Emergency Basics

In an emergency, help may take hours or days to arrive. While local officials and relief will be on the scene, they rarely reach everyone immediately. Since you may be required to survive on your own, make sure you have sufficient food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. 

The two things you need in the case of any type of natural disaster are an Emergency Kit and a Family Communication Plan.

Basic emergency supply kit

Your emergency kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off, so your kit should contain items to help you manage during this type of outage.

Your kit should be ready long before any emergency. If you have to evacuate at a moment’s notice there won’t be time to search for the supplies you need or go shopping for them.

At minimum, your emergency kit should include:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for three days (for both drinking and sanitation)
  • Non-perishable food, at least a three day supply
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Flashlights and (even more) extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Dust mask, plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, plastic ties (personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Cell phone with chargers or solar charger

Other useful links:

Download & print the Red Cross emergency kit checklist.

Family communication plan

When an emergency strikes, your family may not be together. Plan how you will contact one another.

  • Check emergency plans with your children’s day care or school. Plan to make alternate pick-up plans if needed.
  • Create a contact card for all family members and keep them safe in a wallet or purse.
  • Designate a non-local friend or relative, and ask your household members to notify that person when they are safe.
  • If you have a cell phone, label some of your contacts with “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will
    often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know.
  • When in doubt, send a text. Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.

Other useful links:

Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management: