After a disaster like a hurricane, flood, earthquake, snow storm or fire, people may have to wait hours or even days for relief to arrive. That’s why experts at the American Red Cross and FEMA continue stressing the importance of a prep kit with essential items if you need to wait it out.

Luckily, these kits are inexpensive — and surprisingly painless — to put together. Here are ten essential items everyone should have in theirs: 

  1. Water. The general rule is one gallon per person, per day. Having a 3-day supply of clean drinking water is recommended for evacuation. In case you can’t evacuate and are stranded at home, try to have at least a two-week supply on hand.

  2. Food. For evacuations, store a 3-day supply of easy-to-prepare, non-perishable food items. For the home, up to a two-week supply is recommended. Try to avoid salty foods that’ll make you thirsty and look for items that don’t need to be cooked. If anyone in your family has special dietary needs or restrictions, be sure to include foods they can safely eat. Also: remember to pack a manual can opener.

  3. First aid kit. Make sure your first aid kit has the essentials: chewable aspirin, antibiotic ointment, different sized bandages, a thermometer, emergency blanket, and scissors. Don’t for get personal hygiene items like hand sanitizer, tampons, tweezers, and baby diapers and wipes.

  4. Medications and personal items. Prepare a week-long supply of any medications or medical items that your or family members regularly rely on. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, pack a spare pair of each along with saline solution. Check expiration dates regularly and replace items that have expired. If you have pets, remember to keep food and water for them as well.

  5. A flashlight with extra batteries. If you lose power for any amount of time, you’ll want a good flashlight on hand. LED options are long lasting and head lamps are also recommended. In either case, be sure to pack extra batteries.

  6. A portable radio. If you lose power and can’t receive emergency alerts, a hand-cranked or solar-powered radio will help keep you in the know of evacuation instructions and other potentially life-saving information.

  7. Mobile phone, charger, and battery. Even during extreme weather events, wireless service in the U.S. can be surprisingly reliable. Pack your mobile phone with an extra battery. Solar-powered or hand-crank phone chargers are also becoming more widely available.

  8. Important personal documents. If your home is destroyed or badly damaged, you’ll want copies of your most important records and documents. Make laminated copies of birth certificates, passports, insurance policies — and any important doc that would be difficult to replace. It’s also a good idea to include a hard copy of emergency contact numbers.

  9. Cash. Having a little cash on hand is always a good idea during an emergency … you never know.

  10. A multipurpose tool. These foldable, versatile tools can be useful in a range of situations. They often include a knife, saw, file, wrench, scissor, bottle opener, and screwdriver.

Be sure to keep your kit somewhere easily accessible, and let all family members know where it’s stored.  It’s also a great idea to keep an emergency go kit in your car. Be ready and stay safe!

Safe and smart

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about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.