Dealing with a disaster

Dealing with a disaster

by Duane Friend

The recent catastrophic flooding in the Houston area reminds us that emergency preparedness can make a huge difference in getting through a natural disaster. In Illinois, disasters can include tornadoes, flooding, winter storms and earthquakes. The following information is from a Missouri Extension fact sheet on emergency preparedness.

Food, water, first aid and other supplies are necessary parts of an emergency kit. To judge how long you can store food supplies, look for an “expiration date” or “best if used by” date on the product. If you cannot find a date on the product, then the general recommendation is to store food products for six months and then replace them.

Avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don’t stock salty foods, since they will make you thirsty. Familiar foods can lift morale and give a feeling of security in time of stress. Also, canned foods won’t require cooking, water or special preparation. You need to have these items packed and ready in case there is no time to gather food from the kitchen when disaster strikes. Sufficient supplies to last several days to a week are recommended. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned food with high liquid content. Some examples of recommended foods include canned meats, fruits and vegetables; canned milk and soup, trail mix, dried foods, instant meals and prepackaged beverages. Have supplies to last several days to a week.

Make sure the water storage container you plan to use is of food grade quality, such as 2-liter soda bottles, with tight-fitting screw-cap lids. Milk containers are not recommended because they do not seal well. Store one gallon of water per person per day. If storing commercial water bottles, replace the bottles after one year of storage.

Whether you buy a first aid kit or put one together yourself, make sure it has all the items you need to be prepared for emergencies. Check the kit regularly to make sure flashlight batteries work, out-of-date contents are replaced, and expiration dates are current.

Supplies and tools may be needed, such as a battery operated radio and flashlight, pliers, and a utility knife. Have lots of batteries on hand. Soap, toilet paper and personal hygiene items should be available.

Medicines should be kept handy. In addition important family documents like insurance policies, passports and bank information should be stored in a waterproof portable container.

Remember that for your home disaster supplies kit, you should include supplies for everyone in your household, including pets.

For more information on emergency preparedness, visit the Federal Emergency Management website at or visit the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) website at

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About the author

Duane is an Educator with University of Illinois Extension in the Calhoun/Cass/Greene/Morgan/Scott unit.

View all articles by Duane Friend

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