While having a monitored home security system is an important part of making your home a safe place to live, it doesn’t protect you against everything. In order to help raise awareness about dangers you can encounter in and around your home and workplace, the National Safety Council promotes June as National Safety Month.
Each week of the month has a theme related to a different subject, and throughout the month we’ll be posting articles to our blog related to the theme of the week. The theme for week one is “Stand Ready to Respond”, and in honor of that our topic for today is how to prepare a home emergency kit.
Why You Need a Home Emergency Kit
Imagine the following scenario. It’s 3 am, and you’re awakened by a pounding on your front door. You go to the door and look through the peephole, and see a police officer standing on your doorstep. He tells you that there has been an accident involving a tanker truck carrying hazardous chemicals near your home, and everybody in the neighborhood needs to evacuate immediately. You have 15 minutes to pack and leave, and you have no idea how long it will be before you can return home. What do you do?
This scenario or something similar could happen to anybody. Whether it’s a fire, flood, gas leak, chemical spill, or even just an extended power outage due to a snowstorm, there are many types of emergencies that can affect the average homeowner with little or no warning. While having an emergency kit prepared won’t make the problem go away, it will make a bad situation at least slightly better—and in some extreme cases could even save your life.
What to put in a Home Emergency Kit
While it is possible to get carried away when preparing for emergencies (as anyone who has watched an episode of the TV show Doomsday Preppers can attest), it is also possible to prepare a small collection of essential emergency items without breaking the bank. Here’s a list of what a standard home emergency kit should include:
Water: Include a three-day supply of one gallon of water per person per day. So, for two people, that would be six gallons of water.
Food: Pack a three-day supply of non-perishable food items. Assume that you won’t have access to a stove, so pack food that doesn’t need to be cooked.
Radio: Either a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, and a NOAA weather radio with a tone alert.
First Aid Kit: You can pick up a standard first aid kit for home use at any drug store. You don’t need to prepare for major surgery, but you should be prepared for a situation in which it might take paramedics longer than usual to reach you (such as a severe snow storm or flood).
Flashlight: A good headlamp will work also. Be sure to pack extra batteries.
Medications: Pack a 7-day supply of any prescription medications, and a bottle of your favorite all-purpose pain/cold/headache relief medication.
Tools: A good multipurpose tool will work well. You might want to throw in a roll of Duct Tape also.
Personal hygiene items: You’ll be very glad you packed toilet paper if the supply at the evacuation shelter runs out.
Pre-paid cell phone with charger
Clothing: Pack one outfit for warm and cold weather for each person. Include rain jackets and cold weather jackets. Remember that you’re packing an emergency kit, not preparing for a fashion show—think practical.
This list could go on forever, but some other things you might want to consider packing include matches or lighters, blankets, towels, a sleeping bag, a map of the area, and a whistle (three blasts on a whistle is the international distress signal). Visit the Red Cross website for an even more extensive list of what a kit could include.
Chances are that you’ll never have to use your home emergency kit, just like the chances are good that your alarm will never be activated by a burglar attempting to break into your home. However, if there is ever a situation where you need either one, you will be very glad that you have them.