Disasters will force thousands across the United States to evacuate at some point this year. While a disaster in your area may seem unlikely, every area of the country is susceptible to natural disasters. There’s not much that can stop these disasters from happening. What we can do, however, is soften the impacts on us and our surrounding communities.
One of the ways we can lessen the effect of these events is by being prepared. Disasters cut access to our critical needs and daily necessities, so securing them during these times is a top priority. But there’s a lot there—what do you need to prioritize? How do you make a personal emergency preparedness kit?â€
The Essential Emergency Preparedness Kit
You can probably guess what some of the essential supplies of a personal emergency preparedness kit. Water, non-perishable food, medicine and prescriptions, flashlights, batteries, phones, and phone chargers come immediately to mind. But FEMA recommends a few more essentials be included in your emergency preparedness kit:
A first aid kit
Help may not be immediately available during a natural disaster, so being able to treat an injury until you can receive medical attention is imperative. Be sure to add in masks for everyone over the age of two, along with hand sanitizer, wipes, and other types of disinfectants to your kit. These are recent additions to the list, after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A whistle can help rescue crews locate you and those around you if you’re immobilized.
Certain tools will come in handy. Disabling your utilities during certain disasters may be necessary.
Key pieces of infrastructure will most likely be impacted by disasters. A map will help you navigate around road closures and areas you’re unfamiliar with, especially if you can’t use your technology.
Weather and AM/FM radios
The tech we depend on isn’t always reliable in these scenarios. Radios, however, have always been a trusty communication tool. When a disaster causes a black-out, you’ll still be able to receive updates via radio. Midland offers a range of weather radios, including crank and battery-powered options. An AM/FM radio is also a welcome addition to any emergency preparedness kit.
Personal hygiene items
Any disaster, and the following recovery, will probably be a multi-day event. Having extra hygiene items will ensure you don’t run out while roads are blocked and stores are closed.
Smoke, debris, pollutants, and pathogens will make their way into the atmosphere around you, depending on the disaster. Dust masks will help limit the negative effects they have on your health.
Impromptu shelter is just as important as these other items. Your home may be destroyed and shelters may not be available or accessible. Supplies like tarps will allow you to create shelter when you don’t have it.
Keep in mind that almost every disaster will be a multi-day event, so consider this when you’re building your kit. In some cases, 72 hours may pass before outside assistance is able to help. Gather enough supplies to last this 3-day window (especially medicine and prescriptions). â€
The items above are must-haves, but chances are you need to incorporate more into your kit. You may be responsible for others during a disaster, or you want to be as ready as possible to bounce back. If that’s the case, add these other items to your emergency preparedness kit.
Personal assistance items like glasses and canes will be crucial for you, or others, to have. Prescription medication, vitamins and any other daily dosages should be included. Baby supplies, if applicable, are another necessity. If you have pets, you will want to pack supplies for them, too. Extra clothes, sleeping bags, matches, a fire extinguisher, plastic silverware, paper and pencils, and entertainment, like books, all can ease the stress of the situation as well.
You may also want to consider packing cash, or equivalents like traveler’s checks, and important documents. Keeping these documents in good shape and having them on hand might expedite a lot of the post-disaster moves you’ll have to make as you get back on your feet.â€
Some of the items you’ll pack into your emergency preparedness kit have expiration dates. This is another important part of being prepared: making sure your kit and the supplies inside are adequate and effective. Also, make sure to store your kit in a cool, dry place to preserve its supplies (particularly the food).
Revisit your kit on a regular basis to check for expired supplies and replace them accordingly. Evaluate how well it addresses you and your family’s current needs on a yearly basis, and make adjustments to the contents if necessary.
Disasters are unpredictable, but you can be prepared for when they strike. Build a kit and maintain it to ensure you and those around you can respond.
About the author: Mark Demski, CEM, NRP, has over 35 years of experience in public safety. He’s a retired member of the Baltimore County, MD, Fire Department, where he spent 8 of his 25 years as Baltimore County’s Deputy Emergency Manager. He also served as Assistant Director of Operations and EOC Manager for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
Currently, as a Customer Success Manager at Veoci, he ensures municipalities across the country know the benefits of Veoci.