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7 supplies to get you (and your family) through almost any disaster

The Boy Scout oath aside, what does it really mean to be prepared? Here's the skinny from the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on what you could need in a disaster:

1. Food. Stock up on nonperishable items that don't require heating, and stick with things the family eats regularly.

"People feel a lot more comfortable psychologically eating what they normally eat," says Rocky Lopes, senior associate for community disaster education with the American Red Cross and convener of the American Disaster Education Coalition, a network of 19 government and nonprofit organizations.

Remember special foods for special diets, like baby formula, salt- or sugar-restricted options and pet food. Throw in picnic supplies, like disposable plates, cups, cutlery and garbage bags. And whatever you do, don't forget the manual can opener.

2. Water. The Red Cross recommends stocking three gallons for every family member -- a three-day supply. Low-cost tip: Refill resealable soda, milk or water bottles with tap water and put them aside. If a family member has special liquid needs, like baby formula or a liquid diet, stock a three-day supply. And don't forget to include pets in your family head count.

3. Flashlights. At least one for every family member. And include plenty of spare batteries.

4. A battery-powered radio. "You need some way to get the news," says Lopes.

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5. A first-aid kit. You can buy one ready-made at a drug or discount store, or make your own. In any event, it should include bandages and gauze pads, antiseptic and over-the-counter pain reliever. In addition, make sure to include prescription medicines that your family members, including the pets, will need. Don't forget the delivery systems, like syringes and alcohol wipes for a diabetic, and rarely used products, like allergy medicine or an asthma inhaler for someone who may use it only sporadically.

6. Tools and supplies. Pack a duffel bag so you can grab it and go in an emergency, says Lopes, who recommends assembling a separate bag for each member of the family. Include at least one change of clothing, preferably with long pants, long-sleeved shirt and closed-toed shoes or boots. Also include those personal items that each of your family members could need, like contact lens solution, spare glasses, tampons, toilet paper, baby wipes, extra diapers, etc. Tuck a wrench into one of the kits, in case you're directed to disconnect the gas lines. (This is also a great place to store that radio, can-opener, flashlights and batteries.) Include a roll of quarters or a phone card. And, most important, go through the kits regularly and make sure everything is updated and working.

7. A family communications plan. The plan should include everyone's e-mail and home, work, school, cell phone and beeper numbers. If you have family in different parts of the country, try and coordinate who will call whom -- and where, if necessary, you will meet. Put a separate copy in each family member's kit, says Chad Kolton with FEMA. That way, if anyone is separated he or she knows how to get in touch.

Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

-- Posted: April 7, 2003

 

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