If time has taught us anything, it's hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The list of possible worst case scenarios now includes Covid-19 and other infectious diseases in addition to the floods, hurricanes, and wildfires that may already be on your radar, depending on where you live.
Keep the kit in a closet or somewhere near an exit door and have another one in your car, Vogel advises.
Here's what experts recommend packing if you need to stay at home or if you need to leave in a hurry:
A communication plan
Sometimes we know that a disaster is on its way but often there's no warning at all. Make sure you have a communication plan in place for either scenario and one that takes into account the different times disasters can occur. You and your family could be at school or work or sleeping when disaster strikes.
"What is your plan to meet up, to reconnect with folks?
Have a list of phone numbers in the kit. You should also include an actual place (perhaps a relative's place) where people can gather should cell phones become unavailable.
Finally, make sure everyone in your family, including and especially any kids, are familiar with the plan
You need to store some water, but how much? It depends on the disaster as well as where you are geographically and your health status.
"Covid-19 is not going to impact your ability to walk to the sink and turn on the faucet," says Tornetta. A hurricane, on the other hand, very well might.
The general rule of thumb is one gallon of water per person (and per pet) per day, aiming for a total three days' supply, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That said, children, mothers who are nursing, people who are sick, and people in warmer climates may need more, according to the Department of Homeland Security's ready.gov. The NCDP has a Preparedness Wizard that will help you calculate how much water, and other items, you may need. (Here are the signs and symptoms of dehydration.)
As with water, experts recommend that you have enough non-perishable food on hand for people and pets to last at least three days, quite possibly more, says Schlegelmilch, who is co-author of the forthcoming book Rethinking Readiness.
Focus on nonperishable items like dry goods and canned goods but some frozen products are also OK. "Even if you lose power, you've got a few days before they start to spoil." "A combination of frozen and nonperishable is fine."
As for what kind of food, items that are protein-packed and can be prepared without electricity, such as tuna, peanut butter, or granola bars. If you or anyone in your family has special dietary needs, make sure you take those into account.
And oh yes, don't forget to have a non-electric can opener or choose cans that have pop-tops.
First aid kit
It's important not only to have a well-stocked first aid kit, but the knowledge to effectively use each item in that kit as well, if you aren't sure, get ready-made first aid kits," From American Red Cross. The organization also has a series of apps that can help you build an emergency kit and more. (Here are first aid tricks from ER doctors.)
Also make sure to include contact lens solution, if you wear contact lenses, and asthma inhalers, according to a disaster supplies checklist from the Department of Homeland Security. Also include personal hygiene products and over-the-counter and prescription medications (a seven-day supply, says Tornetta). These days, it would be a good idea to include hand sanitizer, gloves, and face masks, as well.
The American College of Emergency Physicians recommends keeping the kit in a clear, waterproof, plastic container and putting it in a visible place.
Simple or complex, multipurpose tools can be lifesavers. "Your multipurpose tool should be able to do what other widely used tools—like a screwdriver, pair of pliers, or scissors—can do," And definitely a can opener, if you haven't invested in pop-top cans. (You might also want to invest in these health gadgets that could save your life.)
Your car should also have its own emergency tool kit which includes water and high-energy non-perishable food but also an inflated spare tire, the jack and wheel wrench, jumper cables, reflective triangles and brightly colored cloth. If the weather's cold, add a snow brush, shovel, blankets, and windshield washer fluid.
Covid-19 isn't likely to affect ATMs or credit-card machines, but hurricanes and other natural disasters could put them out of commission.
"The digital systems work pretty well but after Katrina there were prolonged power outages." "You may be in a situation where credit-card machines [and ATMs] are down."
That means you may have to rely on good old hard cash during an emergency.
"Not everybody has enough money to do this but if you're able to set aside a few dollars, it's definitely a good thing,"
Ready.gov recommends having small bills available so you can buy fuel and food.
"Fill up early and fill up often," Hart says. "With Hurricane Irma, we had advance notice—it's important to think, 'What do I need to do to start preparing right now?' Even if you don't know where the hurricane's going, as soon as it's a possibility for you in your area, think about things like gas. Your presence of mind when a catastrophe is far away is much clearer than your presence of mind when you're in the throes of that catastrophe."
Schlegelmilch recommends having your tank at least half full at all times.
And while having extra gas cans may be tempting, bear in mind that this can be a fire hazard,
A change of clothes
Or two or three. It's important to have the right kind and amount of clothes you'll need in any given situation.
"Consider protective clothes and outerwear. Think: coats, windbreakers, ponchos, rain jackets," She also notes the importance of items that will wear well across all climates—so anything versatile, durable, and comfortable—is a universally safe choice. "Follow the same three-day rule here, too," she says. "And, as we talked about earlier, remember to change your supply out annually. Our children grow from year to year."
Layers are an especially good idea for any warmer or colder conditions. As are socks in case you get wet.
If you're leaving really quickly, you may not have a chance to pick your ideal shoes but, if you can, take closed-toe shoes. "You might not know exactly where you're going." "If you have to be in a shelter environment or walking through areas, that's just to protect your feet from all of that. If you can only grab one pair of shoes, don't grab the flip flops."
This could be especially important in areas that have been damaged by hurricanes or tornadoes. "There's a lot of debris," says Tornetta. "We want our team to wear closed-toe shoes so there's no chance of getting a splinter or some kind of infection."
Technology isn't always reliable, especially in a disaster. That means you should have some low-tech options on hand such as a hand crank, battery-powered radio and flashlight, and extra batteries, says Vogel. Garbage bags are good not only for holding trash but also to keep things dry, and matches in a waterproof container are a good idea too.
Light plastic sheeting and duct tape can be invaluable if you have broken windows because of a hurricane or tornado.
Just in case technology does survive the storm, fire, or pandemic, keep some extra portable charging blocks on hand as well. And you should also have a car charger for your cell phone.
This is important not just during the disaster, but for rebuilding your life after. Having key legal and personal documents can go a long way towards minimizing stress once the immediate damage has passed. Make sure you know the signs that you may be suffering from serious stress.
Legal Aid recommends keeping these papers together so you can grab them in a hurry:
* Identification, be it a driver's license, passport, or another photo ID.
* Insurance documents like life insurance, flood and fire insurance as well as homeowners or rental insurance.
* Legal documents. This includes birth certificates, any child custody or adoption paper, wills, powers of attorney, and the like.
You can scan your documents or take pictures with your smart phone or make photocopies and store those in your evacuation preparedness kit, says Tornetta. "Have an extra copy of your driver's license and social security card. If you have to flee in a hurry, you may forget your ID or your wallet if they're stored in a separate place."
You can also store these documents online, or in a thumb drive.