When a disaster strikes, you should have supplies on hand that will help your family cope with the inconvenience and danger that result. As we have seen with large disasters, the infrastructure in place in our cities and towns is often overwhelmed following a disaster. It is up to you to provide your own emergency preparedness for those first days after a disaster. By getting a good first aid kit, a basic survival gear kit and some emergency rations organized, you will protect your family from the worst effects of a disaster. We have seen the devastation that resulted from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew. A tornado has the ability to knock out the infrastructure in a wide area. Significant electrical black out events have affected millions of people. These are all disasters that could strike your area at any time. If you start now, you can organize your emergency preparedness kit in time for the next disaster. The cost of your kit will be under your control. You won't be forced to pay the high rates for supplies that are common during the emergency watch period for a hurricane. If you don't have an emergency preparedness kit yet, or you have an old one, you should make a point to get busy now, well before a disaster is evident.

What you need in an emergency preparedness kit
From recent disasters, we know that regular services are overwhelmed for 24-72 hours after an event. In some cases, such as Hurricane Katrina, it can be even longer. You should have enough supplies available for your family's needs for 72 hours. If the effects of the disaster last longer than that, you can evacuate the area. For a family of 4, an emergency preparedness kit should have enough food for about 30 or more meals. These will be basic survival meals. Protein, carbohydrates and energy enough to sustain your family. Water is also critical. A family of 4 should have 12 gallons of water available. A first aid kit with a whistle should be part of your kit. Remember that electricity, water, gas and other normal services are likely to be knocked out during a disaster. Your emergency preparedness kit needs to be usable without you having access to these services. Cooking will be difficult so ready to eat items, or those requiring minimal preparation, are best.

Suggested contents of your emergency preparedness kit include:
Food: dry cereal, granola bars, peanut butter, dried fruit, cans of soup, cans of fruit, cans of vegetables, vitamins
First Aid Kit: bandages, rubbing alcohol, tape, gauze pads, saline solution, peroxide, scissors, finger splint, tensor wrap
Flashlight: get an emergency preparedness type with a hand crank. Batteries will quickly die in storage.
Water: get three standard 5 gallon jugs from a water service. Get the matching hand pump. Keep them from freezing.
Garbage bags
Basic tools: wrench or pliers to shut off gas supply, knife, hammer, etc.
Dust masks
Tarps or a small roll of plastic from the building supply store for rain protection
Can opener for canned food
Emergency radio: get an emergency preparedness type with a hand crank.
Cash: small bills. Credit cards are useless during a disaster.
Spare clothes
Infant formula if needed
Sleeping materials for each person
Other camping equipment including matches, candles, cooking pot and a camping stove with fuel

Where to store your emergency preparedness kit
Make sure that you store your emergency preparedness kit in an accessible location. The garage, near a door is good. If a disaster wrecks your house, it may be difficult to retrieve items from the basement or an interior room. If your emergency preparedness kit is located in a known, easily accessible location, you can get it quickly during a disaster. You may need to evacuate or live outside your home and use your kit contents for survival. Make sure they aren't trapped by debris.

How to maintain your emergency preparedness kit
Besides basic precautions that you should take to keep your emergency preparedness kit dry and safe from rodents, you should preserve the quality of the ingredients. While you should have non-perishable supplies in the kit, they can degrade over time. Pack everything in plastic bags that allow no air to enter. Keep everything in tightly closed storage containers. Periodically replace any canned food, perhaps every year or so. Make sure that all of your supplies are viable. The contents of your emergency preparedness kit are important for your family during disasters. Once you have the materials gathered, check and replenish as necessary. If you own a recreational vehicle, these units make an excellent addition to your emergency preparedness kit. Keep the RV stocked with provisions and supplies, even in the off season.

Advise your family and friends to organize their own emergency preparedness kits
When you have gathered an adequate emergency preparedness kit to help your family cope with the first 72 hour period after a disaster, you know that you have done what you can to get ready. Sadly, most families are not nearly prepared enough. When your emergency preparedness kit is safely stored in your garage, check with your family and friends to see if they have their own kit. If not, let them know that you have organized a kit. Tell them how important it is for them to organize an emergency preparedness kit themselves. You should help your elderly family members assemble an emergency preparedness kit. Help them find an easily accessible location for the kit.

Hurricane Katrina was an epic disaster that struck millions of people. Many people were killed by the event. More people died after the storm had passed. By having an emergency preparedness kit, you boost the chances of your survival. Disasters are unpredictable. Another hurricane like Katrina could come at any time. With climate change, such storms are becoming stronger and more common. Let your family and friends know that you have taken the easy steps, in advance, to get ready. An emergency preparedness kit is easy to assemble during peaceful times. The supplies it contain become extremely important during the first 72 hours of a disaster.