In Case of Emergency: Beyond the Basic Disaster Kit

Whenever a new hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, or tornado unleashes their furies, people vow to put together a disaster kit so they’ll be prepared should disaster strike. Good intentions aside, how many actually do it? The time to prepare is now.

Tons of advice is available as far as what to stock in your kit like food and water. Here we’ll assume you have the essentials and take a look at the less obvious choices.

Cash or Traveler’s Checks – When disasters hit, the power usually goes out rendering ATM and credit card machines useless. Try to have enough cash to cover several days of emergency expenses including gas, meals, and lodging. Small bills such as fives or tens are preferred to larger bills as making change may not be an option.

Gas – If you live in disaster-prone areas, make a habit out of filling your tank at the halfway point so you’re never left with less than a half tank. If a hurricane is approaching, fill up all of your cars’ gas tanks beforehand. Should your local gas stations get wiped out or lose the ability to pump gas, you should have enough gas to get around or evacuate the area.

A gas-powered emergency generator – Generators are useful for keeping vital systems powered up such as your refrigerator or freezer.

Copies of vital records and documents – Make copies of your insurance policy, bank accounts, emergency personal contacts and phone numbers, mortgage, income sources, financial liabilities, and other information that will be useful in an emergency. Keep these copies in your kit and update periodically. In order to qualify for emergency financial aid, you will need proof of your income and financial obligations. Renters or leasers should include copies of utility bills to establish proof of residency. A Financial First Aid Kit is available from FEMA detailing the exact documents you need to include.

Phone numbers of loved ones and a corded phone – if the power goes out, so too does the ability to use your cordless phone. Cell service may be down too. A corded phone gives you the chance to make phone calls provided the telephone lines are functional.

Hygienic items – Stock up on sanitary pads, baby wipes, diapers, and other useful hygienic supplies. Water will be in short supply, so sponge baths will be the norm for a while. Baby wipes come in handy for a quick freshening up no matter how old you are.

A camping port-a-potty – These are available at camping supply stores and give you a sanitary place to do your business for a few days.

If you have a travel trailer or motor home, keep it stocked with water, gas, propane, and emergency food and consider using it as a rolling disaster kit should it survive the disaster itself. Move your perishable food into the RV’s refrigerator where it can stay cool. Eat your steaks and drink your milk while you can before you dig into the canned goods. Invite the neighbors for a block party and enjoy your meat while you can. While disasters cause their fair share of turmoil and grief, they also bring people together.

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