Home disaster kit can be vital when seconds count

Crawford Frazer

Earthquakes in Haiti and Japan and tornadoes throughout the United States are just some of the recent natural disasters that have left thousands of people in dire circumstances.

Although you can't prevent unforeseen catastrophes, you can do your best to be prepared. A grab-and-go home disaster kit can help you and your family make a quick escape and survive the days following a disaster.

Stocking your home disaster kit

Disasters can bring extended loss of power, a lack of shelter and competition for scarce supplies. Your home disaster kit will, therefore, need to have enough provisions for at least three days, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA) and 72hours.org a website operated by San Francisco County). According to these organizations, your disaster kit should include:

  • Water. At least a gallon per person, per day for three days.
  • Food. All food should be nonperishable and ready to eat. Don't forget a can opener.
  • First aid kit. The kit should include sterile gloves, bandages, dressings, a thermometer and prescription medications be sure to check the expiration dates).
  • Flashlight. Remember to include extra batteries.
  • Cellphone. Be sure that you have a list of all emergency contact numbers, including those of family members who will want to know that you're safe.
  • Copies of important documents. These should include your home insurance policy, banking records and health insurance cards. Be sure they're in a waterproof container.
  • Warm clothes and rain gear.
  • Blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Personal hygiene items and storage for waste like large, heavy-duty plastic bags).
  • Tools. Things like a crowbar, duct tape, an adjustable wrench, a staple gun, bungee cords, a wrench and pliers can help you build temporary shelter and shut off the utilities in your home.
  • Local maps.
  • Household bleach and an eye dropper to purify water. A mixture of nine parts water and one part bleach can be used as a disinfectant, according to FEMA.
  • Fire extinguisher.

Don't forget your pets

You also can prepare supplies for another important member of your household -- your pet. The Insurance Information Institute has some helpful tips for assembling a pet disaster kit.

  • Food and water for at least three days.
  • Leashes, harnesses and carriers.
  • Medications and medical records in a waterproof container.
  • A litter box.
  • Current photos and descriptions of pets in case you're separated).
  • The name and phone number of your veterinarian.
  • Pet insurance policy information if you have pet insurance).

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