Severe Weather Preparedness Week: Make a Kit!

By: Angela Fritz , 9:37 PM GMT on March 06, 2013

Image credit: NOAA.

It is National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, and today we're going to make a disaster supply kit. What goes in it depends highly on what your risks are, and the special needs of your family and pets. Water, food, and clean air are important things to have if an emergency happens. Each family or individual's kit should be customized to meet specific needs, such as medications and infant formula. It should also be customized to include important family documents.

Once you have your kit built, the ideal location for storage is a place you have easy access to. The entire family should know where the kit is located. Tightly closed, pest-proof and waterproof plastic or metal containers are best. Containers that are easy to carry are preferable, since you may be traveling to a shelter location.

Take note of the canned food expiration dates in your kit. When they're close to expiring, use the food and replace it with new items. A general rule is to change your food and water supplies every six months.

Recommended Basic Supplies

• Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
• Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
• Cell phones with extra batteries, chargers, inverter, or solar charger
• Battery-powered radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Whistle to signal for help
• Infant formula and diapers, if you have an infant
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
• Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
• Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)

Once you have your basic supply kit, you might consider adding some more items:

• Prescription medications and glasses
• Infant formula and diapers
• Pet food and extra water for your pet
• Cash or traveler's checks and change
• Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
• Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or free information from this web site. (See Publications)
• Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
• Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
• Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
• Fire extinguisher
• Matches in a waterproof container
• Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
• Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
• Paper and pencil
• Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Keeping similar, smaller kits at work and in the car are also good ideas.

Don't Forget About Your Pets!

• Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless.)
• Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include, or visit the ASPCA Store to buy one online)
• 3-7 days-worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
• Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
• Litter or paper toweling
• Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
• Pet feeding dishes
• Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
• Bottled water, at least 7 days' worth for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
• A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
• Flashlight
• Blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet)
• Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters)
Especially for cats: Pillowcase or Evac-Sack, toys, scoopable litter
Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week's worth of cage liner

Since I know you're wondering, I do have an emergency supply kit at home and at work. It's built more for earthquakes than tornadoes, but the premise is the same. Feel free to comment or contact me if you have any questions about building your kits! There's also lots of great information on kits and preparedness in general at

Stay safe,


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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5. Bannyok
7:23 AM GMT on February 24, 2014
Hi there. I really appreciate the points you made. I don't think I've actually thought about it in that way. I can really appreciate how you approached the subject matter and what you said really gave me a new perspective. Thanks for taking the time to write this all out.
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2. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
3:32 PM GMT on March 18, 2013
angelafritz has created a new entry.
1. Wad219
9:07 AM GMT on March 11, 2013
Great info Anglea! Sld we keep two of these kits? Like one in the SUV and one at my wife's office ? Or one at our home inside and one at her office! Here in PR , don't u think a week supply of foods, Med,water and more batteries wld be better as PR is very slow at reacting to events in the past! Plus may I suggest using Lanterns than r sold at Ace Hardware here! They require 8 D batteries and They give off a tremedmous amount of lite! And 8 batteries last a total of 12 hrs for each one! I have two and plan to get two more! So getting back to the lanterns, u don't have to use the lanterns in the daylight! And they have sales on 8 pkg sets of the D battery, so u wld need 8 packs of these! They work wonderfully!
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