You can’t predict when a natural disaster will strike or when you’ll find yourself in an emergency situation. But what you can do is prepare for it in case it does.
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Having the right medical supplies, basic items and an emergency plan to coordinate with family members can help you act more logically in the case of an emergency.
What to keep in your emergency kit
In case of an emergency or natural disaster, be sure you have medications and supplies for special medical needs as well as basic items, according to emergency department physician Tom Waters, MD.
These items include:
- At least one-week supply of your medications, as well as a medication list. Mark your calendar at six-month intervals so you remember to check your medical emergency kit for expired prescriptions and replace with new ones if needed.
- First aid kit. The Red Cross recommends a first aid kit that every family should have. The kit is designed for a family of four and includes a space blanket and basic bandaging supplies.
- An EpiPen® for family members with severe allergies.
- Extra oxygen for those family members who need it.
- Emergency supplies for family members with diabetes. This includes several days’ worth of medicines, syringes, blood glucose testing supplies and an insulin cooler.
- An extra inhaler for anyone with asthma. Remember: don’t “borrow” from your emergency medical kit for today’s needs — you’ll just be defeating the purpose.
- Baby aspirin if your doctor has you or a family member taking them for a heart condition.
- Water and non-perishable food items. Bottled water (for extra protection, water purification tablets, too) and canned goods are essential, but Dr. Waters suggests looking for “meals-ready-to-eat,” or MREs, freeze-dried foods that are ready after water is added. “There are many companies that make these commercially available and in a variety of types, including vegetarian and for those on special diets,” Dr. Waters says.
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and flashlights. Keep an AM/FM/shortwave/weather band radio as part of your emergency supply kit for access to local and public health information. Have a number of good-sized flashlights and plenty of spare batteries for all.
- Extra batteries or charging blocks for your cell phone. There are back-up batteries available for most cell phones that can offer an extra charge.
- Kid and baby stuff. Bottles, formula, diapers, children’s games and activities are all critical in keeping kids safe, healthy and occupied.
- Gear and supplies. Multi-purpose tool/knife, moist towelettes, dust masks, waterproof matches, needle and thread, compass, area maps, extra blankets and sleeping bags all should be part of your emergency supply kit.
- Important paperwork and insurance documents. Copies of personal documents like a medication list, proof of address, deed/lease to home, insurance papers, extra cash, family photos and emergency contact information.
- Gas-powered generator. Consider getting a gas-powered generator. The American Red Cross advises that people only use them outdoors because they create poisonous carbon monoxide fumes. Do not use them even partially enclosed areas, such as garages, carports, basements or crawl spaces – even with ventilation. Never use outdoor heating or cooking equipment, such as a grill, camp stove, or a gasoline or propane heater, indoors. And never heat a home with a stove.
Plan to coordinate with family members post-event
Have two designated meeting areas in the event of a storm so everyone knows where to gather if you become separated after the event. Examples: just outside your home or a spot you’ve predetermined outside of your neighborhood in case of evacuation. Determine a time to meet and how long to wait at that location for others to arrive.
Also, have a communication plan for your family. Choose a person who doesn’t live with you —preferably an out-of-town relative — to be the contact person that everyone can get in touch with to check on each other in case of separation. Everyone, including kids, should have this contact’s name, address and phone number readily available.