From hurricanes to earthquakes and wildfires, natural disasters can be frightening. While these emergencies come in many forms and may require anything from a brief absence to permanent evacuation, there’s one thing you can do to ensure your safety — prepare.
If you’re forced to leave your home, you may have less than a minute to get out. Having an emergency evacuation kit packed and ready to go could mean the difference between your wellbeing and hardship.
“You can’t control disasters, but you can control how prepared you are for them,” said Rafael Lemaitre, director of public affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “The outlook for the coming Atlantic hurricane season, for example, looks to be quieter than normal, but all it takes is one to affect you and your community. It only takes one disaster to change your entire life, so it makes sense to prepare.”
What you’ll need
Beyond stocking up on nonperishable food, water, flashlights and clothing, you need to collect important documents to include in your evacuation kit.
Your kit should include:
- Cash: In small bills. If the power is out, you won’t be able to make withdrawals from an ATM.
- Identification: Copies of your driver’s licenses, Social Security card, birth certificate and marriage records.
- Insurance: Copies of home, auto and health policy information.
- Banking: Savings and checking account numbers.
- First-aid kit: The American Red Cross recommends bandages in various sizes, gauze pads, adhesive cloth tape, antiseptic wipe packets, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone ointment, an oral thermometer, non-latex gloves, scissors, tweezers and aspirin.
- Medication: Keep at least a seven-day supply of essential medications in your evacuation kit and determine how often you should replace stored medication. Have extra copies of prescriptions or leave a copy of your prescriptions on hold with a national pharmacy chain or with a relative who lives some distance away.
- Legal: Copies of wills or power-of-attorney documents.
- Contact information: Doctors, family members, friends and work contacts, among others.
- Connectivity: An extra cellphone charger or portable charging unit for your phone. Solar and wind-up chargers are available, while others use small batteries.
- Navigation: A map of your city or region that includes street names and public transportation information. Disasters often force detours and changing traffic patterns; a map will help keep you from getting lost.
Pulling it all together
Use a large water-resistant backpack or duffel bag to hold your emergency kit. Look for bags with padded shoulder straps and waist straps to help distribute weight and make it easier to carry long distances. Experts suggest keeping documents inside a waterproof container in your evacuation backpack or duffle.
Store your emergency supplies in a safe place where you can grab them easily.
“Studies have proven that the more prepared people are, the less anxious they are and the more quickly they recover from disaster,” said FEMA’s Lemaitre. “It only takes a few minutes a couple times a year to make sure your family’s evacuation kit is up to date, but it’s an important investment to make for you, your family and your children.”
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