Imagine I’m Jennifer Garner…but instead of asking “What’s in your wallet?”, I’m asking “What’s in your emergency kit?” As a NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, we at STM are dedicated to improving our communities’ readiness, responsiveness, and overall resilience against extreme weather, water, and climate events. Furthermore, we also believe that small actions can have big impacts, and creating and storing an emergency kit in advance of a disaster can save time, prevent confusion, and ultimately prevent injuries or death when inclement weather strikes.
Hazardous weather is inevitable – some 98 percent of all Presidentially declared disasters are weather related, leading to nearly $15 billion in damage annually. Furthermore, inclement weather, even those weather events that don’t become designated as a presidentially-declared disaster, comes with a vast array of logistical issues, safety hazards, and resource challenges. Having both a hazardous weather preparedness plan and safety kit in place are important when planning ahead, though this blog will specifically focus on the components of an emergency kit. But if you’ve never had an emergency kit before, you might have a lot of questions….
But don’t worry! We will cover them all. Additionally, the United States covers nearly 3.8 million square miles and each region of our country has unique weather and climate concerns from severe weather (such as tornadoes, hail, and high winds) to wildfires to snow and ice storms to tropical storms. Though we may not all weather the same storms, the concepts and key ingredients of an emergency kit are similar for all.
Let’s first consider the scenarios in which one might need an emergency kit…
- Severe weather/tornadoes
- Tropical storms
- Winter weather
In each of these scenarios, the exact calls to actions for individuals and families might be slightly different, though the need for an emergency kit is critical in each. Let’s first go through the all of the items one needs to begin building an emergency kit for their home.
Top 20 Items Needed to Build Your Emergency Kit
- A backpack or storage tub to hold your supplies
- Battery powered radio and a NOAA Weather radio
- Bottled water (one gallon per person per day is recommended)
- Non-perishable foods (such as canned soups/stews, snacks like chips and crackers, cereal, granola, canned meat, jerky, and energy bars; REMEMBER: if including canned foods, don’t forget a can opener!)
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First Aid supplies (Band-Aids, gauze, ointment, disinfectant wipes, pain reliever, any essential medications that you regularly take)
- Tissues and/or paper towels
- Toilet paper and bags with ties for personal sanitation
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket (recommend one for each person in your home)
- Whistle or noise-maker to signal for help
- Paper and pen or pencil (to take notes, play games, etc)
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Personal hygiene items (travel size deodorant, cotton swabs, feminine items, etc)
- Important documents (identification, insurance information, banking information, wills, important telephone numbers, etc; keep these in a water-proof bag or box)
- A change of clothes for each person in your home (if you live in a cooler climate make sure the clothes are warm!)
- Closed toe shoes (such as boots or sturdy sneakers)
- Rain gear
- Cards or a game (it can be helpful to have something to do to take your mind off the situation for a few moments or alleviate stress if you will be in your shelter for an extended time)
- Helmets for each person
Have you gathered all the items your family will need? YAY! Now let’s consider a few more questions….Where will you store your preparedness kit in your home? Ideally you should store your kit wherever you will be taking shelter (in your basement, interior room/closet, etc), but it should also be easily accessible – you don’t want to have to dig it out from a dozen other boxes if you need to evacuate your home quickly! Though we included non-perishable food items that have a lengthy shelf life, you’ll still want to go through and make a list of each item’s expiration date and tape it to the top of the lid. Then, at least once annually, remember to check the list for any expired objects and replace the batteries if needed. Lastly, don’t forget any items you might need for infants (diapers, wipes, formula, etc.) , pets (food, leash, pet carrier/crate, kitty litter, etc.), and special needs family members (medications, etc.) as well!
Though this list is a great starting point, it is not comprehensive. For example, those living in areas prone to wildfires should also include a dust mask or cotton shirt to help filter the air, as well as plastic sheeting a duct tape to shelter in place. In areas prone to tropical storms, you might want to remember including mosquito repellant, sunglasses, and repair supplies. Additionally, those in colder climates should also consider having a car survival kit for the winter. Items that they might need include:
- Jumper cables (flares or reflective triangle are great extras)
- Flashlights (Replace the batteries before the winter season starts and pack some extras_)
- First Aid Kit (remembering to check your purse of bag for essential medications)
- Food (stock non-perishable food such as dry cereal and protein rich foods like nuts and energy bars)
- Basic toolkit (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
- Pet supplies (if traveling with your pet, don’t forget food and water for them too!)
- Radio (battery or hand cranked)
- Cat litter or sand (for better tire traction)
- Shovel (to dig out snow)
- Ice scraper (even if you usually park in a garage, keep one in the car just in case)
- Clothes – Always make sure you dress for the weather in warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and keep an extra change of clothes for the cold
- Warmers (pack extra for body, hands, feet)
- Blankets or sleeping bags (if you get stranded in traffic or on a lonely road, you’ll be glad to have it)
- Charged Cell Phone – keep a spare charger in your car as well
After a storm has passed (or at least once annually if you are fortunate enough not to have to use yours in a full year), remember to refill your supplies. Every storm is different, and it is important to always be prepared. Having all of your materials in one place means that you don’t have to worry when hazardous weather strikes because you’re already prepared!