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Essential Items For Preparedness Kits

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Disasters can strike at any time, without warning. While the old adage "it's better to be safe than sorry" is a good rule of thumb, but few people actually follow through on it when it comes to preparing for a potential disaster. Natural disasters like flash floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, brush fires and landslides are a reality. In some areas of the country, these events happen seasonally. Relying on the media to give enough of a warning to grab essentials and make it to safety in time is a risk. Being prepared can help keep order during the chaos, and possibly save lives.

An emergency kit is a great way to make sure you have essential items in one place in case you have to evacuate your home or find yourself stranded with little to no resources. Even the bare minimum can mean the difference between life and death. Items can be added to an emergency kit over time and should be routinely updated to accommodate seasons, needs of family members and medications. A large duffel bag is usually sufficient in storing essential items and should be kept in an accessible place in your home for everyone in the household. People who travel great distances by car should keep one in the trunk. If you are building an emergency preparedness kit for the first time or simply comparing checklists against what you already have, here are some must haves.


first aid kit
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First Aid Kit

First aid kits are paramount during a catastrophic event. All items should be stored in a tackle box or something with a handle making it easy to carry and study enough where it won't get crushed. The pre-made kits they sell in stores have all the essentials, but are limited in quantity. Depending on the size of your family you might want to add to it.

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Cotton balls/Q-tips
  • Aspirin and non-aspirin tablets
  • Bandage strips
  • Ace bandages
  • Rolled gauze
  • Adhesive tape roll
  • First aid book
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Thermometer
  • Bar soap
  • Pocket knife
  • Safety pins
  • Needle and thread
  • Instant cold pack for sprains


survival kit
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Essential Supplies and Tools
Most cities have evacuation centers and shelters that provide lodging for mass amounts of displaced people. But those who live in rural areas may not be able to make it into town or worse yet, disaster strikes while you're on the road. Keeping a few tools in your vehicle or with other emergency supplies could make roughing it a lot easier.

  • Can Opener
  • Ax
  • Shovel
  • Screwdriver, pliers, hammer, adjustable wrench
  • Rope for towing or rescue
  • Duct tape
  • Utility knife
  • Work gloves
  • Candles
  • Waterproof matches
  • Flashlight, and extra batteries
  • Fire extinguisher -- multipurpose type
  • Water
  • Dry packaged food
  • Small pot
  • Blanket
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Radio with batteries

Many hardware stores sell miniature shovels, axes and fire extinguishers, which can be easily fit under the seat in a car or stored in a duffel bag along with other supplies.


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While evacuation centers and shelter will provide the basics, supplies can and do run out depending on the seriousness of the disaster or if it remains on going. Including a few extra items in your preparedness kit can go a long ways if supplies are running low. If you're not lucky enough to make it to a shelter then these items will prove to be essential.

  • Sneakers
  • Towels
  • Change of clothing
  • Recreational supplies for children and adults
  • Sleeping bags
  • Toilet tissue
  • Cash


U.S. Customs Examines American Passports
(credit: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Medications and Documents
It's a good rule of thumb to keep a month's worth of prescription medications in your emergency kit. But you must remember to rotate the supply. Also check with your physician about sample medications you can stockpile.

  • Driver's license
  • Birth certificate
  • Social security cards
  • Mortgage and title papers  
  • Bank account numbers
  • Insurance papers

Keep copies of all important documents for all members of the family in a ziplock bag and remember to replace them if you update any of your policies. In the worst case scenarios where homes are condemned or destroyed, residents aren't allowed back in. Having a copy of the deed to the house and the ability to prove identity can make dealing with insurance companies a lot easier and the road to recovery much quicker.


dog park
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Your pets are members of the family and shouldn't be abandoned in the case of an emergency. Many shelters, emergency centers and hotels allow pets, but the proper provisions may not be available. A few items set aside in a separate duffel bag can make all the difference to your fuzzy family members.

  • Food
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Towel
  • Crate/carrier
  • Leash
  • Collar/harness
  • Cat litter box
  • Toy
  • Newspaper
  • Pictures of your pets in case they get lost
  • Can opener
  • Medical records

Collapsable carriers or crates for smaller companion animals will make storage easier or can be used to store your pet's supplies. Shredded newspaper is a great temporary substitute for cat litter in an emergency and a favorite toy can bring a calming effect to frightened animals. Some hotels or boarding facilities won't allow pets without proof of vaccinations, so having a copy with you can make the process a lot easier.


Kristine G. Bottone is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found at


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