Preparing for a Disaster

Our guide will help keep your family safe in any kind of emergency.

Emergency Supply Kit

In our increasingly insecure world, it's more important than ever to be ready for a large-scale emergency or catastrophe, whether it's a natural disaster or a biological attack. The best way to protect your family is to stay prepared. Here's how.

Emergency Supply Kit

Store and protect essentials in a waterproof box so they're on hand if you need them.

    • Buy gallon jugs of water, or store tap water in sturdy plastic containers that have tight screw lids, such as two-liter soda bottles. Keep at least three gallons on hand for each family member.
    • Flashlights
    • Radio or television (battery-operated)
    • Duct tape
    • Batteries
    • First-aid kit (include gauze pads, scissors, tweezers, thermometer, acetaminophen)
    • A week's supply of any prescription taken by any member of the family
    • Toilet paper, personal-hygiene items, and garbage bags
    • Cash or travelers' checks and a credit card
    • One change of clothing per person
    • Blankets and a sleeping bag for each person
    • Games, books, or toys to occupy the kids
    • Matches in a waterproof container
    • A tool kit
    • A whistle and a set of car keys

      Plan Ahead

      Follow these steps when making an emergency plan for your family.

        Pick two meeting spots: one right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire; and another outside your neighborhood -- in the event you are evacuated from your home. Children should know the address and phone number of the remote location.

        Select someone out of state as your emergency contact. It's often easier to make long-distance calls than local ones in times of high call volume. Consider purchasing a cell phone if you don't own one.

        Discuss and frequently review evacuation procedures. Keep instructions simple. The more you get kids involved in planning, the more prepared and less afraid they'll be during an emergency.

          Protecting Your Family and Home

          Important Papers

          Keep these documents in a waterproof, portable container.

          • Wills, insurance policies, contract deeds, stocks, and bonds
          • Passports or ID cards, Social Security cards, immunization records
          • Bank and credit-card account numbers
          • Family records, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates

            Safeguarding Your Home

            • Make sure you have adequate homeowners' or renters' insurance. Consider special coverage if you live in areas subject to natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
            • Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home, and change the batteries twice a year.
            • Make sure items that could fall during an earthquake, like mirrors and shelves, are anchored to the wall.
            • If a hurricane is forecast for your area, move expensive electronics upstairs and away from windows; bring in outdoor objects that might fly around, such as lawn furniture and trash cans; and cover windows with plywood or shutters.

              Car 911

              Be prepared for any kind of emergency on the road by stocking your car with the following:

                • First-aid kit
                • Jumper cables
                • Flashlight (and batteries)
                • Road flares or reflectors
                • Gloves
                • Paper towels
                • Fire extinguisher
                • Pocketknife
                • Lighter or matches
                • Candle
                • Blanket
                • Small tool kit
                • Water and snacks
                • Emergency fuel additive

                  Keep Your Baby Safe

                  Pregnant women and new moms should stockpile basics for an emergency birth or for infant care, including:

                    • Soap and water
                    • Sanitary gloves
                    • Trash bags
                    • String, scissors, knife
                    • Blankets, pillows, towels, sheets
                    • Formula and bottles
                    • Medications
                    • Diapers for at least three days
                    • Bulb syringe to clean Baby's nose

                      Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the March 2002 issue of Parents magazine.