Check Out Our Complete Natural Disaster Preparedness Checklist

Marissa Hermanson
Updated June 22, 2022
Duffle bag on bed
Photo: JodiJacobson / E+ / Getty Images

From gathering supplies to coming up with an emergency plan, here's how to prepare for a natural disaster

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When disaster strikes, we rarely are given any time to prepare. That’s why it’s crucial to have a plan in place well in advance so that you and your family can respond appropriately. Natural disasters can leave you without water and power for days, and you may not be able to get the supplies you need from grocery and hardware stores. That’s why it’s essential to have some basic supplies on hand for when a natural disaster occurs.

Read ahead to learn how to create an emergency plan, build a kit with our handy emergency supply kit checklist and properly prepare your home.

1. Make a Plan for Any Disaster

Understand the types of disasters that affect your area and discuss how you would like to prepare and respond with your family. Know where to go in your home when a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake strikes. Think about how to react during a virus outbreak, where you might have to hunker down for more extended periods in your home (although chances are you’ve been dealing with plenty of that since 2020). And assign responsibilities to family members and write down your plan so everyone can easily reference it.

Topics to discuss when making your plan:

  • How to communicate when disaster strikes

  • How to prepare your home

  • Where to shelter during various emergencies

  • An emergency escape plan from your home

  • An evacuation route from your town

  • An emergency preparedness kit

  • The specific needs of those in your household (children, pets, people with special needs)

2. Build a Basic Emergency Supply Kit

Stockpile these necessities to help ensure that you and your family have what you need for sheltering in your home during severe weather emergencies or a virus outbreak. When a natural disaster occurs, it may take emergency crews several days to respond, so you should plan on being self-sufficient for a while.

  • Water: 1 gallon of water per day per person (or pet) for hydration and sanitation. Buy 3 days’ worth for an evacuation and 2 weeks’ worth for sheltering at home.

  • Food: Non-perishable food to feed your household. Buy 3 days’ worth for evacuation and 2 weeks’ worth for sheltering at home.

  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio, or an NOAA Weather Radio

  • Flashlight and lantern with extra batteries

  • First aid kit stocked with antiseptic, gloves, bandages, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone ointment, over-the-counter pain relievers, thermometer, scissors, and tweezers

  • Whistle to signal for help

  • Dust masks to filter contaminated air

  • Plastic sheets and duct tape to seal off doors, windows, and air vents if outside air is contaminated

  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties

  • Wrench, pliers, or a multi-purpose tool to turn off utilities

  • Road maps of the area

  • Manual can opener

  • Cell phone with charger and backup batteries

  • Two-way radio

Additional Emergency Supplies to Consider

  • Masks

  • Soap

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Disinfectant wipes

  • Liquid bleach

  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes

  • Prescription medications (7-day supply)

  • Glasses and contact lenses

  • Hearing aids

  • Feminine hygiene products

  • Infant supplies like formula, baby food, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper cream

  • Pet supplies like food, water, litter, and medications

  • Cash

  • Important documents such as photo IDs, Social Security cards, birth records, health insurance, and prescription cards, saved electronically or stored in a waterproof container.

  • Sleeping bags or blankets

  • A change of clothing and sturdy shoes for each person

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Matches and lighters

  • Paper plates and cups, plastic utensils, and paper towels for meals

  • Paper and pencil

  • Activities, like books and puzzles, for children

  • Car repair items such as a spare tire, tire patch kit, and oil

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Work gloves

  • Emergency escape ladder

3. Maintain Your Emergency Kit

Emergency backpack on table
Photo: David Pereiras / Adobe Stock

Creating an emergency kit as part of your disaster preparedness checklist is one thing, but keeping it up-to-date is another. You’ll need to check it regularly—consider setting a calendar reminder for every few months—to make sure your kit is good to go. 

  • Keep your kit in a cool, dry place. Store your survival goods where all family members can easily access them.

  • Store food in secure, sealed containers.

  • Update your kits regularly, checking expiration dates on food and adding items for family members as their needs change.

4. Know How to Shut off Utilities for Natural Disasters

If you may be sheltering in place during a natural disaster, familiarize yourself with where your utility shut-offs are located and how to turn them off.

  • Natural gas: Natural gas leaks can cause fires after disasters, so it’s essential to know how to shut off your gas. Call your gas company, and they can walk you through the proper way to turn off your gas meter. If you turn the gas off yourself, only a professional can turn it back on.

  • Water: Locate the main water line shut off in your home and make sure that everyone in your family knows where it is and how to turn it off. 

  • Electricity: Electricity can spark natural gas fires if you have a gas leak. Locate your circuit box and shut off all individual circuits individually before shutting off the main circuit.

5. What to Do After a Natural Disaster

After you’ve made sure your loved ones are safe, sound, and secure, you’ll want to assess any damages to your home when it’s safe to do so. 

  • Retrieve your important documents if you haven’t done so already to keep them in your emergency kit.

  • Retrieve valuable items to keep them in a storage unit or to send to a friend or family member outside of your area. 

  • Take photos of any damages to your home if it’s still standing. Homeowners insurance can vary for natural disasters, so make sure to document everything.

  • Make sure to save all receipts when hiring pros to make repairs to your home. 

Checklist of items when planning to shelter in your home during sever weather or virus outbreak
Photo: New Africa/Adobe Stock
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