The last thing anyone wants to plan for is a major emergency like a hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake.
But these disasters are a fact of life. If you're not prepared for one, it could pose a serious risk to you and your family.
Being ready for an emergency situation means having an emergency kit stocked with supplies that will last through a temporary evacuation or an extended power outage.
You may be ordered to leave home in the middle of the night, with no idea when it will be safe to return.
So if your home doesn't already have one of these kits, start gathering supplies. You don't want to be caught off guard when your family is depending on you.
Building An Emergency Kit
You will likely have a short time to pack essentials like clothes before evacuating.
But having a Go Bag stocked with essentials and ready to take at a moment's notice is critical.
Here are things you should have prepared ahead of time in your Go Bag:
- Water for three days (one gallon per person per day) or a water filter.
- Food for three days.
- A can opener for canned food.
- Paper plates and utensils.
- Emergency cash or traveler's checks.
- A whistle.
- Chargers for cell phones and laptops.
- Toiletries (toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, feminine products).
- First Aid kit.
- A sleeping bag or blaket and pillow for each person in your family.
- Extra batteries.
- An AM/FM radio (battery-powered or hand-cranked is best) or a NOAA weather radio.
- Plastic bags.
- Duct tape.
- Dust masks.
- Moist towelettes.
- Garbage bags and plastic ties.
- Local maps.
- Paper and pencil.
- A list of personal contacts (in case your phone is out).
- A fire extinguisher.
Here are items you don't need to pack away, but should bring with you during an emergency evacuation:
- IDs (including your driver's license and passport).
- Keys to your home and vehicles.
- Proof of address if your ID does not include it (you will need this to re-enter your neighborhood after the disaster).
- Prescription medicines and emergency medicines like an EpiPen or inhaler.
- Glasses or contact lenses (with extra solution).
- Items for your baby (diapers, food, etc).
- Sturdy and comfortable shoes.
- Long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
- Extra socks and underwear.
- Supplies for your pet, including three days worth of food, an medication, leashes, a bowl, and carriers.
Other Things To Consider During An Emergency Evacuation
Some emergencies provide hours or days of warning, while others strike suddenly.
For this reason, you should practice your emergency plan with your family members ahead of time.
Make sure they know where to go, how to find you if you are separated, and what they are responsible for during the evacuation.
Finding a waterproof container to store your important documents (including birth certificates, Social Security cards, wills, legal and financial documents, and photos of your home for insurance claims) is a smart idea.
But scanning and uploading your documents as digital files can be even safer.
As you prepare to leave your home, take a look at your yard.
Weak branches, or diseased shrubs and trees, can do a lot of damage to your home in an emergency. But it could be too late to get rid of them.
But smaller objects in your yard - trash cans, wind chimes, birdhouses - are also known for damaging walls and windows. So store them indoors.
In watery emergencies like floods or hurricane, moving important objects upstairs can protect them from damage.
Shutting off electricity, gas, and water to your home during an evacuation can protect your property. But you may need special tools and knowledge to do the job right. FEMA has more information.
If you live in an area prone to flooding, keeping sandbags or the material to build them handy is a smart idea.
The rule of thumb is that 100 sandbags will build a 20-foot wall that's one foot tall. It should take two adults an hour of work to build it.
Finally, follow any and all evacuation orders. You can face a fine or jail sentence for defying them, but more importantly you could put your life at risk.
Wait until the are around your home is declared safe before going back.
And here's one last tip: don't spark a lighter or burn a candle in your home until after returning, until you're sure there's no gas leak. It's a surprisingly common mistake.