12 ways to prepare for an emergency

Emergency Preparedness

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? Set aside a little time now to make sure you’re prepared in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.  

Plan Ahead


A well-stocked first-aid kit can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. Keep at least one first-aid kit in your home and one in your car. Whether you buy a pre-assembled kit or put one together yourself, below are some basic supplies that should be included:

  • Adhesive tape and gauze
  • Wrap bandages
  • Bandage strips and “butterfly” bandages in assorted sizes
  • Non-stick sterile bandages
  • Super glue
  • Duct tape
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Disposable gloves and masks
  • Instant cold packs
  • Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs
  • Plastic bags, assorted sizes
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Hydrogen peroxide to disinfect
  • Syringe, medicine cup, or spoon
  • First-aid manual
  • Thermometer
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Calamine lotion
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Pain relievers: Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc
  • Cough and cold medications
  • Antihistamine
  • Laxative and anti-diarrhea medications
  • Antacids 
Emergency Food and Water Supply

When putting together your emergency food supply, remember to take any dietary restrictions into account. Focus on foods you and your family members will actually eat and aim to have several days worth of nonperishable food. 

Use the following list as a starting point:

  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener
  • Protein or fruit bars
  • Dry cereal or granola
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruit
  • Canned juices
  • Nonperishable pasteurized milk
  • High-energy foods
  • Comfort/stress foods
  • Food for infants

Following a natural disaster, clean drinking water may not be available due to contamination. Prepare for that possibility by building a supply of water that will meet your needs during an emergency. Buy commercially bottled water and store it in the sealed original container in a cool, dark place. Aim to store at least one gallon of water per person per day for several days for both drinking and sanitation purposes. A normally active person needs about three quarters of a gallon of fluid daily, from water and other beverages. However, needs vary depending on age, health, physical condition, activity, diet and climate. When building your water supply consider the following:

  • Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more water
  • A medical emergency might require additional water
  • In very hot temperatures, water needs can double 

Do not drink carbonated or caffeinated beverages instead of water. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol dehydrate the body which increases the need for water. 

Natural Disasters

Familiarizing yourself with natural disasters your community is prone to and how to respond to them is a good first step. You can view and download PDFs with helpful tips for the following natural disasters:

Basic Emergency Supply Kit

Emergency response agencies recommend the following items be included in your basic emergency supply kit. 

  • Water and nonperishable food for several days
  • Extra cell phone battery or charger
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio that can receive NOAA Weather
  • Radio tone alerts
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Non-sparking wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Extra batteries
Additional Items to Consider for Your Emergency Supply Kit
  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food, water and supplies for your pet
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a portable waterproof container
  • Cash and change
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies, personal hygiene items and hand sanitizer
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and disposable utensils, paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Make a Plan

Disaster may not strike when your family is together. It’s important to have a plan in place that includes how you’ll contact each other and where you’ll meet to regroup. 

  1. Pick the same family member for everyone to contact. Pick someone out of town since they may be easier to reach in a disaster. Text them instead of trying to call. Phone lines may be tied up in an emergency and texting frees up phone lines for emergency workers.
  2. Decide on safe, familiar, accessible places where your family can go to reunite. If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations. Consider places in your house, in your neighborhood, and outside of your town so you’re prepared for any situation.
  3. Write down your contacts and plans. Make sure everyone in the family has copies and keeps them in a safe place, like in a backpack, wallet or in a cell phone. Hold regular household meetings to review and practice your plan so everyone knows what to do. 

Your family’s needs will change over time. Don’t forget to revisit and update your family plan accordingly. If you need some help getting started, these communication plans can help: Family Communication Plan (Kids) and Family Communication Plan (Adults)

While the thought of preparing for disasters and emergencies can feel overwhelming, it will make for less stress during an actual emergency if you already have a plan, and supplies, in place.