What To Put In A Disaster Kit, & Why You Need One

Ad failed to load

Hurricane Harvey has devastated Texas, and wildfires are threatening 200 homes in Los Angeles amid triple-digit temps. Natural disasters are pretty much a given with global warming on the rise, but most people aren't prepared for them, according to Urban Survival Site. This is why you need a disaster kit, and to know what you'll need to put in it. You'll need food, water, medication, a first-aid kit, pet food, cash, and more. "It’s important to build an emergency supply kit and have it ready and available at a moment’s notice," William Booher, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the New York Times.

While I grew up in the Midwest where tornados are a fact of life, and I've survived both a tropical storm, and Hurricane Irene living on the East Coast, I didn't get a disaster kit until I moved to Los Angeles because, earthquakes. I have no idea why we didn't have a disaster kit growing up. When the tornado sirens went off, which was pretty often during tornado season, that was the signal to grab everything you could carry and head to the basement. I once spent six hours in the basement of a bar in Indiana after a tornado ripped through the town while I was inside.

Like Urban Survival Site noted, perhaps we didn't prepare because we thought everything would be fine. We thought it could never happen to us. But it can, and it does, and this is why you need to be prepared.

Ad failed to load

Why You Should Be Prepared

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When I started my career as a newspaper reporter on the East Coast, hurricanes and blizzards didn't mean "take cover." They meant "get out there and get the story." Foolishly, I didn't even have an emergency kit in my car even though I put myself in dangerous situations constantly.

Ad failed to load

During the Patriot's Day Nor'easter 10 years ago, I remember driving my Jeep to the National Guard barricade in Maine, and convincing them to let me pass. I waded through two feet of water to walk the beach and document homes that had literally been split in half and were washing out to sea.

Now, as I watch a wildfire raging five miles away from my house in Los Angeles — I can see the flames leaping into the sky from my front yard — having a disaster kit at the ready seems pretty damn important. Ready.gov has a checklist of basics to include in every disaster kit if you're having trouble getting started. I bought a disaster kit from Amazon that is a small backpack with food and water for three days, a first-aid kit, light sticks, emergency blankets, rain ponchos, gloves, face masks, and a whistle. I then added a life straw, which filters water in the event you need to drink from a puddle, dehydrated dog food, and tampons.

My kit was less than $30, and you can definitely go more lux, but because the kit expires in five years, and I'm on a budget, I opted for the basic model so me, my roommate, and our two dogs can at least take care of ourselves for a few days.

Ad failed to load

How To Build A DIY Disaster Kit

If you want to make your own disaster kit, it's pretty easy to DIY. The Red Cross considers these items essential to any basic disaster kit. If you're going the DIY route, grab a backpack and add:

Ad failed to load
  • Water: You'll need one gallon per person for three days. Water is heavy, so consider getting some emergency drinking water in bags.
  • Food: Three days worth of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items. Cans are heavy, so consider lightweight items, like dehydrated foods and protein bars. If you have pets, make sure to pack food for them too.
  • A flashlight and extra batteries, first-aid kit, lightweight emergency blankets, and extra cash.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) because your cellphone likely won't work.
  • Medications, pack a seven-day supply, and sanitation and personal hygiene items.
  • A multi-purpose tool, like a deluxe pocket knife.
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies).
  • Cellphone with chargers just in case, and family and emergency contact information.
  • Map(s) of the area because your maps apps probably won't do you any good.

You can get most of these items on Amazon, or at any local surplus store.

Create An Emergency Communication Plan

Ad failed to load

Don't rely on telepathy for your disaster communications plan. "You should sit down with your family and discuss,” Booher told the New York Times, “but also share with your friends and colleagues in case something was to happen — someone outside your immediate family would be able to track you down.”

Ready America Emergency Kit 2 Person 3-Day Backpack, $45.60, Amazon

If you are not at home when a disaster strikes, decide ahead of time where you and your partner, family, or friends will meet. Pick a central location in your city that you can all realistically get to if phone and internet service is down, and you don't have any way to contact each other. While you may not be able to get this location, if you can this is where people will know to look for your first.

Ad failed to load

Urban Survival Site explained that many people don't take these steps ahead of time because of something called normalcy bias, a psychological phenomenon that describes people’s rationalization of a dangerous situation. "Basically, people assume the best will happen because they do not want to think about uglier alternatives."

However, the real alternative to not planning ahead is being stranded and separated from your family and friends without any supplies.

It Can Happen To You

David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Ad failed to load

If you think it can't happen to you, unfortunately it can. This picture is what's happening just down the road from where I am writing this. Ashes are pouring from the sky like rain. If I have to leave my house, I want to be ready.

Additionally, experts are constantly predicting the "big one" in Los Angeles the earthquake that will destroy the city. Despite these dire declarations, most people don't spend their days thinking about it because earthquakes can't be predicted ahead of time. Little earthquakes happen all the time here. Wildfires happen constantly, too. It's foolish to think this can't affect me when these events displace people, injure people, and sometimes take lives.

Ready America Emergency Kit 2 Person 3-Day Backpack, $45.60, Amazon

Ad failed to load

My dad's house burned to the ground when I was 21. No one was hurt, but he lost everything. He also went weeks without power after Hurricane Ivan, and if it weren't for his generator he and his family would have been pretty miserable. Knowing all of this, the least I can do is prepare ahead of time for the unknown.

"Many people explain away their refusal to prep by pointing out the long odds of a cataclysmic event occurring," Urban Survival Site noted. "They say that if such an event does happen, some power of destiny must have intervened to make it so. 'If that happens, then it will just be my time to go,' they say. [However] if something bad does happen, chances are they’ll feel differently and won’t quietly succumb to their fate."

This is why I have a disaster kit because, while I don't spent every second thinking about it, a disaster could easily impact my life. And, I'm very lucky that nothing bad happened during the years I went without one. If you just want to get it off your plate, grab a cheap one from Amazon. Because, you'll never regret being prepared for a disaster.

Ad failed to load

Ready America Emergency Kit 2 Person 3-Day Backpack, $45.60, Amazon

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

What I Learned About Work-Life Balance After Relapsing From Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Almost two years ago, I woke up in a hotel room, groggy and dehydrated, with my clothes all over the room and my nightstand filled with mini bottles of liquor. I had spent the previous two days drinking all the alcohol in my mini bar. I'm not sure wh…
By Irina Gonzalez

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

Bustle Editors On CPAC + 'Making A Murderer'

Adulthood is, essentially, just waiting until the weekend hits — which is why I know we're all glad it's finally Friday. Whether your plans are to catch up on all the Netflix content that'll be leaving the platform at the end of February, a weekend g…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale