There are countless scenarios that can disrupt the utilities and resources that we rely on daily. Power outages, water main breaks, and supply shortages at the grocery store can all have a serious impact on our lives. Gathering supplies ahead of time can ensure you are prepared for many different emergencies.
Think back to the disastrous flooding our state experienced with the 100-year flood. Even if you were fortunate enough to avoid damage to your home, many lost power and either had no running water or were placed under a boil water advisory. Many roads were impassable and some stores sold out of the basics quickly.
Or how about when the forecast threatens a few flurries and suddenly the shelves are empty because everyone starts craving milk and bread sandwiches? Having extra supplies on hand can even lessen the blow of a sudden bout with the flu or stomach bug.
Here’s what you need to have in your emergency kit:
FEMA recommends storing a minimum of one gallon of water per person, per day for three days. That is a good starting point, but try to work up to at least a two week supply. This water will be used for drinking, cooking, hygiene and possibly even toilet flushing.
You may need to get creative if you are short on storage space. It should be kept in a cool, dark place so closets and under beds work well (bonus: kids can’t shove everything under the bed anymore when it’s time to clean up!)
It’s also a good idea to include a water filtration device in your kit, such as a LifeStraw, in the event you are forced to evacuate from your home.
Your emergency preparations should include a minimum three-day supply of non-perishable food, but again aim to work your way up to two weeks.
Canned and ready-to-eat foods are most convenient. Be sure to choose foods that your family will actually eat. Emergencies can be stressful, and it may not be the best way to spring Spam on your kids for the first time. Many people stock up on soup, beans and veggies, but don’t forget about canned fruit. It packs more calories per serving and is a lot more palatable on its own.
Dehydrated foods are another good option and have a much longer shelf life, but you’ll need to take into account the additional water needed to prepare them. Storing juices and shelf stable milk will provide nutrients and hydration without tapping into your water storage. You can purchase cartons of shelf stable milk at the Dollar Tree (these have saved me countless last minute trips to the grocery store even in non-emergency situations!)
Be sure to keep up with expiration dates and rotate your supply accordingly. You’ll also want to have a manual can opener along with a supply of disposable plates and utensils.
You’ll need to have a First Aid Kit on hand, as well as a minimum three-day supply for any prescription medications. Take into consideration any special needs you or your family may have in this area. If you have a baby, keep an extra supply of diapers, wipes and formula, if needed.
I like to keep a backup supply of common over-the-counter medications for children and adults. Walmart carries a variety of generic medications for only 88 cents. The Dollar Tree is another great source for inexpensive medicine.
Don’t forget the Pedialyte! When your kid starts spewing vomit at 2 a.m., that constitutes an emergency in my book and you’ll be glad you prepared.
When the power goes out, you’ll of course want to have flashlights and batteries. Glow sticks are a lot of fun for kids and can actually be a decent light source. If you choose to stock matches, candles and/or oil lamps, be sure to store them out of reach of children and pets.
Battery powered or hand-crank radios and chargers for cell phones are essential for staying informed about the situation. Store extra blankets for keeping warm in the winter, and invest in spray mist bottles or cooling towels for the summer months.
Because every family is unique and will have different needs, the very best way to prepare is to do a “trial run” periodically. This can actually be a great experience for the whole family – sort of like indoor camping. My girls actually ask to pretend the power is out.
Take a day (or two if you’re brave), stay home and resolve not to use any water or electricity. Obviously, keep your refrigerator running! But just be intentional about answering the following questions:
- How much water do you actually use? Does everyone have enough to drink? Have everyone practice brushing their teeth without running water.
- How do you heat and prepare your food? What do you do with the leftovers? And most importantly, how do you make coffee??
- Do you have enough lighting when the sun goes down?
- What do the kids do for entertainment? Are they falling apart without any screen time?
Make note of any other issues that come up and adjust your emergency plan accordingly. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s a great place to start in preparing your family for whatever might come your way.
For additional resources, check out these websites:
Basic Disaster Supplies Kit Checklist
National Preparedness Month – The Power of Preparedness
The Survival Mom – Preparedness Baby Steps