storing items, store them in sealed containers--such as plastic tubs taped shut--if at all possible.
  • Store items in a cool, dry place indoors.
  • Avoid storing items in glass containers unless absolutely necessary.
  • If a complete kit is not possible, list items around the house that need to be in the kit and be prepared to pack them as soon as disaster threatens (for example, a battery-operated radio or medicines that must be refrigerated or taken daily).
  • Check all stored supplies every six months. Rotate out any perishable items (including such things as batteries) and use them for daily needs. Replace them in the kit with fresh supplies. If you have not set aside stored supplies, check your household inventory of key items at least once every month or two.

For Each Person

  • Water--one gallon per day (per person or pet).
  • Food--enough for three meals per person per day. Try to keep on hand canned foods or other prepared foods that don't require cooking or a lot of added water. Stock some energy bars and dried fruit for portability.
  • Clothing--at least two or three complete sets of clothing. Switch them off seasonally when you recheck stored supplies. Include rain gear (even disposable ponchos can help) for everyone and sweaters or heavy coats if the next six months' weather demands it.
  • Medicines
         - Medium to large size first-aid kit
         - First-aid instruction book
         - Extra bandages, gauze compresses, and first-aid tape
         - Antiseptic wipes, creams, etc., as needed
         - Pain relief medicines, antacids, cough medicines (including infants'/children's if appropriate)
         - Three to four days' supply of medications for each person who is on a regular medical regimen (store copies of prescriptions if possible)
         - Disposable latex gloves and household bleach (for disinfection as needed).
  • Bedding, etc.--one sleeping bag or blanket and pillow per person (more for cold weather); one bath towel per person; and (possibly)  inexpensive deflated air mattresses.


Especially for Babies

  • Disposable diapers and plastic bags to store used ones; make sure to update stored diapers as the baby grows into new sizes! Bring enough plastic bags to dispose of used diapers twice a day.
  • Formula--securely closed cans of dry formula suitable for your child's needs, enough for several bottles a day.
  • Baby food--consider dry cereals and similar products that are nourishing but offer a long shelf life. If you store food in glass bottles, wrap the bottles well to avoid breakage.
  • Store and use plastic-liner disposable bottles to avoid breakage and to avoid the need for washing, even if your child doesn't use this kind of bottle regularly.
  • Special bedding--a folding playpen or some other secure place for baby to sleep, and blanket/sheets to fit.
  • Toys--a few age-appropriate toys to amuse and distract the baby.
  • Pacifier and/or teething ring--if your child uses one, store a spare.


Especially for Children

  • Consider inviting each child to pack some special things--a favorite toy, book, game, blanket, and so on--into an inexpensive backpack or a special bag, so that each knows favorite items will be available.
  • Store powdered or evaporated milk along with some extra water to reconstitute it as needed. Also consider storing some snack-style foods, such as fruit gels or presweetened cereal.
  • Remember to check children's stored clothing against their growth and new sizes when you check supplies every six months.


Especially for Teens

  • Ask teens what special foods they think should be stored. Let them help assemble supplies and update inventories.
  • Remind them that there will be no television and only a shared radio if power is out. They may want to take responsibility for a battery-operated CD player, earphones, and a supply of batteries and CDs.
  • Urge them to select a few favorite books and perhaps some writing materials (a notebook and pen for journal writing could be good).
  • Ask teens to consider what medications--for example for acne treatments--that they might need.
  • Remind teens to make up a list of addresses and phone numbers for their close friends.

Especially for Older People

  • Remind older people to ensure that their medications are up to date and that they have copies of prescriptions as well as at least a five- to seven-day supply on hand.
  • If any special medical supplies are needed, make sure they are on hand in sufficient quantity at all times.
  • Ask older family members to think about specially treasured items they may want to keep with them, such as jewelry with high sentimental value or a family photo album.
  • Make sure that financial records for older family members are stored securely, either with general family records or in a separate box.
  • Remind older family members to list names, addresses, and phone numbers of relatives whom they may want to contact.

Cooking, Cleaning, and Sanitation Supplies

Cooking Supplies

  • Keep a few older pots and pans in storage along with a few basic cooking utensils such as a slotted spoon, ladle, spatula, cooking fork, and serrated-edge knives (which don't need sharpening).
  • Store enough paper plates (two sizes if possible) and bowls to feed those who might be at home.
  • Include sturdy plastic forks, knives, and spoons--at least two complete sets for each person.
  • Store at least two inexpensive manual can openers.
  • For cooking, consider purchasing a "Sterno(tm)" (canned) fuel burner and several cans of the fuel. These can be used safely indoors. If you can cook outside, consider storing a small grill and self-lighting charcoal. Do not use charcoal burners indoors; the fumes can be dangerous in enclosed spaces.
  • Wooden matches--at least a few dozen--in a waterproof container are a must.

Cleaning and Sanitation

  • Pack away at least a dozen or so large (yard-work size) and medium (kitchen-trash size) plastic bags for trash and other debris.
  • Store a small container of dishwashing liquid and a scrubbing-style sponge or two.
  • Make sure to include a bar or two of bath-grade soap.
  • Include any supplies needed for bathing babies, if relevant.
  • Include feminine hygiene supplies if relevant and small, sealable plastic bags in which to dispose of used products.
  • Don't forget toilet paper--probably three to six rolls at minimum.
  • Take along a roll or two of paper towels--always handy.
  • Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and sealable plastic bags may be useful.


General But Vital

  • Make up a shutdown list--doors locked, water and gas turned off (if directed by authorities), materials in use gathered for storage.
  • Take along a battery-powered radio. Some models can operate by being hand cranked as well. Be sure you have an ample supply of fresh batteries.
  • Have at least one flashlight per person, if possible. Make sure to have several sets of batteries to fit each flashlight.
  • Consider buying a lantern-style, battery-operated light, which can illuminate a small room. Make certain to have a supply of the batteries needed for this light; they can be difficult to locate.
  • If for some reason you elect to store candles, ensure that you also store sturdy, enclosed devices in which to burn them--and don't leave them unattended while they are lighted.
  • Think about packing playing cards, board games, crayons, paper, songbooks, and books that can involve the whole family. They may be the only form of entertainment for a while.
  • Financial records can be vital--copies of marriage, birth, and death certificate; passports; deeds; major loan agreements; account numbers and key phone numbers; lists of various account numbers; and similar papers should already be stored in a fire-safe box. Bring them with you.
  • Consider having some cash on hand. Automatic teller machines may be inoperable.
  • Some inexpensive tools can be lifesavers. A hammer, a saw, several screwdrivers and wrenches, a pair of pliers, and similar tools can be extremely helpful to you and others in emergencies. Glue, duct tape, and similar supplies can come in handy.
  • Autos--make it a family rule that the gas tank is always at least half full. If potential for emergencies is high, keep the tank as full as possible at all times, because if power goes out, gas pumps stop working.
  • Pets need your advance consideration, too. Make sure you have an adequate supply of foods for pets. Consider pet carriers or crates so animals will not roam into danger. Remember leashes and any needed medications. Know shelter policies in case you are directed to evacuate and consider who might care for pets if shelters do not allow them.
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