Disasters can hit at any moment, leaving you feeling vulnerable and unprepared. Many households keep emergency kits of essential supplies to ensure that they stay warm and healthy in the event of a major disaster or emergency. Of these emergency essentials, water, food, cooking supplies, hygiene products, and a first aid kit are among the most important for survival. If a hurricane, earthquake, winter storm, or other disaster strikes your community, you may not have access to water, food, and electricity for days or even weeks. Follow these guidelines for emergency preparedness.
Water is an essential part of any disaster preparedness kit. A necessity for survival, fresh water is used for drinking, brushing your teeth, sanitation, and cooking. A standard emergency supply should consist of at least one gallon (roughly 4 liters) of water per person per day. Commercial water bottles can be purchased online or in stores, and most can be stored indefinitely. For a more budget-friendly approach, store fresh water in cleaned and sanitized 2- and 3-liter soda bottles. Treat all water you stored yourself to prevent a buildup of bacteria. For every liter of water stored, treat it with 2 drops of regular, unscented chlorine bleach with 5-6% sodium hypochlorite.
- Build an Emergency Kit: Water
- Creating and Storing an Emergency Water Supply
- Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water
To stay well-nourished and energized and to resist disease and infection, you’ll need a healthy and balanced diet. Almost all foods have a limited shelf life, no matter how they are preserved and stored. Stored food should be rotated to keep it fresh and to preserve its flavor and nutritional value. Foods that have lengthy shelf lives are best to stockpile for an emergency. Examples of these foods include peanut butter, whole-wheat crackers, trail mixes and nuts, granola and nutrition bars, cereal, dried fruits, canned meats (salmon, tuna, turkey, or chicken), powdered milk, and canned vegetables. Storing multivitamin supplements can also help to replace any missing nutrients in your diet.
- Food Safety and Storage for Emergency Preparedness
- Emergency Storage Structures
- Preparing an Emergency Food Supply: Short-Term Food Storage
- Food and Water in an Emergency
Cooking and Fuel
Cooking without lights and electricity can be challenging, but storing the proper fuel and equipment for cooking in emergencies can make the process easier. Propane has the advantage of keeping indefinitely and can be stored in 20-pound cylinders. It should not be stored indoors or used in propane cooking devices indoors, as it gives off carbon monoxide when burned. Charcoal is another cooking option that must be used outdoors, and it must be kept away from moisture. Other fuel options include kerosene, wood, coal, solar ovens, and generators. While they require the most fuel, fuel-powered generators are often the best method for running some home appliances.
- Home Heating in an Emergency
- Cooking Without Power
- Cooking When the Power Goes Off
- Preparing Food During a Power Failure
Maintaining hygiene and sanitation measures during an emergency is vital to prevent illnesses and the spread of disease. Buckets can be used with water and soap for general cleaning purposes. Stock up on hygiene products like toilet paper, wet wipes, soap, and laundry detergent, which can be used for a wide variety of cleaning tasks. Women will need feminine hygiene products, while babies will need a supply of disposable or cloth diapers, washcloths or baby wipes, and rash ointment. While a bucket will do in a cinch, many households prefer to store a portable toilet for emergency situations.
First aid kits are recommended for both your home and your vehicle. While medical kits can be purchased with all of the items you’ll need for an emergency, you can also create your own in a tool box or fishing tackle box. Ensure that your medical kit includes a variety of drugs and medications, such as hydrogen peroxide, aspirin, eye drops, and antibiotic ointment. The kit should also contain dressings, such as bandage strips and rolled gauze, as well as scissors, tweezers, a needle and thread, instant cold packs, and a thermometer. Inspect the kit on a regular basis to check for spills, and keep it freshly stocked if items are used. Ask your doctor about storing prescription medications, as some may expire.