No one wants them to happen, but disasters can occur anywhere at any time—especially during hurricane season and wildfire season. To endure an already stressful situation a little more easily, you should prepare not only an emergency kit, but also an evacuation plan for your family. No matter whether you need to evacuate or shelter in place, you’ll want to be sure you have a plan and that everyone in your family knows what to do.
Prepare Emergency Kits
During or after an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water, and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster kit is a collection of basic items you and your household (or coworkers) may need in the event of an emergency.
Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work, and vehicles:
- Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
- Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water, and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case. Consider using a backpack to stow your supplies. You should be able to keep a backpack under your desk, in a drawer, or in a locker.
- Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.
Basic Disaster Supplies Kit
Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below, most of which are inexpensive and easy to obtain. Look at the basic items, then consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for children, seniors, or pets.
To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic storage bins, a backpack, or a duffel bag.
Your basic emergency supply kit might include the following recommended items:
- Water: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food for each person
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, trash bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Additional Emergency Supplies
Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, allergy relief, or antacids
- Glasses and contact lens solution/case
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet and possibly a comfort item as stress is a serious health factor in animals
- Cash or travelers checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket and pillow for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and practical, sturdy shoes
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits: disposable cups, plates, utensils, and paper towels
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles, portable comfort items and other activities for children
Maintaining Your Kits
After assembling your kits, remember to maintain it so they are ready when needed:
- Keep non-perishable, shelf-stable food in a cool, dry place
- Store boxed food in air-tight containers
- Replace expired items as needed
- Re-evaluate your needs annually and update your kit as your family’s needs change
Prepare to Evacuate
A wide variety of emergencies may call for an evacuation. In some instances, you may have a day or two to prepare, while other situations might call for an immediate evacuation. Planning ahead is vital to ensuring that you can evacuate quickly and safely.
Learn the types of disasters that are likely in your community and the local emergency, evacuation, and shelter plans for each specific disaster. You’ll want to plan with your family how you will leave and where you will go if you are advised to evacuate. Remember that you and your family may not all be in one place when it’s time to evacuate, so you may need many options for your evacuation plan. Develop a family/household communication and re-unification plan so that you can maintain contact and take the best actions for each of you and re-unite if you are separated.
If needed, you may need to find a place to stay that will accept pets. Many public shelters allow only service animals. Do this research in advance so you know your options. It’s wise to identify several places you could go in an emergency such as a friend’s home in another town or a motel. Select evacuation destinations in different directions so that you have options during an emergency.
Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area, and always follow the instructions of local officials. Also worth keeping in mind: your evacuation route may be on foot depending on the type of disaster. You’ll want to assemble supplies that are ready for evacuation, both a “go-bag” you can carry if you evacuate on foot or public transportation along with supplies for traveling by longer distances if you have a personal vehicle.
If you have a vehicle
- Keep a full tank of gas—especially if an evacuation seems likely. Keep at least a half tank of gas at all times in case of an unexpected need to evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
- Make sure you have a portable emergency kit in the car.
- If you do not have a vehicle, plan how you will leave if needed. Make arrangements if you require mobility assistance.
- Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions.
- Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
- Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency now.
If time allows
- Call or email the contact in your family communications plan. Tell them where you are going.
- Secure your home by closing and locking doors and windows.
- Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions, and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas, and electricity before leaving.
- Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
- Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and a hat.
- Check with neighbors who may need a ride.
- Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts; they may be blocked.
- Be alert for road hazards such as washed-out roads or bridges and downed power lines. Do not drive into flooded areas.