How to Prepare Your Family for Any Home Emergency or Natural Disaster

If the power went out at home and someone fell and scraped a knee in the dark, would you know where to quickly find first aid supplies in your home? Would you know how to treat the wound?

It is important that you and your family have certain basic emergency and first aid supplies available at your home so that you can respond to home emergencies and to natural disasters. Your emergency supplies should be organized and kept all in one place where you can access them easily and quickly. Each family member should know where these supplies are and have a basic knowledge of how to use them.

Recommended Emergency Supplies

Here is a general list of the supplies you should have for home emergencies and natural disasters:

1. Supply of prescription and other necessary medications.

2. Flashlight with extra batteries.

3. Portable, battery-powered radio for receiving emergency communications.

4. Waterproof matches, and either long-burning candles or a kerosene-type lamp with extra fuel, all properly stored.

5. Fire extinguisher, ABC or dry-chemical type for all classes of fires. Check the expiration date and be sure you practice and know how to use it.

6. Electrical fuses, if needed for your home.

7. Rope ladder to hold your weight if you need to exit upper floors of your home to ground level, and some additional length of rope for multipurpose use.

8. First aid instruction book.

9. Blankets and sheets. These can be used for warmth, for splints, and for transport of injured persons.

10. First aid supplies:

o Medical-grade vinyl gloves

o Poison ivy relief cream

o Burn relief cream

o Sunscreen, SPF of 30 or greater

o Antibiotic ointment, Polysporin® or similar

o Sting relief lotion or ointment, calamine or similar

o Box of sterile gauze pads, either 3″ x 3″ or 4″ x 4″

o Abdominal (ABD) or combine sterile pad, 5″ x 9″

o Rolled gauze of 2 sizes, 2″ x 4 yards and 4″ x 4 yards

o Bandages of assorted types: finger, knuckle, plastic, Telfa®, and general adhesive

o Sterile oval eye pad

o Small sharp scissors

o Tweezers with pointed tip

o Thermometers, oral and rectal (for babies)

o Elastic bandage, 3″ x 6″

o Instant ice pack

o Roll of adhesive tape, 1″ wide, may use plastic type if preferred

o Triangular bandages, 2

o Package of safety pins, assorted sizes

o Absorbent cotton balls, 1 box

o Diarrhea remedy, Pepto-Bismol® or Kaopectate® or similar

o Popsicle® (craft) sticks or finger splints

o Antibacterial soap, liquid or bar

o Medicine dropper

o Water purification tablets

o Small bottle of bleach

o Sharp knife or multipurpose knife/tool

o Bottles of aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen (children’s or liquid if needed)

o Splint materials: thin boards 2-3′ long

o Cough syrup and throat lozenges

o Large plastic trash bag and several smaller, zip-closure bags

You may need to add other items that are particular to your climate and to the types of natural disasters that you have in your area. If mosquitoes are a problem or could become one (after a hurricane, for example), you may wish to add mosquito repellent to your supplies. If you have children, be sure to include some favorite toys, games, songs, or books so that your family will be able to have some degree of normalcy if a time of emergency comes.

Other activities and situations may call for additional types of supplies. For example, for a car trip you may need to add roadside reflectors or flares. For camping, you may need to add a small saw, signal mirror, compass, multipurpose knife/tool, whistle, and other pertinent items. For hiking kits include moleskin to prevent and treat blisters. For both camping and boating kits be sure to include aloe vera gel for treatment of sunburn. Hiking kits can be more compact and include only very essential items that can be easily carried in your daypack.

These emergency items need to be stored in a waterproof, durable container and protected from the access of small children. Be sure to check the dates on medications at least annually to make sure medications are current. If you dispose of any medications, do so safely so that children will not find and eat them.

Assembling the supplies listed above may take you some time and money if you have not yet begun. The important thing is to begin now to plan for an emergency. Start by gathering a few of the most important emergency items, then add to your supplies as quickly as your time and money allow. Some packaged first aid kits can be used as a baseline and then additional supplies added as you can afford to do so. A few of the local Red Cross chapters even have facilities for assembling your own first aid kits.

A Family Emergency Plan

Besides emergency supplies, your family should have a plan for how to respond to an emergency. Take time regularly to discuss and practice for emergency situations with your family. Have fire, tornado, or earthquake drills so that children will all know how to safely exit your home and where to gather.

In planning for emergencies, consider what would happen if a parent or another family member were not at home during an emergency. Would the family members at home be able to respond to the emergency? Responsibilities for emergency response should be divided and often duplicated among family members so that regardless of who is at home, the family will still be able to respond properly. You should have a plan for how family members will contact one another if the family is scattered during the emergency. This may include having a prearranged meeting place, a code word, or a relative’s phone number.

Knowledge of first aid procedures will be invaluable for your family during any type of emergency situation. Younger children can learn most of these procedures, even CPR. First aid classes are offered at many locations within most communities. The Red Cross chapter in your community generally will offer a good basic first aid course, several types of first aid handbooks including a wilderness- and boating-specific types, and even first aid kits for purchase or occasionally that you can assemble yourself. The Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) classes are very good for emergency preparation. Neighbors can participate in emergency training together to share their skills.

In preparing your children for emergencies, consider the effect that exposure to repetitive media and news reports of real disasters may have on your children. You may wish to limit such exposure to reduce stress and anxiety. The Federal Emergency Management Agency website has some wonderful material to assist children in learning more about disaster preparedness. They have a program on the website called becoming a “Disaster Action Kid”.

Finally, help your family to know that if they are prepared, they need not fear emergency situations.