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Consumer Watch: Ready for disaster

Keep your kit stocked for emergencies on the home front

Aug. 14, 2011 - 01:57PM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 14, 2011 - 01:57PM  |  
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Whether you live on the nation's rain-splattered coasts, in its tornado-ravaged midsection or somewhere else prone to extreme weather, it's never a bad time to think about restocking — or just plain stocking — your emergency supplies.

Think ahead to that winter snowstorm and any other possible emergencies.

Even if you think you put together a top-notch kit a few years ago, reassess. Has your family situation changed? What about the condition of the items in your kit? If you've raided your emergency stash, it's time to replenish.

Check your bottled water, canned food, baby formula and other nonperishables carefully. They have expiration dates, and if they've expired, get rid of them. If they're close to expiration, use them and replenish. If your baby has grown beyond the formula stage, find another family who can use the formula.

If there's an addition to the family, you may need to add diapers, formula and bottles, pacifiers and powdered milk. Or you may need to add hearing aid batteries or special foods for elderly people.

Ensure you always have enough of your prescription drugs on hand, such as heart and blood pressure medications. These days, most maintenance prescriptions are filled with a 90-day supply, so that shouldn't be a problem. Just don't let your medication supply get too low before you refill.

Store your items in waterproof containers. And always keep your car maintained, with at least a half-tank of gas.

WHAT YOU NEED

Here's what the Federal Emergency Management Agency says you should consider as you build or replenish your emergency kit:

• Commercially bottled water, at least a three-day supply, one gallon per person per day, although children, nursing mothers and ill people need more. Don't forget water for pets.

• Nonperishable food, at least a three-day supply. Choose foods that are compact and lightweight, and avoid foods that will make you thirsty. FEMA advises stocking ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables; canned juices, milk and soup; staples such as sugar, salt and pepper; high-energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix; vitamins; and foods for infants, the elderly and others with special dietary needs. Again, don't forget pet food.

• Manual can opener.

• Plastic or paper plates and utensils.

• Candles and matches.

• Tools such as wrenches, pliers and duct tape.

• Fresh batteries for your radio, TV, flashlights and lanterns.

• First-aid supplies, including gauze pads, bandages, hypoallergenic adhesive tape, scissors, tweezers, latex gloves, antiseptic, thermometer and medicine dropper.

• Medications, including aspirin or other pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, laxatives, ipecac syrup to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center, and other medical supplies that may be needed for a family member's specific condition.

• One complete change of clothes for each person, and consider whether you may need cold-weather gear such as jackets and thermal underwear, in case you don't have heat.

• Blankets and sleeping bags.

• Rain gear.

• Toilet paper.

• Personal hygiene supplies, including soap, hand sanitizer, moist towelettes and liquid detergent.

• Plastic garbage bags and ties.

• Plastic bucket with a tight lid.

• Household disinfectant.

• Chlorine bleach and dropper. To treat water in an emergency, use 16 drops of plain bleach (no additives) per gallon of water.

• Emergency cash.

• Copies of important family records in a waterproof container, including health insurance cards (front and back); credit cards and ID cards; wills; birth, marriage and death certificates; insurance policies; contracts; deeds; stocks and bonds; photo IDs; passports; Social Security cards; shot records; and bank account and credit card numbers and important phone numbers.

• Games, books, toys and other entertainment items that don't require electricity.

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