The top 15 items to pack for a disaster and why you’ll be glad you brought them.
By Ashleigh Schmitz Morley
For coastal residents, hurricane season means one thing: constantly checking radar for storms. When disaster strikes, you want to be ready. Government agencies and the Natural Resources Defense Council recommend having a “go” bag ready so that at a moment’s notice you can throw it in the car and hit the evacuation routes.
Whether you choose to keep this bag prepped and ready to go at a moment’s notice or plan to pack it up at the sign of a storm watch, make sure your “go” back is stocked with these disaster essentials. Here are some of the most important items to keep in your bag, according to the NRDC.
- Water-Proof Bag – Your bag should be large enough to fit all of these essentials and durable enough that it can weather a storm — literally. Look for a large duffel bag that is water proof and has pockets for organizing all of the little details you don’t want to be without when you need to hit the road.
- Important Documents – Come rain or shine, you definitely don’t want your important documents (think: birth certificates, passports and the like) to be lost, or worse, destroyed. Keep them protected by making sure they’re always together and in a flame- and water-proof container.
- Evacuation Routes – It’s important to make sure you have an evacuation plan the whole family is aware of, and that it is clearly marked on some maps kept safely inside your “go” bag.
- Cell Phones – If your family gets separated or is split up between multiple vehicles, having cell phones will make keeping track of each other easy. In your “go” bag, store extra chargers so you don’t have to worry about losing juice in the middle of a call or trying to send a text message.
- Petty Cash – Should the power go out all across town and card-readers stop working, you want to have between $50 and $100 in small bills at the ready. Keep the cash in a labeled envelope so you can access it easily.
- Keys – The last thing you want to be doing when you’re fleeing a storm is hunting for your spare keys. Keep an extra set of car and house keys in your “go” bag so you don’t run around the house in full panic.
- Food and Water – Hopefully you won’t go long periods of time without access to food and water, but it’s better to be prepared than to not have it when you need it. Pack several bottles of water (a general guideline is two gallons per person per day you expect to be gone) as well as non-perishable foods like granola bars.
- Pet Food and Bowls – Just as you should plan to have food and water for your family members, don’t forget to pack provisions for your pets!
- First-Aid Kit – Including a first-aid kit in your “go” bag almost goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: pack a first-aid kit and don’t forget to have extra medication for anyone in your family that requires it. And while you’re at it, the first-aid kit is a good place to keep a list of all family medications (including dosage) and the reason for taking it, just in case you have a medical emergency and need to tell a doctor.
- Toiletries – If you’re going to be spending a few days together as a family in the same vehicle, deodorant is a must. Be sure your bag is prepped with personal hygiene supplies for everyone.
- Battery-Powered Radio – In the age of smartphones and tablets, a battery-powered radio may seem archaic, but it’s still on many “go” bag lists as a must-have item (along with extra batteries!), including this one from the NRDC.
- Flashlight – When the power goes out and it’s dark out, you’ll be reaching for a flashlight. With advancements in light bulb technology, go for an LED bulb, which lasts longer than traditional lights.
- Can Opener – Since canned foods don’t need refrigeration, they’re often a go-to for food in emergency situations. Don’t be caught without a means to open them — be equipped with a hand crank can opener (you’ll be glad you packed it when the electricity goes out on your electric can opener).
- Fresh Clothes – Should you be evacuated for several days, you’ll want a fresh set of clothes to change into. Have a set packed for each member of the family; they’ll come in handy should you need them.
- Medication – Pack at least a seven-day supply of any necessary medications when you evacuate, the Red Cross recommends. If your pets take medication, be sure to include some in your “go” bag as well.
First published September 30, 2016 on weather.com
Note from the Editor:
Aside from the above items, FEMA also suggests considering adding the following to your emergency supply kit:
- Prescription glasses
- Infant formula and diapers
- Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
- Fire Extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
- Extra batteries for your radio and flashlight
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and 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
You can find more information about what to do before, during and after a hurricane on FEMA’s Hurricane Preparedness Website.