Comprehensive Emergency Checklist

Emergencies occur every day, and they can be fatal if they catch you unprepared. Especially during a natural disaster, good emergency preparation might make a life-saving difference.

Of course, the requirements of emergency preparation vary depending on time, location, and events. Some geographical locations are more prone to certain kinds of disasters than others. People living in low-lying coastal areas need to pay more attention to potential floods. Homes near forests should be more aware of the danger of fires. And people living along tectonic fault lines should prepare for earthquakes.

Whatever dangers your area may be most prone to, you can take some general precautions in case emergencies arise.

Local Emergency Authority Contact Information

To find out the types of emergencies for which your area may be at risk, and what recommendations your municipality may have for responding, contact your community disaster office.

Ask about the chances of a disaster occurring, and inquire about any official advice regarding suggested escape routes, supplies, and methods of emergency communication.

If you have children or older family members, ask about any special assistance that might be available for them.

Water

Many kinds of emergencies can result in water shortages; for instance, earthquakes may damage water supply pipes, interrupting the normal flow of tap water. To ensure that you and your family have a sufficient supply of water, the Red Cross recommends that you store at least one gallon of water per person/per day in strong containers. As a general rule, you should replace this water every six months, especially if you keep it in plastic jugs.

Non-Perishable Packaged Food And a Non-Electric Can Opener

During emergencies, food supplies are likely to get tight quickly. In some really bad situations, you might not have access to shopping centers. For emergency purposes, make sure you keep a reserve of canned or dry food that can last the entire family for at least three days. Keep your emergency can opener near these supplies.

Don't rely on frozen goods, in case you lose power during a disaster event. Check a few times a year to make sure you're staying ahead of any expiration dates.

first aid kit

First Aid Kit

A complete first aid kit should contain pain relief drugs, bandages, eye wash, tweezers, antiseptic cream, a thermometer, cleaning wipes, gloves, scissors, a razor blade, and disinfectant. In case of illness or exposure to toxins, it's a good idea to have anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, and laxatives, too. If you live near a nuclear power plant, toss in some iodine pills—they can help defend against radiation poisoning in a meltdown.

Prescription Medications

If any members of your family rely on live-preserving medication, don't let those prescriptions run out completely before you refill them. If an emergency strikes, you may be unable to get more for several days.

Blankets and Sleeping Bags

Blankets are essential if you get displaced from your home. Disasters such as fire outbreaks may mean you have to find an alternative place to sleep. Having sleeping bags and blankets will be a big advantage, especially if you have young children.

Spare Clothes

Keep at least one change of sturdy garments and strong shoes stashed away for each family member.

Whistles

In a worst-case scenario, you or family members may need to call for help from a location that's difficult to access. You might be trapped under rubble or stranded out of view of emergency responders. The high pitched, strong sounds of a whistle are more audible than shouts.

Dust Masks, Plastic Sheeting, Duct Tape

In a fire, dust storm, or other event that contaminates the air, masks can help you and your family breathe safely, and plastic sheets and tape can create a shelter from a dangerous environment.

Moist Towelettes, Garbage Bags, Plastic Ties

These items can help you maintain personal sanitation in a situation where plumbing services are disrupted.

Baby Supplies

Diapers, bottles, formula, wipes and rash cream will all be necessary if you have a very little one.

Pet Supplies

Don't forget your furry, feathered, or scaled friend. They'll be in just as much distress as you.

Wrenches or Pliers

You may need to turn off your utilities for safety, so you'll want some reliable tools to adjust the connections.

Flashlight

A flashlight is one of the most essential tools during many emergencies. Floods, fires, earthquakes, and storms can all knock out local power, whether or not they affect your home directly. In any other disaster that may disrupt the power supply, you'll need a way to see at night. Choose one you can power by twisting or cranking, or make sure you have fresh batteries stowed away.

a portable generator on a brick driveway

Solar Charger or Portable Generator

If the power goes down for multiple days, you may need to charge your portable devices, or power your plug-in cooking devices.

Radio

During major disasters, the flow of information is important. If cell phone communication gets interrupted, you should be able to get information from emergency channels. As with flashlights, pick up a radio you can charge by cranking, or make sure you have plenty of spare batteries.

Extra Set Of Car Keys

In an especially dangerous situation, you may need to evacuate. In a moment like that, you don't want to be trapped looking for your keys. Keep a spare set somewhere safe.

Local Maps

We've become pretty reliant on smartphones to find our way around. Make sure you won't get lost without access to GPS if you have to relocate.

Cash or Traveler's Checks

Keep an emergency stash in case of a sustained power outage and/or evacuation. It's unlikely, but if a large-scale loss of electricity strikes your region, you may be unable to use forms of payment that rely on digital communication.

Family Documents

If things get really bad, you'll want paper and/or electronic copies of identifications, bank records, and insurance policies in a small, waterproof container.

Fire Extinguisher

It is a requirement of the law to have a fire extinguisher at home and business in most states. Whether or not it's mandatory where you live, you should keep one in your home and make sure it's up to date.

List Of Emergency Numbers

You should always have a list of all the important emergency numbers for your area. If you can, get your children to memorize the important ones. Some of the important numbers include 911/999—police, 997—Ambulance, and 998—Fire. If you live in an area prone to floods, there may be dedicated emergency response numbers for that occasion.

List of Family Physicians

You should have at least one doctor on your speed dial. Having a reliable family doctor reduces the stress of trying to find one during an emergency. Family physicians can provide immediate medical attention without asking for money upfront.

Special Items For Infants and Older Folks

There are some tools that must be around for the kids or the elderly. For instance, you must always have a baby carrier or a wheelchair for the elderly.

Swimming Gear

If your area has a high flood risk, keep emergency swimming gear in the house. Life-jackets or floating tubes could help protect your family.

Hot Plate / Cooking Pan / Mess Kit

If your gas connection goes down, you'll need a way to prepare and consume food. Keep some paper plates, cups, and napkins with this gear, along with plastic utensils, and a source of power, whether propane or some kind of generator.

Matches or Lighters in a Waterproof Container

You may need to start fires for warmth or cooking.

Household Chlorine Bleach / Water Dropper

You can use this to disinfect water for washing in a pinch.

Personal Hygiene Items

Depending on the needs of your family, this might include emergency travel toothbrushes and toothpaste, contact lens solution, and tampons.

Activities for Children

If things get bad and you need to wait for a long time, you may want something to engage little ones who are scared or upset.