October 29, 2012 will forever be remembered as the day that Hurricane Sandy destroyed the Mid-Atlantic portion of the United States. The clean up promises to be lengthy and the catastrophic damage is said to be in the billions. Perhaps Sandy’s most lasting effect will be that this natural disaster begs us all to take a moment and ask ourselves “Am I prepared for a natural disaster?”

Probably not.

If you are like most Americans, stocking your basement with cans of beans and buying gallons of water isn’t very high on a family’s priority list, what with work, kids, and bills to worry about. But assembling a disaster preparedness kit is pretty simple. Take a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and voila! Your family will thank you later.

Kit Basics

A kit should have all of the following items. Experts, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend preparing enough supplies to last for 72 hours. Make sure your kits are light enough to carry easily.

  • Water, a gallon for each member of your family (and pets!) to drink, and for sanitation purposes.
  • Nonperishable food, such as canned or dried goods, at least enough for three days if you are evacuation and 2 weeks if you can safely ride out the disaster in your home. Have a good balance of protein and vegetables and stay away from high sodium foods, as you will deplete your water supplies. Don’t forget to have a can opener!
  • Make sure each family member has a complete three day supply of warm clothes (make sure they pack layers!), jackets, a hat, and sturdy weather-proof shoes.
  • A first aid kid, prescription and over-the-counter medication, and sanitation supplies (toilet paper, baby wipes, soap)
  • Flashlights with extra batteries, a solar or crank powered radio. Consider investing in a generator, as most natural disasters result in power outages. While pricey, folks with generators during emergencies are sure glad they purchased them.
  • Extra cash (as power outages may prevent you from using credit cards or ATMs) and spare keys to your vehicles and home.
  • Emergency binder: Experts also recommend having an “emergency binder”, full of your family’s most important documents, such as birth certificates, social security cards, and insurance information. You can find a great example here.

Some Helpful Kit Extras

  • If you have young children, be sure to include easily transportable activities and toys, like coloring books,  card games, and a small toy. While this might seem to be frivolous, it will go a long way in keeping your kids distracted and calm in an emergency situation.
  • Don’t forget about your pets! Have a carrier for each one of your pets (that are big enough for them to stand and turn in), as well as sturdy leashes, and a supply of food and water for them as well.

Plan Ahead

  • Proper planning involves know just what type of disasters you are most likely to face in your area. According to the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross, local residents are advised to be prepared for the following: wildfires, house fires, earthquakes, snow storms, as well as for floods.
  • Discuss what needs to happen in case of an evacuation. Assign family members to help with pets, young children, and elderly family members. Create a checklist for what needs to occur!
  • Make sure you have a safe meeting place for your family, like across the street in case of a house fire or in another state with relatives for local disasters.
  • Have every family member be familiar with how to shut down utilities, such as gas, water, and electricity in case of earthquakes.
  • (Insider tip: Make sure your homeowner’s insurance as well as family’s health insurance are current. Be familiar with your coverage.) 

Preparing for disasters may bring about some scary thoughts and be a little bit inconvenient. We cannot stress how putting in a little work will pay of in case of emergency. Taking steps today will keep your family safe tomorrow!