You and your family may have to survive without power, government agency assistance, and everyday amenities during and after a natural disaster. Complete a natural disaster checklist to ensure you are prepared for an emergency. Your list should include these five essential items that provide power, food, water, medicine, and communication.
1. A Portable Generator
Your food, climate control, lighting, and electrical medical devices are all compromised when the power goes out. With standby or portable generators, you can keep the power flowing and your home safe. A standby generator is connected directly to your home and turns on when your power goes out. You don’t need to start it, and many of them are powered by natural gas, which utility companies supply to most homes. Natural gas lines are underground and usually are unaffected by power outages. However, earthquakes can disrupt the natural gas supply. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, opt for stand-by generators with their own natural gas supply or a portable generator that uses diesel fuel or propane.
It takes about 5,000W to 7,500W to power the essential items like a refrigerator, a basement sump pump, an electric stove, and a window air conditioning unit. Portable generators supply anywhere from 2,000W to 7,500W, and standby units can provide around 20,000W, so you can choose to power all your home’s essential items or just a couple. Portable generators need to be set up outside in a dry location, which means most people have to build a generator pad. Generator pads provide a flat and dry surface for portable and standby generators. They should be made of concrete and weigh 125% of the generator’s weight.
Since portable generators weigh 100 to 400 lbs., you should outfit your portable generator with a generator wheel kit. This allows anyone in your family to move the generator to a safe location and set it up. If you prefer a portable generator that operates without fuel, try a portable power station. Portable power stations are equipped with a rechargeable battery and a solar cell, making them a cost-effective, eco-friendly option for your home.
However, they typically don’t have the same energy output as generators with only 1,000W to 4,500W maximum capacity. This makes them suitable for powering small devices or for limited usage over a short period.
2. Water and Water Filtration
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing a gallon of water a day per person for drinking and sanitation. You need to store more if you have sick, pregnant, or nursing inhabitants because they require more water to stay healthy. If you live in a hot climate, increase the amount per day to a gallon and a half per person. Also, stockpile water for family pets. Cats need about four ounces of water per five pounds of body weight daily. Dogs require one ounce of water for every pound of body weight daily.
To ensure you can make more drinkable water, invest in a portable water filtration device. Choosing a portable setup rather than an at-home device gives you the flexibility you need to supply safe drinking water, even in the case of evacuation. The simplest form of water filtration includes a gravity-induced water filter and iodine pills to purify the water. Filtration removes sediment, organisms, and bacteria, while purification eliminates viruses and other micro-contaminants like heavy metals and chlorine.
3. Food and Cooking
While it is unlikely you will be without outside assistance for two weeks after a natural disaster, your food supply should last your household that long. After an accident, you should eat perishable food from your refrigerator first, as it will only last for four hours if the power goes out. Then eat food from the freezer because, at most, it will last two days in a properly sealed freezer. Finally, move on to the non-perishable stockpile of food.
Your stockpile of non-perishable foods should include canned and dehydrated foods in every food group. Calorie-dense foods like chili and canned meats are ideal. Jerky, granola bars, and nuts are also excellent sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to ensure you are meeting your daily nutrient needs. Ideally, you should stockpile food that does not require cooking, but you can use a fireplace indoors and outdoor grills to cook food. Make sure you have fuel for your grill in your emergency checklist. One 20 lb. propane tank lasts for 18 to 20 hours of cooking on a medium-sized grill.
4. Medicine and First Aid
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly half of Americans took a prescription drug in the last month. If you take prescription medicine, then talk with your doctor about how to create an emergency supply of your prescription. If your prescription needs to be refrigerated, keep a cooler full of chemically activated ice packs in your emergency supplies.
Also, keep an emergency supply of non-prescription drugs in your first aid kit. Antihistamines like Benadryl for allergic reactions, pain relievers like ibuprofen, and antidiarrheal medicines are beneficial in emergencies. Your first aid kit should also have bandages, a commercial tourniquet for bleeding control, pain relievers, hydrocortisone cream, and antibacterial sprays or wipes. If your household has a person with severe allergies that could cause anaphylactic shock, ensure that you include an EpiPen® in your first aid kit. For people with diabetes, include a supply of glucagon.
5. Communication Devices
Phone towers may come down during a natural disaster, and power outages can lead to dead phone batteries. Portable phone chargers keep a charge for about five months when unused, so your checklist should include recharging them two to three times a year. Crank and solar panel radios are the best ways to keep information flowing from official sources. They have access to weather updates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and local updates from your government, which can help inform evacuation decisions.
You can also find models that feature a power bank with USB ports for charging electronics like smartphones and tablets, and many double as flashlights. If you have essential items that run on single-cell batteries, stockpile spare batteries in various sizes. Keep them in a cool, dry area in a sealed container away from items like medications. Never place single-cell alkaline batteries in the freezer or a garage during the winter; it changes the molecular charge and renders them ineffective.
Start a Natural Disaster Checklist Today
You never know when a natural disaster will strike, so the best time to start completing your natural disaster checklist is today. Some parts of the checklist require time and quality tools to complete, like building a generator pad for your generator kit, while others just take a trip to the grocery store. Whatever you have time for today may be life-saving tomorrow, so start now to ensure your safety and peace of mind.