Red Cross: What’s in Your Emergency Kit?

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I have a confession – between public seminars, TV and radio interviews and even speaking to the kids at my daughter’s grade school about preparing an emergency kit, I’m the last person you’d expect to have dead batteries in a flashlight. But when Hurricane Irene knocked out the electricity for hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders last year, there I was, a Red Cross Volunteer, sitting with my wife and daughter watching the last flicker of light dwindle from the flashlight we strategically left in the kitchen.

As hurricane season begins, our partners at FEMA share the Red Cross’s dedication to making sure every family understands the risks they face, even in places where hurricanes and tropical storms aren’t common (just ask the folks in the mountains of Vermont or Pennsylvania.) You’ve probably heard the expression “Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst.” You can visit or to learn the details of planning for a disaster and staying informed.

But for now, let’s talk about the one thing you should do right now – check what you have, and buy what you need to make an emergency kit. Why now? Because if you’re lucky to have enough warning of an approaching storm, by the time you get to your local store, your neighbors may have already bought the last bottle of water and battery in town. It’s a very unpleasant surprise.

Your family or office emergency kit will include some very important things. Most are obvious, others less so. See which of these you’d think of:

  • Water – one gallon per person, per day – 2 weeks’ worth
  • Food – non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items – 2 week supply for home 
  • Manual can opener – nothing worse than having cans and no opener! 
  • Flashlight – check each one now, and consider having several to keep in different rooms. Make sure they work! 
  • Extra batteries – Buy the right sizes for your flashlights and other devices. 
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) 
  • First aid kit 
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items 
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items 
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies) 
  • Cell phone with chargers – remember, you can charge a phone in your car 
  • Family and emergency contact information 
  • Extra cash 
  • Emergency blanket 
  • Map(s) of the area

So far, so good? Don’t forget the unique needs in your family:

  • Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane) 
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers) 
  • Games and activities for children 
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl) 
  • Two-way radios 
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys

No matter how close you live to the historical “hot-spots”, your home and community are potential targets for a hurricane, tropical storm or unexpected flooding that can strike suddenly – hundreds of miles from the coastline.

Take the list above, go through the house right now, and determine what you have. See what works, and make a list of what you need. Be a good neighbor and check on any elderly or disabled folks who might appreciate a little help ahead of time. Then, make sure your family has an emergency plan, and know how to keep informed if a storm is heading your way.

While I hope you won’t need to use your emergency kit, here’s hoping we won’t bump into each other in the battery aisle and see nothing but empty shelves.

Visit for complete preparation details. Get a kit, make a plan and be informed.

Last Updated: 
06/18/2012 - 09:06
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