When COVID-19 first reached the United States, some Americans panicked and bought massive quantities of toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and other products. Supermarket and department store shelves quickly began lacking these basic items, leaving many other Americans struggling to find these everyday essentials. As pictures of these barren supermarket shelves began flooding social media, many people were reminded of the need for an emergency preparedness kit.
A thorough emergency preparedness kit will better equip you for sheltering in place during a pandemic, lacking utilities after a natural disaster, and so many more unpredictable, perilous circumstances. Here’s your ultimate emergency preparedness kit checklist.
Emergency preparedness kit essentials
No matter which threat you’re building your emergency preparedness kit to best anticipate, you should always include the following essentials in your kit:
- Water. For each person in your apartment, have one gallon of clean water on hand. If you’re anticipating a certain disaster type and can guess how many days that disaster could last, stock one gallon of water per person per day. During a pandemic of similar severity to COVID-19, you’ll likely have no issue accessing your usual tap water, but a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake could knock out water lines.
- Non-perishable food. If you’re trapped at home for any reason, a supply of canned foods such as vegetables, beans, and soups will make all the difference. Make sure you have a non-electric can opener in your kit as well. Non-stir nut butter, crackers, dried foods, and protein or energy bars are unlikely to spoil, too.
- Non-perishable pet food. If you have pets, you’ll need to feed them during an emergency, too.
- Baby and children’s supplies. Make sure you can properly clothe and feed any young kids, toddlers, or babies in your apartment by including diapers, baby formulas, wipes, and infant formula in your kit.
- Radios. Although the internet and smartphones dominate modern life, natural disasters can render them useless. Keep two types of battery-powered or hand-crank radios in your emergency kit: One that can receive AM and FM signals, and an NOAA weather radio with a tone alert for potentially life-saving weather and evacuation updates.
- Flashlights. Every person in your apartment should have a flashlight in your emergency kit so they can see properly during power outages.
- Batteries. Keep plenty of spare batteries on hand for your devices. Be sure your batteries are the right type for your devices.
- Whistles and noisemakers. You can use these items to signal for help when no other communication forms are available.
- Basic sanitation supplies. Packaged, moist towelettes and sealable trash bags may be useful for extended periods of forced isolation. Feminine products may be good to keep on hand as well.
- Wrenches or pliers for turning off utilities. If flooding or earthquakes occur, your apartment may be less prone to fires or other dangers if you can manually turn off your utilities.
- Local maps. In an emergency, your smartphone’s mapping app may not work, so it’s always worthwhile to keep printed local maps in your emergency preparedness kit.
- Portable charging supplies. In the event that cellular networks are working but electricity is unavailable, your smartphone will be useful, but its battery won’t last forever. Keep battery packs or other portable charging supplies handy.
- Prescription and non-prescription medications. If you can’t survive without certain pills or other prescriptions, keep them on hand. Non-prescription and over-the-counter medications can also prove helpful in a number of situations.
- Toiletries. Even if your water isn’t running, you’ll still need to brush your teeth. If your water is running but your electricity and heat aren’t, you can likely still shower.
- Toilet paper and paper towels. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these items have been especially hard to come by. Buying a bulk package or two of each will keep you stocked for quite some time.
- Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer. To keep dirt, grime, and pathogens off your hands and disinfect your apartment surfaces in an emergency, keep an abundance of these in your emergency kit.
- Masks. Dust masks can protect you while you comb through rubble after a natural disaster, and surgical masks can lessen your chances of contracting or spreading pathogens. As many leading public health authorities have said, you should always reserve N95 respirators for health professionals, so don’t include these in your emergency kit.
Useful, but not always necessary, emergency preparedness kit items
You’ll be better prepared if your emergency preparedness kit includes these items, but you may be able to forgo them, too.
- Visual aids. Keeping extra glasses or contact lenses in your emergency preparedness kit may help for extended emergencies.
- Cash. You may find it helpful to have non-electronic currency in your emergency preparedness kit.
- Documents. Government-issued IDs, proof of residency, insurance policies, and bank statements may help you get resettled in certain emergencies.
- Warm clothes, waterproof shoes, and blankets. During a winter emergency, if the heat goes out, having warm clothes, waterproof shoes, and blankets in your emergency preparedness kit will help you stay warm.
- Fire extinguishers. If an emergency causes your apartment to catch fire, you’ll be able to dull the flames.
- Matches or lighters. When your heat or cooking options fail in an emergency, you can use matches or lighters for warmth or (if done safely and carefully) cooking.
- Entertainment options. If you’re trapped in your apartment but you’re safe, you’ll need a way to pass the time. Board games, books, puzzles, and other non-electronic options can help you pass the time when your utilities are unavailable.
- Bleach. If your water has run out, you can disinfect other water by adding 16 drops of bleach to a gallon of water.
Are first aid kits emergency preparedness kits?
First aid kits may be synonymous with emergency kits, but these kits are only suited for personal emergencies instead of societal ones such as pandemics, natural disasters, and other occurrences that change the everyday lives of large groups of people. Instead, first aid kits are just a part of an emergency preparedness kit. In other words, you should always include a first aid kit in your emergency preparedness kit. You can find the My First Apartment complete checklist of items to include in your first aid kit (and some other basic care item ideas) here.
What else would you include in your emergency preparedness kit? Feel free to comment with anything you think is missing from this list.