According to FEMA, in 2015, there were 79 natural disasters in the U.S. in which 94 people lost their lives. As of June 25, 2016, there were already 43 disasters with a loss of 79 lives, including the severe weather that devastated parts of West Virginia during the fourth week in June. According to meteorologists, this latest incident is the worst flash flooding in the U.S. since 2010. Torrential rains and high water destroyed more than 100 homes, washed out scores of roads and bridges, knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes, and claimed the lives of at least 24 people in the state. If you have lived through a disaster, you know that severe thunderstorms and flooding can be just as devastating as a powerful hurricane or tornado. The same goes for mudslides—while they might not garner as much attention as major earthquakes, many people lose everything, and sometimes even their lives. Every year, severe weather wreaks havoc on peoples’ properties and lives. Most people who live in the U.S. are at risk of some type of severe weather, so it is wise to be prepared.
Experts recommend putting together an emergency kit with food, water, and other supplies that will last at least 72 hours. You may want to pack a separate 72 hour kit for every person in the household, in particular if any members have special dietary or healthcare requirements. Another key factor to take into consideration is that electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for as long as 10 days. The kit should contain essential items to help you thrive during these outages.
72 Hour Kit Checklist
- Water: The Red Cross recommends that each person store one gallon of water per day for at least three days. This amount will provide enough water for drinking, as well as limited cleaning and cooking.
- Food: Store at least three days of non-perishable, nutritious food that requires little or no water or cooking to prepare. Dehydrated or freeze-dried foods, canned goods, and meals ready to eat (MREs) are all good options. Remember to include a manual can opener or two.
- Medications: You may not have access to a pharmacy during a disaster. It is very important to pack a week’s supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications in your kit. If you have severe allergies, pack an EpiPen. Include a list of all medications, dosages, allergies, doctors’ names, and nearby hospitals.
- Radio: If you lose power, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio will help you keep apprised of local weather and emergency alerts. Pack extra batteries so you can stay informed as long as needed in the aftermath of a disaster.
- First Aid Kit: People often incur cuts, scrapes, and more serious injuries during a disaster. Pack bandages, scissors, eye drops, hydrocortisone cream, and antibacterial ointment. Set aside an extra set of eye glasses, contact lenses, a cane, hearing aid batteries, or any other personal items you may need.
- Personal Documents: If you are displaced, it is important to have important records readily available. Copies of your photo ID, passport, birth certificate, and insurance policies should be included in your kit.
- Contact Info: Keep a list of phone numbers and addresses for family and close friends. Also include your long distance emergency contact list. It may be easier to get in touch with out-of-town relatives than making local calls due to localized devastation.
- Map: In the aftermath of a disaster, roads may be closed and traveling out of the affected area may be impossible. It is important to find out where local shelters exist and familiarize yourself with alternate routes to and from your home. Highlight the surrounding areas and evacuation routes on a map and pack it in your kit. A GPS in your car (perhaps it has one built in) and a GPS app on your smartphone can also be navigation lifesavers.
- Money: Do not count on your bank to be open or ATMs to function for several days after a disaster. Keep small bills and change on hand to buy necessary supplies.
- Clothing: Keep an extra set of clothes and sturdy shoes in your preparedness kit to ensure you are equipped to evacuate if necessary. If you live in a climate with seasonal changes, it is a good idea to pack two sets of clothing—for warm and cold weather.
- Tools: A flashlight with extra batteries is a must have. Other key tools include a multi-purpose tool, Swiss Army knife, hammer, small saw, dust masks to protect against contaminated air, plastic sheeting/tarp, duct tape, candles, matches, disposable lighters, and garbage bags with plastic ties. It is also advised that you pack an adjustable wrench or pliers in case you need to turn off the gas before evacuating.
- Pet Supplies: Essentials include food and water bowls, litter, newspapers, scoop, small garbage bags, medications, flea collars or sprays, flea & tick shampoo, carriers, leashes, vet health records, and vaccination documents. Consider packing a few photos of your pets—should they get lost, the pictures may help you find them and/or prove ownership.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work—it is indeed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The good news is that you can purchase ready-to-go kits. Some are stocked with all the food and water you will need for 72 hours, while other kits contain many of the other supplies on this list. You will be good to go after personalizing the kit(s), by adding the necessary key items mentioned above.