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How to Create and Organize an Emergency Preparedness Kit


September is coming to a close which means the days are shorter, the weather is changing, and fall is in the air. While all of these things signal the start of a new season, there is something else that takes place in September - National Preparedness Month. No matter where you live, you are subject to disasters. Natural disasters and man-made disasters affect everyone, can cause severe damage, and endanger lives and preparation is essential for the safety of you and your family. The goal of National Preparedness Month is to promote family and community disaster and emergency planning now and throughout the year.

I’ll be honest with you though – I usually don’t pay attention to messages about emergency preparedness because I live in the DC metro area and we have pretty mild weather. Occasionally we get hit by the remnants of a hurricane, a snowstorm may pass through once in a season, or we may endure something more bizarre like the earthquake that happened in 2011. Other than that, I can’t say that we have to brace for impact – which has made me very complacent. This year, however, with all of the unique events that we have endured I’ve decided to take heed and create an emergency preparedness kit for my family…just in case. There are many types of disasters that can take place in each area of the country and throughout the world, so please take this advice as general guidance rather than anything specific and make sure that whatever precautions you take work for you.

First things first – you have to start with a plan! Let me be clear about this – ALL emergency plans that are created should have input from every member that live in the household. Everyone should be aware of what happens in an emergency and their role, so keep some of these factors in mind when creating your plan:

  • Ages and abilities of members within your household

  • Special dietary needs

  • Medical needs

  • Responsibility for assisting others with disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment

  • Cultural and religious considerations

  • Pets or service animals – many emergency or disaster shelters do not allow pets

Need a template? Click the link to get a free printable courtesy of the American Red Cross that you can fill out or use a guide to create your own plan: https://tinyurl.com/y2bk73tx


Depending on the type of emergency, you may be in a situation that limits your access to food, water and other necessities for a few days. According to FEMA, a basic emergency kit should contain these items as applicable to your situation.

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)

  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert

  • Flashlight

  • First aid kit

  • Extra batteries

  • Whistle (to signal for help)

  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)

  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)

  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)

  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)

  • Manual can opener (for food)

  • Local maps

  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

  • Cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces

  • Prescription medications

  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives

  • Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution

  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream

  • Pet food and extra water for your pet

  • Cash or traveler's checks

  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container

  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Matches in a waterproof container

  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils

  • Paper and pencil

  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Once you’ve gathered all of your items, assemble your kit by storing items in airtight plastic bags. You can put your entire supply kit in one or two containers that are easy to carry such as plastic bins or duffel bags.


After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  • Canned food should be stored in a cool, dry place.

  • Boxed food should be stored in tightly closed plastic or metal containers.

  • Replace expired items as necessary.

  • Update your kit at least twice a year. An easy way to remember is to check it at the beginning and end of Daylight Savings Time.

The pandemic, hurricanes, and wildfires are only a few of the disasters that have impacted our nation recently. All of these events remind us of the importance of preparing for emergencies and disasters. Often, we will be the first ones in our communities to take action after a disaster strikes and before first responders arrive, so it is important to prepare in advance to help yourself and your community.

Visit Ready.Gov for more information on how to make a plan, build a kit, sign up for emergency alerts and much more!

Stay safe!

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