As the months turn cold, the roads get frosty, snow and ice storms become a possibility, emergency preparedness becomes an absolute necessity. If there’s anything that 2020 has taught us, it’s that the unexpected can and WILL happen and continue to wreak havoc whether we’re ready for it or not. One thing 2020 didn’t prepare us for is the bewildering rush on toilet paper? I still don’t comprehend it. Nonetheless, preparing an emergency disaster kit is ESSENTIAL as we move forward to the winter months.
Disasters, of all sorts, can strike at any time and in any fashion. Growing up in a tiny town in North Texas bordering the Red River, the threat of a mere sneeze of a snowflake sent people literally running to the grocery store and depleting all the milk, bread, and non-perishables. Did it even end up snowing? Usually not. Occasionally an ice storm would come sweeping through and yes, those get UGLY. One actually swept through very suddenly this October when it was literally 70+ degrees the day before. North Texas weather is not to be underestimated. The ice storms layer trees and power lines in inches of ice, ultimately dragging them down wrecking cars and houses in the process and leaving thousands without power. Preparing yourself is the first step in being ready for any emergency or disaster. Not sure where to start? Let me help take the guess work out of getting yourself and/or your household prepared. Personal preparedness is easy:
1. GET A KIT. There are several sites that offer ready-made kits that can be customizable to the number of people within your family/household. These kits vary in price but are a good option if you don’t want to build one yourself. Some of the sites I’ve seen:
2. MAKE A PLAN. The most important thing is to HAVE A PLAN. Whether it’s a fire, a tornado, or a UFO that fell out of the sky we only thought possible in a DC/Marvel movie – make a plan and then make sure EVERYONE knows what that plan is. Have a meeting place in case you get separated. Simply fill it out, save, and print a copy for each person who you consider to be part of your emergency plan.
It’s that easy to become more prepared. Below is my list of essentials I include in my own emergency preparedness kit. Keep in mind my kit is ENORMOUS (part of being a nurse practitioner and an anxious planner). Your kit does NOT have to be this inclusive and can be whittled down to the essentials. This is merely how I prepare and I hope it helps you decide what you WANT to include in yours.
Emergency Disaster Kit Essentials
First Aid Supplies
Disasters unfortunately equate to the possible of physical injuries small and large. This probably takes up the most of the room in my kit – call it nature of my profession. I keep supplies that allow treatment of minor injuries, lessen the severity of larger injuries and prevent infection (super important when transportation to a hospital might be compromised). A standard and effective first aid kit (they’re not all created equal so keep this in mind) will include items such as an array of adhesive bandages and sterile pads, trauma scissors, needles, tweezers, as well as basic antiseptic, alcohol wipes, and latex gloves.
You also want preventatives for fever, allergic reactions and even diarrhea/stomach upset. Stock a thermometer, aspirin ( 81mg chewable baby aspirin in case of a suspected heart attack), ibuprofen/Advil, acetaminophen/Tylenol, diphenhydramine/Benadryl, loperimide/Immodium, chewable Pepto Bismol, over the counter antacids omeprazole (Prilosec) or famotidine (Pepcid), cough drops/throat spray, creams like plus triple antibiotic ointments, hydrocortisone creams, and sprays such as burn ointment, calamine lotion, antibiotic cream, and antihistamine spray. You also want iodine, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and bottles of saline spray wash.
In case the emergency or disaster exposes one’s family to steady sunlight or biting insects, the kit should also include bug spray, sunscreen and aloe vera. Also keep in mind, if a family member takes medications, a spare supply should be kept in the kit (especially things like cardiac medications, psychiatric medications, and anything for asthma). All items should be routinely replaced and checked yearly. If a family member wears glasses or contacts, a backup pair with solution is a good idea. An old pair of glasses is better than no pair at all.
I keep a box of tongue depressors (wood sticks) and wide bandage wraps in case you need a make shift splint. Superglue and quick clot are worth keeping around for cuts and open wounds that need closure.
I also stock a 2 valve CPR mask, an ambu-bag, oral airways, a manual blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter and stethoscope. If you’re unsure how to use this equipment, I BEG OF YOU to take a local CPR class. The American Red Cross has online classes with in-person skill check offs. Your local fire department is also a great source to call and find out your options.
This is an extreme measure but something I hope to one day add – an AED. They’re extremely expensive but if someone collapses in your home or local surroundings with a suspected heart attack, this can save their life!
Other than injury and illness preparation, you want a good amount of standard every day survival supplies. These include things that are important for comfort and safety. At minimum, you want at least one pack of AA, AAA, and 1.5 volt batteries. You want a couple of flashlights/high beam lanterns and a battery-operated/solar/hand crank radio. I found one that also charges your phone! You also want a whistle that can be used to catch the attention of emergency responders. Although cell towers may be down or overloaded during a disaster, keep an extra phone charger in the survival kit in the event that the phone can be used for calls. You also want a portable power bank (external battery) for your cell phone. Cell phones are also a way to take pictures and video recordings of one’s property or events that are taking place.
Be sure to pack blankets, plastic sheeting, duct tape, plastic ponchos and/or an umbrella, and protective masks and gloves. Consider a tent or tarp and a sleeping bag. Absolutely make sure to pack matches, lighters, garbage bags, extra clothing, and money in the form of dollar bills and coins. Also consider moist towelettes, plastic bags, ties, and buckets for human waste. Wrenches and pliers are handy to turn off utilities that pose threats. Basic toiletries like SOAP, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, kleenex, and/or a pack of gum or mints may seem silly but might help with personal comfort in a time of uncertainty. These all come in small travel sizes. I also stock a box of Thermacare heat packs, immediate acting hot and cold packs for environmental exposures, as well as feminine hygiene products.
Be sure to keep PLENTY of extra water and food. A person can survive roughly three days without water and three weeks without food. Ideally you want at least a gallon of water per person for three days and a three day supply of non-perishable food per person. Protein bars last forever and make great additions to your kit. I keep water purification tabs as well as a mini water filter. A small pack of paper/plastic utensils, cups, and plates are helpful. This is an extra option but a small fire extinguisher is never a bad idea. DO NOT FORGET A MANUAL CAN OPENER AND/OR A UTILITY KNIFE!
A change of clothes, socks, sturdy shoes and underwear is also a good idea if possible. FYI: If a young infant is in the family you’ll want extra diapers, diaper rash cream, wipes, formula/food.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR PETS!!! My pets ARE my family and I refuse to ever leave them behind. Thinking about their fear if left behind absolutely kills me so you better believe I plan for them, too. A leash and extra food/kibble is a must!
This is also extremely important and often missed: keep a folder of important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container. Add a pen and pad of paper.
And if 2020 has taught us anything… its the value of TOILET PAPER. Don’t forget the blessed toilet paper!
Other items in my kit:
Considerations for your Car:
My mom is a worrier, hence I am too. To this day she will still want me to call her when I’m driving somewhere, even if it’s just a two hour drive from here to their house or back. She is always worried I’ll break down (especially) during the vary infrequent winter episodes. Because of her, I always keep these things in my car in case I break down in the cold (keep heat sources), something to protect myself, extra batteries for my phone, some cold packs in case it’s in the blistering summer, etc. I also ALWAYS keep some bottled waters in the car – I tend to hand them out when I see a homeless person on the corner, as well as protein bars. I also now keep tissues, gloves, masks, a change of clothes (seizures and peeing yourself in public, not fun), some wipes and vomit bags. You honestly never know when you’ll need them.
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