Preparedness Month: Disaster Kits

September is National Preparedness Month!

Each week this month we will be providing tips on how to keep you and your family safe in an emergency.


This Week: Create an Emergency Kit

The office of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Washington State Department of Health recommends that all individuals and families keep an emergency preparedness kit able to sustain you and your family for at least three days. Keep a kit at places you and your family frequent—at home, at work, and at your children’s schools.

Here are the top 15 things that the Department of Health recommends you store in each emergency kit:

  1.  Dry, canned, or other nonperishable food for each person. Emergency kit-friendly food will avoid making the consumer thirsty—try to limit the amount of salty things you include in your kit. Foods that keep you full for a long time, such as whole grain cereals, nuts, and energy bars, along with foods that contain high liquid content, are especially suitable for emergency kits. 
  2.  Enough water for each member of the family along with a water purification kit
  3.  Cooking and eating utensils—including a can opener. Nothing worse than a can of tuna that you can’t open! 
  4.  First-aid supplies, including a first-aid booklet that explains basic skills like creating a sling or addressing heat stroke. Keep a stock of all each person’s important medications.
  5.  Copies of important documents, including birth certificates, licenses, health and property insurances, wills, and financial papers. Keep these items in a safe-deposit box or zip lock bag. You can also keep copies of these documents on a USB drive included in your emergency kit. 
  6.  Include any “special needs” items for each member of your family. This can mean baby formula, eyeglasses and extra contacts, diapers, or any other additional items specific to your family members. 
  7.  Keep a change of clothing for each member of the family. You will want to include sturdy shoes as well as weather-specific gear, like warm gloves and a hat or a rain poncho. 
  8.  Each person should have a sleeping bag or Mylar blanket, and each kit should include a tent big enough to fit the family. 
  9.  Your emergency kit should include plastic bags for water storage and waste, as well as hygiene supplies, like toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer, wipes, and dental supplies. 
  10.  Keep a battery-powered radio or television, a flashlight and extra batteries, and old cell phone and charger in your emergency kit. 
  11.  Every kit should include a whistle, pocket knife, waterproof matches, duct tape, and leather or latex gloves.
  12.  For kids, pack one of their favorite stuffed animals or toy along with some games. Adults may want to add a puzzle, books, or games for entertainment. 
  13.  At least one extra house and car key
  14.  Keep a copy of important contacts and phone numbers. You can include this in your important document zip lock bag or keep this in a separate bag.
  15.  If you have pets, make sure you have enough food, water, and other supplies to sustain your pets for three days. 

While each emergency kit should have these basics, you can store more long-term items, like extra canned food, cooking supplies (like a camp stove), and sanitation supplies at your house. In case of an emergency evacuation, your kit should be transportable, so aim to keep your supplies on the lighter side.

Additional Resources

  • For more information regarding emergency kits, visit this page at the Washington State Department of Health.
  • For a complete list of preparedness topics, click here.
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Annika Vaughn is a current Political Science undergraduate at the University of Washington. Despite being a second-generation Olympian, her interest in government work began at the age of 15 when she was a Legislative Page for the Washington State House of Representatives. After completing her undergrad, Annika plans on entering the workforce before returning to school for her master’s degree.
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