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How to keep natural disasters from turning your life into one

July 23, 2020 (Updated: August 3, 2021)
Lily Moran

If you’ve ever lived through an earthquake, wildfire, hurricane, or other natural disaster, you know the value of preparation in the event of an emergency. When roads are blocked and phones are down, what do you do to survive?

Emergency preparedness is the key. Having a pre-planned home medical kit and an evacuation kit will help you take care of minor problems in a crisis—and they don’t have to be complicated.

Even if natural disaster never strikes you, it never hurts to have the supplies you need on hand to treat cuts and bruises and deal with other small injuries.

You probably have bandages, pain relievers, and similar supplies in your home already. A home medical kit keeps all of these things in one place, so you can find them when they’re needed.

It’s also easier to track which products in a kit are expired. Take the expiration dates on medication seriously; expired medication is risky.

So, while putting your emergency preparedness kit together, make a list of expiration dates from products that have them, including batteries. Note the dates on your calendar, and tape the list to your kit. Every few months, rotate the extra medication kept in your home medical supplies kit with medication you keep elsewhere in your home.

What to Include in Your Medical Kit

Do you know what your home medical kit should include?

Basic Medical Kit

  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Bandages (several different sizes and shapes)
  • Burn gel
  • Calamine lotion
  • Cold packs
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Elastic bandages
  • Eye pads
  • Eye wash
  • Face masks (N-95 rated NIOSH)
  • First-aid manual
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Medications and nutritional supplements (4-week supply)
  • 1% hydrocortisone cream
  • Pain relievers
  • Phone numbers and contact names (for emergency)
  • Plastic or latex gloves (several pairs)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Soap
  • Sterile gauze
  • Thermometer
  • Triple-antibiotic ointment
  • Tweezers

Personalize this list for your own needs. One good way to identify all the elements for your medical kit is to make notes throughout the day about what you use regularly, and add each item to your list.

If you have a pet, don’t forget about its medication and first-aid needs. Each animal is different, so talk with your vet about what to include besides its medicine. A dog might require a muzzle if it’s injured and you’re attempting to help it.

But what if it’s more serious? What if you have to evacuate?

Emergency Supplies for Evacuation

Again, personalize an evacuation kit to your own needs. But these are the minimum emergency supplies I suggest to get started.

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  • Blanket or sleeping bag (lightweight)
  • Books
  • Bottled water (as much as you feel you can carry)
  • Clothing and comfortable shoes
  • Comb or hairbrush
  • Duct tape
  • Deck of cards
  • Energy or meal-replacement bars (a 1 day supply minimum)
  • Paper towels
  • Pillow
  • Short-wave radio and extra batteries
  • Toilet paper
  • Toiletries
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Towel
  • Water purifier tablets or travel water purifier

Pack the medical and evacuation kits into an old suitcase or duffel bag. Then you’ll only have one easy to carry thing to grab in an emergency.

You won’t have time to grab your mementos, memorabilia, or important documents in a real emergency. Think now about what you would need to establish a new life somewhere else, and what you’d want to keep from your old one.

Some things you may want to keep in a safe deposit box or a high quality fire-proof safe. Some things you might feel comfortable scanning and storing in the cloud. And some things you may just want to make copies of and send off to children, siblings, or other family members. Think now about how you want to preserve your memories and important legal and financial records in case of emergency.

Pets Also Need Emergency Preparedness

Last, but not least, pet owners need to do a bit more work.

Have carrying cases or kennels, spare leashes, a blanket or two, emergency food and water (unless you want to share yours), as well as bowls, treats, and toys, or other comforting reminders of home, ready to go.

Keeping the pet’s first aid kit inside a carrying case or kennel will spare you from having to search for it during a time when every minute may count. Just be sure to rotate food and medicine regularly to avoid ending up with stale or expired products.

Being Prepared Avoids Disaster

It may seem like a chore, but making up a home medical kit can literally save your life or the life of someone you love. In fact, when you put yours together, make up another survival kit for your car. Being stranded in an automobile can be just as devastating as being forced to leave your home on short notice.

We sometimes think these tragedies happen only to others. But the truth is, there are no guarantees. As one reader named Connie says, “It’s better to be prepared for a disaster than to become one.” And I completely agree.

Stay ready, and take good care.

Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Last Updated: July 23, 2020 
Originally Published: June 2, 2014

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