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Do you have information on what to store in a disaster supply kit?

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We have recently seen that disasters can strike anywhere, at any time of the year, swiftly and without warning. Most people don't think of a disaster until it is too late; then they suddenly realize how unprepared they are. Local officials can be overwhelmed, and emergency response personnel may not be able to reach those who need help right away. Those who are prepared can reduce the fear, confusion and losses that come with disaster. They can be ready to evacuate their homes, know what to expect in public shelters and know how to provide basic first aid. One of the first steps toward preparedness is the creation of a family disaster supply kit. This will help families get through the first days after a disaster. The development of a kit will make a stay in a public shelter more comfortable, should it become necessary. Kits should be stored in a convenient place known to all family members, and items should be stored in airtight bags or containers. The kit should be replenished twice a year and should include six basic items:

Water. Store in clean plastic containers. Recycled plastic soda bottles with tight fitting screw-on caps work well. Be sure they are thoroughly washed and rinsed. Store 1 gallon per day per family member (2 quarts for drinking, 2 quarts for food preparation/sanitation). Children, nursing mothers and those who are ill will need more. A three-day supply of water should be stored for every family member.

Food. Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable foods. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. If you must heat food, pack a few cans of Sterno. These fuel canisters burn for approximately two hours for a can size of 3-3/8 inch diameter. Make sure you rotate the stored foods into your regular diet to keep the supply fresh. Include the following items in your kit: ready-to-eat canned meats; fruits and vegetables; canned juices, milk and soup (if powdered); extra water for cooking; staples such as sugar, salt and pepper; high energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix; vitamins, infant food and food for special diets; comfort/stress foods such as cookies, hard candy, instant coffee and tea bags. Depending on your diet, you may want additional items.

First aid kit. Assemble a first aid kit for the home and one for each vehicle. An approved American Red Cross kit may be purchased, or a kit may be assembled with the following items: sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes, 2-inch and 4-inch sterile gauze pads (four to six of each), hypoallergenic adhesive tape, triangular bandages (three), 2-inch and 3-inch sterile roller bandages (three rolls each), scissors, tweezers, needles, moistened towelettes, antiseptic, a thermometer, tongue depressors (two), sunscreen, a tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant, assorted sizes of safety pins, cleansing agent/soap, latex gloves (two pairs), non-prescription drugs, aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, syrup of Ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center), laxatives and activated charcoal (use if advised by the Poison Control Center).

Tools and supplies. Various tools and supplies may be needed for temporary repairs or personal needs. Include these items in your disaster supply kit: battery operated radio and extra batteries, flashlight and extra batteries, non-electric can opener, utility knife, map of the area (for locating shelters), cash or traveler's checks, change, credit cards, fire extinguisher (small canister ABC type), tube tent, pliers, tape, compass, matches in waterproof container, aluminum foil, plastic storage containers, signal flare, paper and pencil, needles and thread, medicine dropper, shut-off wrench to turn off household gas and water, whistle, plastic sheeting, mess kits or paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, emergency preparedness manual, toilet paper, soap, liquid detergent, feminine hygiene supplies, personal hygiene items, plastic garbage bags with ties, plastic bucket with tight lid, disinfectant and household chlorine bleach.

Clothing and bedding. Your disaster supply kit should include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person. Items to include are: sturdy shoes or work boots, rain gear, blankets or sleeping bags, hat and gloves, thermal underwear and sunglasses.

Special Items. Family members often have special needs, and you may want to include additional items in your kit. For babies: formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk and medications. For adults: heart and high blood pressure medication, insulin, prescription drugs, denture needs, contact lenses and supplies and an extra pair of eye glasses. Entertainment: games and books. Important family documents (keep these in a waterproof, portable container): wills, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds, passports, social security cards, immunization records, bank account numbers, credit card account numbers and companies, inventory of valuable goods, important telephone numbers and family records (birth, marriage, death certificates). Also include extra sets of home and car keys and a cell phone. Next week’s column: A 4-step family preparedness plan.

Posted on 7 Feb 2005

Leona Hawks
Extension Housing Specialist

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