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Tips for Packing a Family Emergency Kit

Disaster can strike anywhere, at any time. And though you may have little or no control over events in a given situation, you can better protect your family with a little planning and preparation. As the kids start back to school and new schedules are being made, now is a great time to review your family’s disaster plans and create an Emergency Readiness Kit if you don’t already have one.

Plan for Emergencies

First, discuss with your children the types of emergencies you might face in your home, community and region – from natural disasters like fires and floods to man-made emergencies such as chemical spills or attacks. Consider how you would be warned of an emergency, like a smoke detector for a home fire or an emergency broadcast for a large-scale event, and where family members might be when disaster strikes.

For emergencies at home, identify the safe spots in your home to gather in the event of a tornado or earthquake, and make evacuation plans for fires and floods. Designate family meeting places both outside of the home and outside of the neighborhood, and identify a point-of-contact – a friend or relative – to call in case family members are separated. Make sure children know your home address and the addresses of your meeting places, plus key phone numbers including your point-of-contact and 911.

For large-scale emergencies, learn your community’s evacuation plans and emergency management contacts for shelters and situation updates. Make sure you know your children’s school or daycare emergency plans and emergency contact information and be certain they have yours, along with your secondary point-of-contact. Make a list of all emergency numbers, including doctor’s numbers and any critical health information, and keep laminated copies at home and in your car and purse or wallet.

Pack an Emergency Readiness Kit

A ready-to-grab kit of essential goods and information can help ease an emergency situation. A large duffle or backpack works well, and you can seal contents in plastic bags to protect them from moisture. Some things to include are:

Your emergency phone list (laminated), plus health insurance information

  • 2-3 days’ worth of bottled water and emergency food for each family member. Canned meats and soups, dehydrated meals, and high-energy snacks are good choices. Don’t forget a manual can opener!
  • Flashlights
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First-Aid kit and a week’s supply of any essential prescription
  • Bug spray and sunblock
  • Waterproof matches
  • Candles
  • A small toolkit
  • Pocketknife
  • Duct Tape
  • Baby needs (diapers, formula, bottles, blankets)
  • Spare set of house and car keys
  • Lightweight water-repellent jackets each family member
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, mini shampoo, soap, and other hygiene basics
  • Cash and/or traveler’s checks and emergency credit cards
  • 1-2 days’ worth of clothes, plus keep a towel, sheet and sleeping bag handy to grab for each family member.

It’s also a good idea to include copies of wills, insurance policies, identification cards, birth certificates and other important documents, along with credit card and bank account numbers, sealed in a plastic box or bag. Copies of these important documents should also be stored in a fireproof safe or in a safe-deposit box. If you keep important financial information stored on your computer or on disk, you may want to add a recent backup to your kit occasionally, too.

To find out more about preparing for and dealing with any emergency, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website at There you will find printable checklists, state and regional contact information, plus a kid’s section with a printable coloring book to help you discuss disaster planning with your children.

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