Disaster and Emergency Prep for Families

disaster prep kits for familiesFew places in this world are safe from the kind of disasters that Mother Nature likes to throw at us. There are hurricanes and tropical storms. There are earthquakes. There are tornadoes and flash floods. Before kids, safety in these kind of emergencies was mostly common sense. You go to the most sheltered place and ride it out. No big deal.

When you have kids, the whole disaster paradigm changes. Your previous emergency kit (which was probably a bottle of water, a flashlight, and two twinkies) isn’t going to cut it any longer. Here are some of the things that you (adults) will tolerate, that your little ones probably won’t take well:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night, which is when most natural disasters seem to strike
  • Spending a lot of time in the dark, and the quiet.
  • Staying entertained without TV, movies, or internet
  • Living on bottled water and canned food.

Let’s be honest: the safest room in your house — low to the ground, away from windows — is probably some kind of storage area. Maybe it’s a basement or finished lower level or extra bedroom. It’s probably not the play room, heck, it’s probably not even babyproofed! It’s time to talk about a basic disaster and emergency prep kit for families.

Home Emergency Kit

Last year, after several close calls with tornadoes and other weather events, we finally buckled down and assembled a serious emergency kit. It’s in a 10-gallon clear rubber tote, and we keep it in our bomb shelter. That way it’s easy to find, and we can also find what we need in it without too much trouble. So what things do you need in a disaster?

For the Adults

Preparing for an emergency is not really rocket science. Just picture yourself living in a small, dark, cramped space, and make sure you pack the following:

  • Water. We stocked bottled water, which seems more portable and easier to dole out as needed. It’s also useful for pouring, in the event that you’re mixing baby formula or cereal in the dark.
  • Food. Non-perishable food items keep best, obviously. We’ve stocked things like granola bars, sealed snack-sized bags of chips/crackers, etc. For a longer haul, we also packed some canned goods, a stainless-steel container, and utensils.
  • Light and warmth. A butane lighter (or waterproof matches), candles, and an emergency blanket all take up a tiny amount of space, but provide a lot of comfort when the power goes out.
  • Tools. What if something breaks, or the door gets jammed? A couple of screwdrivers, pliers, a saw (a wire saw is especially compact) and a utility knife are good additions to the kit.

For the Kids

Rule of thumb: take the amount of stuff you have for yourself, double or triple it, and that’s the amount you’ll need for your kids. This applies anywhere, even in the emergency kit. For those little ones, be sure to pack:

  • Formula or cereal, if they’re still eating it. In airtight containers, with smaller containers or bowls (and spoons) for mixing. Yes, you’re essentially writing this stuff off because it’ll expire eventually, but if you end up taking shelter, you’ll be glad for it!
  • Pacifiers or soothers, to help keep the baby calm even if there’s noise or commotion
  • A little blanket and stuffed animal, because most basements/storage rooms have nothing but hard surfaces
  • Heavy socks. Your baby probably sleeps without socks, and he or she might need something protective when crawling/toddling around. Shoes they’ll outgrow too quickly, but heavy socks last longer and provide those tootsies some warmth, too.
  • A few small but entertaining toys. Imagine keeping your kids occupied with no electricity, cell service, or anything. That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Stashing a few toys now will save you from having to let them play with, say, the screwdriver instead. Because that’s just not going to end well.

Communication: Crank Weather Radio


Midland emergency Radio

If you’ve dragged the kids down into the basement or bomb shelter, you can assume things are pretty bad out there. You’ll probably want to know what’s going on, but what if the power’s out? A weather radio is a good choice here: it picks up the NOAA live weather broadcasts, which run on a loop and are updated constantly.

Battery-operated is OK, but I like the weather radios that can be powered by manual crank as well, like the Midland Emergency Crank Radio. It has AM/FM bands, weather bands, and a built-in flashlight. They can be powered with the A/C adapter (included) or by manual dynamo crank.

The First-Aid Kit

Homemade first aid kit

First Aid Kit (credit: Sarah with an H)

Your emergency kit should have medical supplies, too. You can buy first aid kits anywhere, but I don’t like those ready-made jobs and here’s why: they sell it as a 120-piece kit or 240-piece kit, but 100 of those “pieces” are tiny band-aids. That’s ridiculous. Sure, we use band-aids quite a bit, but they’re also not going to treat more than a boo-boo. Get a nice airtight/waterproof case or tackle box, and stock it with:

  • Hand sanitizer, for whoever is going to play doctor when someone gets hurt.
  • First aid spray (i.e. Bactrim) or hydrogen peroxide spray, for sanitizing things.
  • Ace bandages, tape, and a good pair of scissors
  • Diaper rash cream, antibiotic ointment, and burn cream
  • Teething gel, if your little one hasn’t gotten the two year molars yet
  • Band-aids in various sizes
  • Cottonballs and Q-tips for cleaning/applying creams

Don’t forget aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, or whatever you take for pain. Because if you’re really going to spend hours in an enclosed space with your kids, you’ll probably need it.