Severe weather, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters have the potential to put lives at risk, disrupt utilities, and leave people stranded in their homes. Man-made disasters pose their own threats, from chemical spills and widespread power blackouts to riots and civil unrest. How common these events are depend on where you live, but the possibility of disaster means it’s essential to have an emergency preparedness plan.
What is an Emergency Preparedness Plan?
An emergency preparedness plan is simply a set of steps you take to weather a disaster safely. Tailor the plan to your local threats: the amount of warning you have for a tornado, for instance, is much shorter than for a hurricane, which in turn requires a different response to an earthquake or wildfire.
Everyone in your home who is old enough to participate should understand the nature of your emergency plan. Things to consider when making your plan include:
- How will we receive emergency alerts?
- What would you need to keep you safe if you had to shelter in place?
- What evacuation routes will be available? Consider exit routes from your home as well as pre-arranged travel routes.
- How will your family communicate during an emergency?
- What should your emergency preparedness kit contain?
These are fundamental questions every emergency plan should answer. Depending on your family’s needs, you may also have to consider:
- The different ages of family members. Who will help the elderly or very young during an emergency?
- Which locations are family members likely to be at during an emergency? How will you gather everyone together?
- Are there special dietary or medical needs that need addressing? What prescriptions and equipment will your family need?
- What languages do family members speak, and will this be an issue during an emergency?
- How will you prepare family pets, service animals, or livestock for the emergency?
- Are there religious or cultural considerations that may impact your emergency plan?
What to include in an emergency kit
Despite the fact one in three Americans experienced a severe weather event in 2021, only 42 percent have a personal emergency kit. Knowing what to put in an emergency kit is crucial for a successful emergency preparedness plan. During a disaster, you may be without power, water, food, or even shelter for an extended period. In worst-case scenarios, emergency response teams are pushed to the limit, so ambulances, fire trucks, or other help may be slow to arrive.
Your emergency kit should contain everything you need to get you through a disaster and the following days. At a minimum, your kit should include:
- A battery-powered or hand-crank radio.
- A change of clothing suitable for your environment for each person.
- A first aid kit.
- A manual can opener.
- A sleeping bag or blanket for each person.
- A three-day supply of non-perishable food for each person.
- At least one flashlight with spare batteries.
- A whistle to signal for help.
- Extra alkaline batteries.
- Fully-charged cell phones with power banks and phone chargers.
- Garbage bags, moist towelettes, and plastic ties for containing personal sanitation waste.
- Local maps with evacuation routes clearly labelled.
- One gallon of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and sanitation.
- Plastic sheeting, tarps, and duct tape in case you need to shelter in place.
- Masks, soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes.
A word on batteries for emergency preparedness kits: Alkaline batteries are best for emergencies, as they can be stored for long periods and retain a charge. Don’t rely on rechargeable batteries: they hold less charge, discharge if not used, and you may lack the power needed to recharge them after an emergency.
Our battery subscription boxes are perfect batteries for emergency preparedness. You receive new batteries on a schedule that makes sense of your usage, so you always have batteries on hand, and you can order an extra box to keep in your emergency kit. Our boxes store batteries securely in separate compartments, so they won’t make contact with each other, which can cause batteries to drain. You get a mix of AAs, AAAs, and 9V batteries, so you’ll be able to power flashlights and other emergency devices.
Depending on your family’s needs, your emergency kit may also need to include the following:
- Books, games, and puzzles for children.
- Copies of insurance policies, personal identification, wills, and bank account information in a portable waterproof container.
- Diapers, baby wipes, and baby food/formula.
- Enough prescription medicine for one or two weeks (Refilling prescriptions can be difficult after an emergency).
- Fire extinguisher.
- Over-the-counter medication such as pain medication, antacids, laxatives, and anti diarrhea medication.
- Paper cups, plates, and towels.
- Personal hygiene and feminine hygiene products.
- Pet food and extra water for animals.
- Plastic utensils.
- Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution.
- Waterproof matches.
While not part of your emergency kit, if you live in a disaster-prone area it’s wise to keep a pair of sturdy shoes and a flashlight next to your bed at all times so you can react to emergencies quickly.
What to Include in an Earthquake Emergency Kit
Certain types of emergencies require expanded emergency kits. For instance, if you live in an earthquake zone, your emergency kit should include the following in addition to the items discussed above:
A camp stove or barbecue to cook outside. Use either propane or charcoal as fuel, which you should keep out of the way of children,
A First-aid kit and handbook
A month’s worth of prescription medication.
Crescent and pipe wrenches to turn off gas and water supplies
Dust masks in case of contaminated air.
Enough food and water (a gallon per person a day) for at least two weeks.
Extra batteries for your portable radio.
Additional food and water for pets.
More than one flashlight or camping lantern with spare bulbs and batteries.
Purification tablets or chlorine bleach to purify drinking water from sources other than your emergency kit.
Waterproof, heavy-duty plastic bags for waste disposal.
What Should Your Emergency Weather Kit Contain?
For emergency weather kits, the items listed above will usually suffice in addition to the following:
Waterproof jackets, disposable rain ponchos, or raincoats.
Waterproof containers for all emergency items.
Rubber boots and gloves.
What to Put in a Fire Emergency Kit
The emergency supplies for a fire are not that different from other emergency kits. Remember that fires, floods, and severe weather can badly damage or destroy any possessions you leave behind, so if time allows, pack irreplaceable valuables, family photos, and laptops or computers. In the event of a fire you may have minimal warning, however, and your safety should always come before your possessions.
Prepare in Advance
The better prepared you are in advance, the faster and more efficiently you’ll be able to respond to an emergency. For instance, take some time to consider which possessions you would want to take with you, so if you have to evacuate, you won’t waste time choosing between beloved belongings. For replaceable items, walk around your home with your phone and make a video recording of your belongings. Keep the video safe so you can prove ownership if you have to make an insurance claim.
Running emergency “fire drills” as a family is also helpful, as everyone gets a chance to practice their roles in the event of a real emergency. Make a plan well in advance, stock up on batteries and emergency supplies, and, hopefully, you’ll never need them. If disaster strikes, however, being prepared makes all the difference.
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