Print a Checklist
Prepare now. Print a checklist using the link above or learn more about preparing a kit from this documentation. Keep in mind that during an emergency, supplies are in high demand and stores, if they are open at all, run out of inventory quickly and may be without power. Once disaster hits, there is no time to search for supplies and stores may only make cash transactions.
The American Red Cross recommends six basics to stock at home:
- First-aid supplies
- Clothing and bedding
- Tools and emergency supplies
- Special items
A good rule of thumb is to have enough supplies to cover your household for at least three days (preferably seven). Keep items you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to-carry container. A basic checklist appears at the top of this page. You should customize that list to suit your family and circumstances, then act immediately to have everything on the list in safe, easily accessible storage.
For more information, contact your county civil defense agency or local chapter of the American Red Cross.
Below are guidelines to consider for basic disaster supplies. They elaborate upon the information summarized in the checklist.
Store 1 gallon of water per person per day (2 quarts for drinking, 2 quarts for food preparation and sanitation). Keep at least a 3-day (preferably 7-day) supply of water for each person in your household.
To purify water for a safe drinking supply:
- Boil vigorously 1 - 3 minutes; or
- Use purification tablets available at most drug stores. Follow package directions; or
Use household bleach (must contain 5.24% hypochlorite.) For one gallon of water, add 8 drops if water is clear; if water is cloudy, add 16 drops (1/4 teaspoon). For five gallons of water, if water is clear, add 1/2 teaspoon; if cloudy, 1 teaspoon. Let water stand at least 30 minutes before drinking. Allowing it to stand uncovered after purification will reduce chlorine smell.
Store at least a 3-day (preferably 7-day) supply of nonperishable food. Select items that don't require refrigeration, preparation, or cooking, and require little or no water. Foods from the list below should not just be in your home, they should be in your Disaster Supply Kit. If you choose to use military meal packs or wilderness food, be sure to store enough additional water to prepare these foods. Consider including foods in your kit that will be comforting as well as nourishing. Also, remember that pet food should be included and that container sizes should take into account the fact that you may not have any form of cold storage. So, for instance, baby foods must be in single-serving containers because you will have to discard unused portions that cannot be refrigerated.
When the Power Goes Out
Without electricity, you will be without fans and air conditioners, as well as light and the ability to keep food cold in refrigerators and freezers. Some food will spoil. Be sure to include non-electric lighting in your kit, as indicated in the list below. If you know in advance that power will be shut off:
- Use perishable foods in refrigerator and freezer first.
- Make extra ice.
- Freeze extra freeze-pack inserts and keep them frozen for emergencies.
- Buy a cooler.
- Freeze water in plastic containers, do not fill to top before freezing—allow for expansion.
- Know where to buy dry ice. 25 lbs. of dry ice should hold a 10-cubic-foot freezer cold for 3-4 days. Note: dry ice may be limited on some islands.
How long food remains frozen in the freezer depends on the amount, type, temperature, and freezer insulation. Keep freezer door closed for as long as possible to prevent loss of cold air. Large cuts of meat or poultry will stay frozen longer than baked goods or small items. In fully-loaded separate freezers, food may remain frozen for 48 to 72 hours. Food thaws quicker in a refrigerator/freezer, but should remain frozen about 12 hours or longer in a side-by-side unit or up to 24 hours in a top or bottom-mount freezer.
Note: Any food that has come in contact with flood water should be considered contaminated. Discard it immediately.
Use refrigerated foods as soon as possible. It is difficult to make general recommendations about food safety as this depends on the type of food, its preparation, previous storage and handling. Some guidelines:
- Butter, margarine, and hard cheese are safe unless it has mold or a rancid odor.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are safe as long as they are not mushy or slimy.
- Eggs will be safe for several days if shells have no cracks.
- Fresh meat, poultry, luncheon meats, or frankfurters should be discarded if allowed to warm to room temperature for more than two hours.
- Milk and cream will probably be sour after eight hours without refrigeration.
- Commercial (purchased) mayonnaise should be kept refrigerated once opened. Discard if left without refrigeration for more than two hours.
- Vinegar and oil salad dressings, jellies, and jams may be left unrefrigerated unless poultry or meat juices have contaminated them. Discard mustard, catsup, and pickles if moldy.
Previously frozen foods: Meat, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables can usually be safely refrozen if they still have ice crystals present or are very cold (40 degrees F or lower), but there will be some loss of quality. Refrozen foods should be used as soon as possible. When cooking, remember that refrozen foods have been thawed once. If thawing is necessary, do it in the refrigerator or microwave, not by thawing at room temperature.
Discard any food that has an off color or odor, or food that has warmed to room temperature for an unknown length of time.
Generally, if in question about the food safety, discard it.
First Aid Kit
Assemble a First Aid Kit for your home and one for each car. Recommended contents of a basic First Aid Kit are included in the checklist available at the top of this page. Supplement this list with what you know your family may use or need. Know the plants, animals and terrain in your area to determine if you need other specialized items to meet your first-aid needs. Talk to your physician about extra prescription medications and to your pharmacist about long term storage of over-the-counter medications. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter to obtain a basic first aid manual, and keep that in your kit as well.
Tools and Supplies
The tools in your Disaster Supply Kit should stay in the kit at all times. The exact list of tools will depend on many variables. The tools included in the checklist provided are a minimum recommendation, but your family, location or skills may suggest others.
Clothing and Bedding
Include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person, and make the footwear something rugged, not rubber slippers. Rain ponchos and sun glasses should be considered, too.
Remember family members with special needs, such as infants and elderly or disabled persons. An attempt has been made to suggest items for these needs in the checklist, but every situation is different depending on the ages of children, the level of functioning of impaired adults, and other factors that only you can assess for your family. Include games, pastimes and toys that will make the difficult times much easier for both children and adults.
Suggestion and Reminders
Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members. Keep a smaller version of the Disaster Supply Kit in the trunk of your car. Keep items in air-tight plastic bags. Change stored water supply every six months so it stays fresh, and replace stored food every six months. Re-think your supply kit in light of changing family needs at least once a year. Replace batteries, update clothing, etc.
"Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit," American Red Cross, FEMA L -189, ARC 4463, rev 1992.
"Disaster Food Planning," Hawaii Department of Health Nutrition Branch, 1995.
"Handbook for Emergency Preparedness," Hawaiian Electric Company, 1996.
"Emergency Checklist," Hawaii State Civil Defense, 1987.