Preparing for an Emergency

Severe weather and homeland security events could require citizens to be prepared. In many cases, emergency services will be overloaded in an emergency situation and you will need to have a few basic items to ensure your comfort and in some cases, your survival.

The household preparedness kit should be large enough to contain basic items your family will need to exist for three or four days, yet small enough for you to carry when traveling or during an evacuation. The kit should be your "go bag" that can be placed in your vehicle or carried easily should you have to walk to a shelter or emergency care area. Consider using cloth backpack (s) or tote bags for the kit as they are easily stored and transported.

For more information on emergency preparedness please visit National Fire Protection Association- Emergency Preparedness.

The following list is not intended to meet the needs of every family due to special needs or preferences; however, these items should be considered:

  • Food and water items
  • Bottled drinking water (enough for three or four days)
  • Prepackaged food items (crackers, peanut butter, breakfast bars, dry fruit, etc.)
  • Hard candy such as peppermints
  • Special food items for babies or toddlers

Medical Supplies

  • Up to five days of maintenance medications - Note: some medications need special handling (cold for example) so plan for that emergency
  • Antacid tablets
  • Over the counter pain medication
  • First aid kit or items (bandages, first aid cream, alcohol, band-aids, scissors)

Hygiene Items

  • Kitchen size trash bags
  • Toilet tissue
  • Packaged hand or baby wipes
  • Stick deodorant
  • Toothpaste and brushes


  • A battery-powered radio
  • A flashlight(s) (do not use candles or open flame devices)
  • Glow/Light sticks (signal devices that when broken create light)
  • Extra batteries for lights and radios

Other considerations

  • Small survival blankets
  • Toys for children (small and quiet toys in case you are sheltered with others)
  • Duct tape - to make temporary repairs or to seal doors and windows

It is strongly recommended that food, batteries, and medications are cycled out of the kits every few months so items will be current when needed.

Evacuating With Your Pets

Family pets should never be left behind in an evacuation. Decide now where you and your family will stay if local officials call for an evacuation. Many hotels or shelters may not allow pets. Prepare an emergency kit for each pet in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container. Families evacuating in their personal vehicles can use this checklist:

  • A secure pet carrier, cage or crate
  • Leash and collar or harness for each pet
  • Muzzle (anxiety and stress can cause any pet to bite). A muzzle serves to protect both the pet and other people.
  • An up-to-date identification tag on your pet's collar and proof of ownership, such as a picture of you with your pet
  • Veterinary records and medications, such as flea or heartworm treatment, along with emergency contact information
  • One week's worth of food and water for each pet, including dishes, spoon, and a can opener
  • Written feeding and medication instructions, including what NOT to feed your pet
  • Clean-up supplies: paper towels, newspaper, cat litter with pan and scoop for cats, sealable bags for disposing of waste, wet and dry wipes, and hand sanitizers
  • Pet toys, bedding, and treats

For more information on care for household pets and livestock during a disaster, visit FEMA: Helping Pets or

Homeland Security Advisory System 

The Homeland Security Advisory System provides a simple, straightforward means to communicate the federal government’s assessment of the level of risk of terrorist acts. The system provides warnings in the form of a set of graduated "threat conditions" that increase as the risk of the threat increases. At each threat condition, federal departments and agencies implement a corresponding set of "protective measures" to further reduce vulnerability or increase response capability during a period of heightened alert. If an event does happen, be sure to listen to what local authorities announce about the situation in surrounding areas.

The American Red Cross has developed a listing of appropriate actions that you can take as an individual, as a family, and in your neighborhood, schools, and businesses for each level of the Homeland Security Advisory System. FEMA publication H-34, Are You Ready? An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness offers specific protective measures that you can take for an "Elevated Condition (Yellow)" threat level.