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Build a Disaster Preparedness Kit for your Family

Most of us don’t think about being prepared for an emergency until after it happens. But with all the natural disasters – and long recovery from natural disasters – occurring now in our hemisphere, it’s a good time to consider what we should do to become prepared.

We here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor are dedicated not only to quality, affordable housing but also to home safety for all residents of Grays Harbor, so we thought we’d talk some more about disaster preparedness.

Of course, you can never be totally prepared for absolutely every possible kind of disaster, but that shouldn’t stop you from putting together an emergency or disaster preparedness kit that could make a difference between life and death – or at the very least provide comfort and care – in the event of a disaster.

If you don’t feel up to the task of gathering the supplies yourself, go online and you’ll find a variety of disaster kits ranging from $30 to $700 plus!

Whether you do it yourself, or get out the credit card and shop online, do make it a priority this month to get your disaster kits in place. Fall and winter storms are on their way and the risk of earthquakes in our area is ever-present.


Once the items are gathered, we suggest you either put them in a sturdy plastic tub with a lid, a bucket with a handle or in a backpack or two. The idea is to have everything in one or two easy-to-carry containers so that you can quickly find what you need and grab it and go if necessary.

Most folks keep the kit in a garage, basement or closet at home. However, the back of your pick-up truck or in your car’s trunk is another possible storage place. If you are usually where your vehicle is, that ensures that even if you are at work, on vacation or just shopping that you’ll have the items you need in an emergency.

Probably the best plan of attack is to have a kit at home as well as one for each car and also a small one for your office or workplace.

Whatever you decide, make sure everyone in the family knows where to locate the emergency kit; there’s no guarantee that you will all be home together when disaster strikes.


From The Red Cross to FEMA to private nonprofit organizations, many lists are available online to help you assemble your kits. Don’t get caught up on which one is perfect…just begin gathering things. You can always tweak it later.

Here are some items for a basic supply kit:

  • Water. It’s suggested that you have one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation purposes. That’s a lot of water. It may not all fit in your kit beyond a days-worth for one person. So, put what you can in your kit and store the rest nearby.

  • Food. Have at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. We think much more is wiser because of our rural location to outside help.

  • Battery-powered/ hand crank radio and NOAA Weather Radio with tone alerts.

  • LED headlight flashlight

  • Extra batteries

  • Candles and matches

  • Survival Whistle

  • Dust mask, 10’x12’ plastic tarp with grommets, 50’ rope and duct tape to shelter in place if needed.

  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags with plastic ties for personal sanitation.

  • Properly sized wrench or pliers to turn off utilities. (More on this in a future column.)

  • Can opener or Swiss Army knife multi-tool

  • Cell phone with charger and backup battery. Small roll-up solar panel?

  • Prescription medications.

  • Personal hygiene items

  • Fire extinguisher can

  • Cash in small denominations


Depending on the makeup of your family and your particular needs, you may also want to have some of the following items.

  • Spare glasses and contact lens solution

  • Pet food and extra water

  • Feminine supplies

  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, etc.

  • Any non-prescription medicine that the family frequently uses such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea mediation, antacids or laxatives.

  • Paper and pen

  • Chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water

  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils,

  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container

  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

  • Even consider including a deck of cards, books, games, puzzles or other activities for children


In addition to you putting together a disaster kit, getting to know your neighbors is an excellent way for you – and them – to prepare for a disaster!

To get through a disaster, neighbors need to help neighbors and knowing who’s who before the disaster is ideal. These are the people you may be relying on and who may be relying on you in a disaster.

For instance, it’s good to know who around you has mobility issues, lives alone, depends on oxygen, is insulin-dependent or has other special health conditions, or has many young children.

Although interviewing someone you just met about their health conditions is not recommended, as relationships form you can get a sense of what their needs are – and also what their skills and abilities are.

For instance, who on your block is handy with a chainsaw, has medical or first-aid training? Who owns a generator, a wood-burning or propane cook stove, is a ham radio operator or even who has a boat?

When neighbors help each other in emergencies it’s not just the physically strongest folks who can help. For instance, people who wouldn’t mind hosting people in their home, who can cook a big pot of soup, make meals for others or even who are willing and able to watch children, can also greatly contribute during a crisis. You get the idea.


Next week we will discuss physical things you can do to the structure of your house to help prevent or limit any damage it may receive in an earthquake.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at Aberdeen Neighborhood Housing Services, NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. (NeighborWorks® is a registered service mark of Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.)

Do you have questions about home repair, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, or 1-866-533-7828, write us at P.O. Box 407, or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.

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