Some of us remember, all too well: In February of 2011 the DFW Metroplex was barely navigable for three to four days. Rain, then snow, and then sleet driven by winds up to fifty mile per hour accumulated at such a rate that three to four inches of ice suddenly covered some North Texas counties. Most businesses were closed. The slightest hills and the tamest curves became formidable barriers to safe travel, evidenced by thousands of motor vehicle accidents in that short span of time. Thousands of our neighbors were without electricity, some for a week. Temperatures in Tarrant County dropped to 12 degrees, quickly freezing and bursting water pipes, repeatedly compounding the ice problem. Nothing around us resembled North Texas for four or five days.

Ice, tornados, and floods eventually end, but the aftermath may go on for many days or weeks. Local flooding may cause water main damage, road damage, erosion of building foundations, and even pollution of local water supplies. Anxiety may have caused food supplies to dwindle at local markets or may be out of reach due to impassible roads. Predicting such events is difficult but preparing for them helps make them more manageable.

US and state agencies recommend that all residents build a 72-hour emergency kit for their home and a smaller kit for their vehicle. The home emergency kit should contain essentials for everyday life such as food and water for each family member – and their pets – for at least three days, plus items to keep you informed and as comfortable as possible under very stressful conditions.

You choose what you want to place in your kits because you know better than anyone what your own needs are. The most important thing is to equip yourself to subsist, away from home if necessary, for at least three days.

You can easily budget the assembly of your home and vehicle kits by buying what you can a little at a time and soon you’ll have a complete kit.

Your Home Emergency Kit should contain essentials for your family to last at least three days. Some of the items to keep on hand are:

  • Canned or boxed non-perishable food items.
  • Can opener.
  • One gallon of water per person per day (for drinking and sanitary purposes).
  • Important documents (photocopies of marriage license, birth certificates, insurance, list of prescriptions, contact lists, etc.).
  • Personal sanitation items: toilet paper, antibacterial cleanser, bucket, plastic bags.
  • Copy of your family’s communications plan (texting is more effective than calling, if cell towers are intermittent or busy with emergency traffic).
  • Flashlights.
  • Extra batteries. Extra cellphone battery, charger or power bank.
  • NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio or other battery-operated AM/FM radio.
  • First aid kit.
  • Blankets.
  • A whistle, air horn, flashing lights (to signal for help).
  • Surgical masks (more effective and comfortable than dust masks, but more expensive).
  • Medications (minimum one week).
  • Hand tools to shut off utilities.
  • Requirements for functional needs, formula for infants and pet food and supplies if you own a pet.
  • Cash.
  • Paper maps.

It is also wise to carry a Vehicle Emergency Kit, so you may want to make sure you have the following readily available:

  • Flashlight.
  • First aid kit.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Phone charger or power bank.
  • Jumper cable and tire repair gear or kit.
  • Non-perishable snacks.
  • Bottled water.
  • Rain poncho, reflective is recommended.
  • Seasonal items such as blankets, gloves, heavy socks for winter; sunscreen, bug spray and hat for summer.

Being prepared with your physical needs will help equip you in other ways. You will face the pressure of such situations with more confidence, and without the immediate panic that could otherwise paralyze your ability to think and react rationally in an emergency. If you will practice a mindset of preparedness you may soon find that you may have been more complacent than you realized. A small investment of time and thought now can prevent a bad situation becoming more precarious.