No, the zombies aren’t coming (unless you know something we don’t), but suppose bad weather is. Fortunately, you need to prepare for only three days of roughing it. By then emergency-service personnel have usually begun reaching homes, says James A. Judge, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council. Keep supplies in a suitcase, a plastic storage bin, or even a large backpack—something you can quickly throw in the car if you need to evacuate. Paul Faust, a volunteer firefighter and a cofounder of 1800prepare.com, an emergency-supplies retailer, says that the garage is a good storage place. It’s easy to get to, and the kids probably won’t stumble upon the stash. As for filling your kit, these provisions will sustain and entertain until you’re home free. For more information, visit ready.gov or see How to Prepare for an Emergency.
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Keep at least a gallon per person per day. As an alternative to bottled, which spoils after a year or so, fill large jugs at the tap before the storm.
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Buy enough for a few days, keeping in mind that canned ravioli may quickly lose its appeal. If you have a camping stove, throw in matches stored in a waterproof container. Add peanut butter, nutrition bars, dried fruit, and even candy. Set alerts on your calendar a few weeks before the expiration dates so you can eat and restock.
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“Kids do not like the dark,” says Faust. “If you’re going to splurge, do it on light.” In addition to flashlights, buy a few battery-powered lanterns, which illuminate a room—helpful for games or drawing. Faust also likes headlamps (from $7, amazon.com) and glow sticks (or glow necklaces; check party-supply stores). “If you have to evacuate in the dark, glow sticks will help you keep track of your group,” he says.
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First-Aid Kit and Meds
For starters, relax. “Provided people stay at home and the home isn’t damaged, there doesn’t seem to be a major uptick in injuries during a natural disaster,” says Richard Lichenstein, M.D., the director of pediatric emergency-medicine research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore. A fresh first-aid kit and over-the-counter drugs, like acetaminophen, Benadryl, and hydrocortisone cream, should be sufficient. Refill prescriptions before they run low so you always have enough for a week at the ready, or get regular deliveries of a few months’ supply.
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You can’t rely on credit cards or ATMs when the power is out. Have at least $50 on hand for urgent purchases.
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In the kit, keep copies of your insurance policies, driver’s licenses, passports, credit cards, bank-account records, your kids’ birth certificates, and your will in case you need to evacuate.
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Faust suggests two or three 20-packs of AAs (or whatever fits your flashlights). Replenish them every few years.
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Pack a few new (that is, exciting!) coloring books, board games, and no-battery toys.
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NOAA Radio Receiver
Regular AM-FM radios can’t pick up the frequencies of the alerts sent by the National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (shown: $50, kotulas.com).