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Top Ten Things to Pack in a Basic Weather Emergency Kit

Top Ten Things to Pack in a Basic Weather Emergency Kit

In preparing your home and family for the possibility of having to take shelter in a tornado warning, it is not only important to plan where you are taking shelter, but also what you are bringing with you.


Everyone should have a basic emergency kit ready to go in their shelter space.  This will help you be prepared for the possibility of being stuck in your space if your home is damaged or if debris blocks your shelter entrance/exit.  This is a little bit different from the type of emergency kit you would pack for your car or for evacuating your home, though for those two types of kits (or “go-bags,) this is a good start as well.

For many of these items you’ll want to be sure they are in a waterproof or weather sealed type of bag or container.  Your local sporting goods store will have some good options, but you can also put things inside large ziplock bags and put those inside any bag you have available; we would suggest a medium to large duffel bag or something similar.


1.  Water
Water is the number one survival tool, but something many people don’t think about.  It can be bulky but it’s necessary.  If you have a dedicated shelter space in your home, (closet, basement, etc) stash a pack of bottled water there.  It’s also a good idea to have water in your car as well.  Keep at least one bottle of water in your emergency bag.

2.  Food
Food is important to keep you going if you’re stuck somewhere for a while.  Ideas are:  granola bars, beef jerky, protein bars, etc.  If you decide to stash canned goods in your space don’t forget a compact can opener if they don’t have pop lids.  A fork is also helpful if you choose canned goods.

3.  First Aid Kit
You certainly want to be prepared if you get hurt, and in the case of severe weather, it can (unfortunately) be a possibility.  Make sure you have bandages, sterilizing pads/iodine and gauze.  Taking a first aid course will also make you all the more prepared if the worst does happen.  It’s also not a bad idea to add some advil, aspirin, benadryl and tums.

4.  Cell phone and whistle or horn
In severe weather situations, it often does occur that power goes out, and sometimes cell towers go down or are heavily overwhelmed.  Definitely take your cell phone with you in case you are able to use it, but you should also plan that you have no way to contact the outside world to let them know where you are or if you are stuck.  For this reason it is a great idea to pack a whistle or air horn.  This gives you the ability to make noise from a hidden spot or a pile of debris if you need to.  This simple tool could save your life.

5.  Family documents
Make copies of all your family documents (birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc.) and pack them away in a waterproof envelope inside your kit.  If your belongings are scattered, damaged or lost, you will be thankful to have another copy.

6.  Flashlight and batteries
You definitely want to be able to see what you are doing when you have little or no light available to you.  You could even get a headlamp to free your hands up while you are doing things.  Be sure to store the batteries in a waterproof container.

7.  Crank radio
When power goes out, a crank radio is a wonderful resource to stay connected and aware of what is going on.  This overcomes the need to rely on batteries.

8.  Work gloves, walking shoes or boots and a change of clothes
If you have a pair of boots or shoes you were planning on pitching, throw it into this kit.  If you can’t afford a new pair of shoes for this purpose it is a cost effective way to put them in there.  Or, if you were planning on buying a new pair for yourself, put your current pair in the kit.  Work gloves are also ideal in case you need to lift or move things that could be rough on your hands: tree limbs or branches, wood, or other debris.  And a change of clothes is important, especially if you’re unable to get out for a day or two, or if water or other things cause you to need a change of clothing.  A cotton bandana is also a good idea to use as a face cover, rag, washcloth, etc.

9.  Blanket / jacket
Keeping warm is important, so be sure to pack a blanket or compact down jacket for each person.

10.  Personal items
This includes things like medications, prescription glasses or contact solution, feminine products, kleenex/toilet paper, chapstick, eye drops, etc.  Also if you have pets, you don’t want to forget about their needs.  Water, pet food, ID tags/proof of ownership and medications for them as well.



We hope you have found this information helpful and encourage you to get started on putting together your emergency kit today.  It’s a simple but important step that can help save your life in the event of an emergency weather situation.

Stay tuned for follow-up advice on a car emergency kit, and a basic outdoors survival kit!  You can find a complete disaster checklist at the NSF website here.


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