As you watch the news coverage detailing the devastation left behind by hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and more, it's impossible to not feel your heart break for everyone affected by the disaster while also wondering, What would I do if it happened to me? How would I keep my family safe? Experts say that natural disasters, like hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and volcanic eruptions are unpredictable, which means you have to be prepared and know what to keep in your house to be ready for any disaster. The truth is, this type of devastation can happen anywhere to anyone and being ready for a possible evacuation or days in your home without water or power is key.
"Widespread natural disasters almost always cause supply chain interruptions,” Roman Zrazhevskiy, founder and CEO of Ready To Go Survival, tells Romper in an email interview. “Basic necessities such as food and water either become largely unavailable, or very expensive considering the spike in demand."
Most of all, Zrazhevskiy says, people should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice, preparing what he calls “a bug out bag,” or a long-term survival kit with the sole purpose of getting you out of danger as quickly and safely as possible.
Consider the following items as you put together a disaster preparedness kit:
1. Food & Water
"For a major [natural disaster], you should have 14 days worth of provisions on hand for each person in your group. That means 2000 calories and one gallon of water per person, per day," Zrazhevskiy says. It's important to also have on hand a minimum 3-day supply of food and water for each of your pets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each cat or dog will generally need one gallon of water per three days.
2. A Battery- or Crank-Operated Radio
Natural disasters also mean widespread power outages, which might lead to an inability to use your phone, television, and other devices that would otherwise keep you aware of related breaking news.
3. A Battery- Or Crank-Operated Flashlight
The possible shortage of power also means you will want to keep a flashlight on hand. Edward Colson, principal owner of Portland-based Ready Northwest, LLC, tells Romper in an email interview that light/glow sticks are also great to keep around the home. "They are relatively inexpensive and usually good for 12 hours. They can light hallways, stairs, bathrooms, etc. for when the power goes out."
4. A First-Aid Kit
Bandages, gauze, and antibiotic ointments might, unfortunately, all be necessary when navigating a natural disaster. Consider putting some kid-specific ones in the kit in the event your little one gets a boo-boo and needs something to make them smile.
5. Individual Emergency Blankets
Regular sleeping bags or blankets will work just fine, but mylar blankets might be your best option in terms of not taking up too much storage space. "Mylar thermal blankets or bags are windproof, waterproof and capable of reflecting more than 90 percent of your body heat,” Rik Paul, an editor at The Wirecutter, noted in The New York Times.
6. Extra Charging Cords, Batteries, & A Battery Pack
In the event of an emergency, you will want to be sure you have access to your phone and other devices, so an extra set of chargers is a solid investment for your disaster preparedness kit. Batteries and a battery pack will come in handy in the event there is a power outage and you need to rely on flashlights or a radio.
7. Diapers & Formula
If parenting has taught you anything, it's that kids don't stop pooping or wanting their next meal — a natural disaster won't change that. Be sure to stash diapers, formula, an extra bottle or two, and a few of your kids' favorite, non-perishable snacks in your kit.
8. Toilet Paper & Baby Wipes
Similar to the aforementioned diapers, toilet paper and baby wipes are necessities for the same reason — you and your family will still need to take care of business.
9. A Form Of Shelter Or Tarp
While it is best to shelter outside of a hazard, there are some circumstances when it's simply best to stay where you are, also known as “sheltering in place," according to Ready, the disaster preparedness site for the Department of Homeland Security. Colson, who holds an emergency management degree, says this may require using a tarp or plastic sheeting to seal windows or parts of the home that "may be broken in the course of a disaster."
10. Hand Sanitizer & Moist Towelettes
Hygiene is especially important in an emergency such as a flood, hurricane, or earthquake, but finding clean, safe running water can sometimes be difficult, according to the CDC. Hand sanitizer and moist towelettes will prove useful when working to prevent the spread of illness and disease during a disaster.
11. Prescribed & Over-The-Counter Medications
The CDC recommends a minimum three-day supply of all medicines, especially those that are life preserving. Children's Tylenol and other basic over-the-counter medications, like antacids and Ibuprofen, are also important to have on hand.
12. A Raft
"If you live near a coastal area that's prone to flooding during hurricanes, get a raft and make sure it's inflated before the storm hits," Zrazhevskiy says. "Water rescues are a major reason first responder resources were strained after Hurricane Harvey. If you have a raft, you can wait for the storm to end, save yourself, and then move on to help your neighbors."
13. An Emergency Whistle
In the event your cellphone cannot get service and/or the battery is drained, an old fashioned whistle will come in handy for locating rescue crews and other people affected by the hazardous conditions, according to The New York Times.
14. Games & Activities
Keeping some items on hand that will keep your child busy can help establish a sense of normalcy, which is especially important in the face of disaster. "If you have lunch time, nap time, or read stories before bed, resume those activities as quickly as you can to bring stability to their days," Colson says.
15. Copies Of Important Papers
"In case your home is flooded or burned down, copies of important documents and papers help when homeowners and individuals apply for aid," Colson says. "Copies can be scanned and then placed on a flash/hard drive that is password protected." This includes vehicle titles, a deed to your home, insurance policy information, drivers licenses, passports, and bank account details.
16. Family & Individual Photos
Another thing you may want to stash on a flash or hard drive? Family photos. Place copies of your most valuable ones on the drive and if you have irreplaceable hard copies of photos, then consider also scanning and placing them onto the drive.
“All of these items can be placed in a 5-gallon bucket and stored with a toilet style lid, which the bucket can then be used as a toilet if needed,” says Colson.