General Family Preparedness

Table of Contents

Why Preparedness?

Disasters can affect any part of the United States at any time of the year, swiftly and without warning. Most people don't think of a disaster until it is too late; then they suddenly realize how unprepared they are for the massive changes it makes in their lives. Local officials can be overwhelmed and emergency response personnel may not be able to reach everyone who needs help right away.

Each type of disaster requires clean-up and recovery. The period after a disaster is often very difficult for families, at times as devastating as the disaster itself. Families which are prepared ahead of time can reduce the fear, confusion and losses that come with disaster. They can be ready to evacuate their homes, know what to expect in public shelters and how to provide basic first aid.

Family Disaster Supply Kit

One of the first steps toward preparedness is the creation of a family disaster supply kit. This will help families get through the first few days after a disaster. Public shelter after a disaster may not offer some of the basic necessities. The development of a kit will make a stay in a public shelter more comfortable, should it be necessary. Store the kit in a convenient place known to all family members. Store items in airtight bags or containers. Replenish the kit twice a year.

Include six basic items:

    1. Water

    2. Food

        • Store at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. If you must heat food, pack a can of sterno.
        • Rotate these foods into the regular diet frequently to keep the supply fresh. In a disaster supply kit include:
          • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
          • Canned juices, milk, soup (if powdered, store extra water)
          • Staples such as sugar, salt, pepper
          • High energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix
          • Vitamins, infant food and food for special diets
          • Comfort/stress foods such as cookies, hard candy, instant coffee, tea bags

    3. First Aid Kit

      Assemble a first aid kit for the home and one for each vehicle. An approved American Red Cross kit may be purchased, or one may be assembled with the following items:

      Non-prescription drugs

        • Aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever
        • Anti-diarrhea medication
        • Antacid (for stomach upset)
        • Syrup of Ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center)
        • Laxative
        • Activated charcoal (use if advised by the Poison Control Center)

    4. Tools and Supplies

      Various tools and supplies may be needed for temporary repairs or personal needs. Include these items in your disaster supply kit:

        • Battery operated radio and extra batteries
        • Flashlight and extra batteries
        • Non-electric can opener, utility knife
        • Map of the area (for locating shelters)
        • Cash or traveler's checks, change
        • Fire extinguisher: small canister, ABC type
        • Tube tent
        • Pliers
        • Tape
        • Compass
        • Matches in waterproof container
        • Aluminum foil
        • Plastic storage containers
        • Signal flare
        • Paper, pencil
        • Needles, thread
        • Medicine dropper
        • Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
        • Whistle
        • Plastic sheeting
        • Mess kits or paper cups, plates and plastic utensils
        • Emergency preparedness manual


          • Toilet paper
          • Soap, liquid detergent
          • Feminine hygiene supplies
          • Personal hygiene items
          • Plastic garbage bags, ties (for personal sanitation uses)
          • Plastic bucket with tight lid
          • Disinfectant
          • Household chlorine bleach

    5. Clothing and Bedding

      Your disaster supply kit should include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person. Items to include are:

        • Sturdy shoes or work boots
        • Rain gear
        • Blankets or sleeping bags
        • Hat and gloves
        • Thermal underwear
        • Sunglasses

    6. Special Items

      Family members may have special needs. Other items you may add to your kit include:

      For Babies:

        • Formula
        • Diapers
        • Bottles
        • Powdered milk
        • Medications

      For Adults:

        • Heart and high blood pressure medication
        • Insulin
        • Prescription drugs
        • Denture needs
        • Contact lenses and supplies
        • Extra pair of eye glasses


        • Games and books

      Important Family Documents:

        Keep these in a waterproof, portable container.

        • Wills, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds
        • Passports, social security cards, immunization records
        • Bank account numbers
        • Credit card account numbers and companies
        • Inventory of valuable goods, important telephone numbers
        • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)

    4-Step Family Preparedness Plan

    In addition to your family disaster supply kit, develop a family preparedness plan. This plan needs to be known to all family members. A basic preparedness plan has four steps: - Do your homework. - Create a family disaster plan. - Make a checklist and periodically update it. - Practice and maintain your plan.

    Preparing Children for Disaster

    As you develop your preparedness plan, include children in the planning process. Teach your children how to recognize danger signals. Make sure they know what smoke detectors and other alarms sound like. Make sure they know how and when to call for help. If you live in a 9-1-1 service area, tell your child to call 9-1-1. If not, check your telephone directory for the number. Keep all emergency numbers posted by the phone.

    Help your children to memorize important family information. They should memorize their family name, phone number and address.

    They also should know where to meet in case of an emergency. If children are not old enough to memorize the information, they should carry a small index card to give to an adult or babysitter that lists the emergency information.

    Special Preparations for People with Disabilities

    People with disabilities may need to take additional steps to prepare for disaster. If you are disabled or know someone who is, the following precautions should be taken.

    Evacuation Procedures

    Returning Home After the Disaster