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How to build an emergency supply kit

Fifty-two percent of Americans don't have copies of crucial personal documents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Forty-eight percent don't have emergency supplies; 44 percent don't have first aid kits.

Well, we're blowing the whistle on this lack of emergency preparedness. And then we're going to add the whistle to the emergency supply kit that we need to build.

Emergency situations often come with little or no warning, which is why your emergency supply kit should be ready at all times. notes that you may need to survive on your own in an emergency; local officials and relief workers can't reach everyone immediately. Meanwhile, electricity, gas, water and other services could be cut off for days or even weeks.

Organizations such as the American Red Cross sell pre-assembled emergency kits, or you can assemble and customize your own.

For instance, if you have three or four flashlights or an extra set of pliers, you could place one of each in your new emergency kit. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, through the website, recommends that a basic kit include these items:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

The American Red Cross suggests these items to help meet additional needs:

  • Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc)
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Games and activities for children
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
  • Two-way radios
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys

The Red Cross recommends these additional supplies based on the types of disasters common to your area:

  • N95 or surgical masks
  • Matches
  • Rain gear
  • Towels
  • Work gloves
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Household liquid bleach
  • Blankets or sleeping bags

It's a good idea to keep these items in a small number of containers, preferably ones that are weather resistant and have handles for ease of carrying. Make sure that family members know where the kit is kept.

There is no perfect emergency plan or emergency kit, but being as prepared as you can be makes perfect sense.