batuhan taskinkaya/shutterstockBut just how much of it? "One gallon per day, per person, is what's recommended across the board," Melanie Hart, senior underwriter for USAA, says. Ever wonder if you're drinking enough? She also stresses the importance of refreshing your water supply annually (at minimum). "Most people don't know this, but water can actually expire," she says. "Make sure you're refreshing your home emergency kit at least annually—maybe even more frequently—to make sure both food and water are not expired."
Vince Clements/shutterstockThree days' worth, to be exact. "The rule of thumb put out by all the major players is a three-day supply of food and water," Hart says. "Consider food items that can be easily consumed—dry goods, canned goods, anything nutritious. Here's how to find the healthiest food at your supermarket. You also don't want to forget about your pets. Make sure you have a three-day supply of whatever food you normally feed them, too."
First aid kit
Oko Laa/shutterstock"In any natural disaster or catastrophe situation, you have to keep in mind there's going to be a higher risk to life health and safety," Hart says. "So anything like insect bites, abrasions, scrapes, cuts—these are all just as important to keep in mind as any family allergies or medical conditions that may require special prescription medication."
She also says it's important to not only have a well-stocked first aid kit, but the knowledge to effectively use each item in that kit as well. "The American Red Cross has some great tips—if you aren't sure, get one of their ready-made first aid kits," she says.
Gearstd/shutterstockSimple or complex, these things can be lifesavers—just check out what a pocket knife did for this man. "Your multipurpose tool should be able to do what other widely used tools—like a screwdriver, pair of pliers or scissors—can do. If you don't have one (a multipurpose tool), then gather those things separately for your home emergency kit," Hart says.
Marian Weyo/shutterstock"If the power's out, ATMs won't work," Hart says. Try to keep at least $100 in your kit, and more if you can spare it. Plus, there are tons of other benefits to paying with cash.
Pam Walker/shutterstock"Fill up early and fill up often," Hart says. "With Irma, we had advance notice—it's important to think, 'what do I need to do to start preparing right now?' Even if you don't know where the hurricane's going, as soon as it's a possibility for you in your area, think about things like gas. Presence of mind when a catastrophe is far away is much clearer than presence of mind when you're in the throw of that catastrophe."
A change of clothes
Africa Studio/shutterstock"Consider protective clothes and outerwear. Think: coats, windbreakers, ponchos, rain jackets," Hart says. She also notes the importance of items that will wear well across all climates—so anything versatile, durable, and comfortable—is a universally safe choice. Here are the tricks to spotting well-made, long-lasting clothing. "Follow the same three-day rule here, too," she says. "And, as we talked about earlier, remember to change your supply out annually. Our children grow from year to year."
beeboys/shutterstockHart says sturdy, durable footwear is key in the face of any natural disaster. "In a coastal area or beach region, flip flops and sandals are probably predominant but those aren't going to be the right shoes to have on hand during a hurricane or similar catastrophe," she says. (Are you prepared to hurricane prep your house properly?) "You don't want to risk cutting your foot or losing a shoe in the water." So keep an extra pair or two on hand for each one of your family members—or, plan ahead and follow these tips to keep an old pair last longer.
Old school basics
Massima/shutterstockTechnology isn't always reliable. And, sometimes, it can be nice to unplug. But make sure you have some reliable low-tech back up: "Matches are always great," Hart says. "Duct tape and rope are fantastic. Some plastic sheeting for shelter can be good, too, along with a battery-powered radio."
Important legal documents
zimmytws/shutterstockEmotional turmoil is inevitable in the aftermath any natural catastrophe. Make sure you know the signs that you may be suffering serious stress. So make sure you minimize the demands on resuming your regular life. "Replacing something like your birth certificate can add an extra layer of stress and challenge when you're recovering from a natural disaster," Hart says. "So think about anything that's hard to replace and make copies of those documents ahead of time—your birth certificate, social security card, stocks, bonds, marriage licenses, car titles, life and property insurance—things of that nature. Identifying information is key in order to prove who you are and recover what you say you had."