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How to Prepare

Build An Emergency Kit

Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life. Headed to the store? Download a printable version to take with you. Once you take a look at the basic items, consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets, or seniors.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water - one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Additional Emergency Supplies

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  • Glasses and contact lens solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler's checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Maintaining Your Kit

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
  • Replace expired items as needed
Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Kit Storage Locations

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.

Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.

Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.

Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.

Prepare your home, family and car

If a hurricane might be headed toward you, you need to prepare. You’ll want to learn about hurricane alerts, prepare your family and pets, and get your car and home ready for the storm.

Get your family ready

  • Go over your emergency plan with your family. Make sure you have the supplies you need.
  • Keep checking for updates about the storm. Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check online.
  • Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.
  • Pack important documents (like wills or passports) with you.
  • Call the hospital, public health department, or the police about special needs. If you or a loved one is older or disabled and won’t be able to leave quickly, get advice on what to do.
  • Check your carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly.
  • Put pets and farm animals in a safe place
  • Keep in mind emergency shelters and many hotels may not let you bring animals with you if you need to evacuate. Ask your local public health department if pets are allowed in shelters. Read more about pet safety.

Get your home ready for the storm

  • Clear your yard. Make sure there’s nothing that could blow around during the storm and damage your home. Move bikes, lawn furniture, grills, propane tanks, and building material inside or under shelter.
  • Cover up windows and doors outside. Use storm shutters or nail pieces of plywood to the window frames to protect your windows. This can help keep you safe from pieces of shattered glass.
  • Be ready to turn off your power. If you see flooding, downed power lines, or you have to leave your home, switch it off.
  • Fill clean water containers with drinking water. You’ll want to do this in case you lose your water supply during the storm. You can also fill up your sinks and bathtubs with water for washing.
  • Check your CO detector to prevent CO poisoning.
  • Lower the thermostat in your refrigerator and freezer to the coolest possible temperature. If your power goes out, your food will stay fresh longer. Read more about food safety after a storm.

Make an emergency car kit

Always keep an emergency kit in your car in case you need to leave quickly during a hurricane. Make sure you include:

  • Food that doesn’t go bad (like canned food)
  • Flares
  • Jumper cables (sometimes called booster cables)
  • Maps
  • Tools, like a roadside emergency kit
  • A first aid kit and instructions
  • A fire extinguisher
  • Sleeping bags
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Having a GPS — either in your car or on your smartphone — can help during an emergency too.

Make sure your car is ready

  • Fill your car’s gas tank. You may also want to consider making plans with friends or family to get a ride.
  • Double check your car’s emergency kit.
  • Move cars and trucks into your garage or under cover.

Watch vs. Warning

Watch

A hurricane watch means that there’s no hurricane yet, but weather conditions could cause one. Experts will announce a hurricane watch 48 hours before they think dangerous winds will start.

Warning

A hurricane warning is more serious. It means a hurricane has already started or is just about to start.


For more information about hurricane watches and warnings, check out the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center. If you hear that there’s a hurricane watch or warning in your area, you can take steps to get ready.

During the Storm

If a hurricane is coming, you may hear an order to evacuate (leave your home). Never ignore an order to evacuate. Even sturdy, well-built houses may not hold up against a hurricane. Staying home to protect your property is not worth risking your health and safety.

You may also hear an order to stay at home. Sometimes, staying at home is safer than leaving.

If you need to evacuate:

  • Only take what you really need with you, like your cell phone, chargers, medicines, identification (like a passport or license), and cash.
  • Make sure you have your car emergency kit.
  • If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water. Also unplug your appliances.
  • Follow the roads that emergency workers recommend even if there’s traffic. Other routes might be blocked.
List of Local Shelters

If you need to stay home:

  • Keep listening to the radio or TV for updates on the hurricane.
  • Stay inside. Even if it looks calm, don’t go outside. Wait until you hear or see an official message that the hurricane is over. Sometimes, weather gets calm in the middle of a storm but then gets worse again quickly.
  • Stay away from windows. You could get hurt by pieces of broken glass during a storm. Stay in a room with no windows, or go inside a closet.
  • Be careful. Winds can blow debris — like pieces of broken glass and other objects — at high speeds. Flying debris is the most common cause of injury during a hurricane. You’re also at a higher risk of breaking a bone or cutting yourself on loose nails, metal, or other objects.
  • Be ready to leave. If emergency authorities order you to leave or if your home is damaged, you may need to go to a shelter or a neighbor’s house.

After the Storm

Stay safe after the storm.

The storm might be over, but that doesn’t mean the danger is. Keep your loved ones safe after the storm by following our safety tips.

Food and Water

If you are in a disaster or emergency, it’s important that you take steps to prevent illness from unsafe food and water.

Food:

Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water; perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages; and those with an unusual odor, color, or texture. Unsafe food can make you sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal. When in doubt, throw it out.

Water:

Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Your state, local, or tribal health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area.

Stay Safe Indoors

Never use a wet electrical device

  • If it’s still plugged in, turn off the power at the main breaker. Wait for an electrician to check the device before using it.

If the power is out, use flashlights instead of candles

  • If the power is out, use flashlights instead of candles
  • If you have to use candles, keep them away from anything that can catch fire. Always stay near lit candles.

Be careful near damaged buildings

  • Keep in mind that hurricanes can damage buildings and make them unsafe. If your home or another building has been damaged, make sure it’s safe before going inside.
  • Leave your home or another building right away if you hear shifting or unusual noises. Strange noises could mean it’s about to fall.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Gas or coal-burning equipment creates carbon monoxide. This can include equipment like generators, pressure washers, charcoal grills, and camp stoves. You can’t smell it or see it, but if carbon monoxide builds up in your home, it’s very dangerous. To keep your family safe:

  • Never use gas or coal-burning equipment inside your home, basement, or garage. Keep it outside and at least 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
  • Use a battery-operated or battery backup CO detector any time you use a generator or anything else that burns fuel.
  • Never run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your home, even with the garage door open.
  • Never heat your home with a gas oven.
  • If you have a carbon monoxide detector and it starts beeping, leave your home right away and call 911.
  • To be safe, learn the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you think that carbon monoxide might have made you or a family member sick, go to a doctor or hospital right away.

Stay Safe Outdoors

Keep away from floodwater

  • Always follow warnings about flooded roads.
  • Don’t drive through floodwater– it may be deeper than you think.
  • If you have to be in or near floodwater, wear a life jacket — especially if the water is rising.
  • Keep in mind that floodwater often carries germs. If you touch it, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.

Stay away from power lines and dangerous materials

  • Stay clear of fallen power lines. Call the electric company to report them.
  • Watch out for power lines overhead.

Protect yourself from animals and pests

  • Floods can bring mosquitoes that carry disease. Use insect repellent (bug spray) with DEET or Picaridin. Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks when you’re outside.
  • Stay away from wild or stray animals after a storm. Call 911 or your public health department to report them.
  • If you see a dead animal, report it to local officials.

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