What to stock up on and how to prepare your emergency kit

What to stock up on and how to prepare your emergency kit


How to prepare for an emergency: No need to stockpile for coronavirus

Coronavirus may be spreading, but it isn’t necessary to stockpile supplies. Here are some basic necessities to have at home in case of an emergency.


As the coronavirus outbreak continues, many Americans are preparing to quarantine themselves.

So far, the only people officially quarantined are those with confirmed coronavirus cases and those who have come in contact with carriers. That includes passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and some residents of a Washington state nursing home where four residents have died. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has required some U.S. citizens who returned from China to be quarantined for 14 days. But local communities may have reason to respond to “severe” disruptions as the situation evolves, as the CDC said last week

That has led many Americans to begin preparing for an extended stay at home, whether it’s encouraged by local officials or a personal decision. Experts are warning against panic buying and hoarding of products such as toilet paper, water and cleaning supplies.

But there is nothing wrong with preparing for several days at home if required. “Some of the same things that we are asking people to do – washing your hands, make sure you are sneezing the right way, disinfecting things, buying some extra disinfectant, buying toiletries, buying some laundry detergent, some extra things so if you had to shelter in place now – they are things you can use later,” said American Red Cross spokesman Anthony Tornetta. “That is not necessarily a bad thing.”

Jacqueline Anne Aston of Lake View, New York, was one of many across the country who told USA TODAY they were stocking up on food and supplies should the coronavirus situation worsen and they be asked to stay home (or prefer to on their own).

“It worries me a great deal. I feel we may be quarantined. Or things will not be available,” Aston said. She found stores selling out of face masks, bacterial soap and sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and staples such as chicken noodle soup, canned tuna, powdered milk and large packages of crackers with peanut butter. 

Health and emergency officials have long recommended homes have an emergency preparedness kit to at least get you through several days at home without power.

Should there be a quarantine issued by local authorities – or you self-impose one on you and your family – it would no likely go beyond 14 days, which is the expected incubation period. Here’s a checklist for some suggested items:

Food. Fresh fruits and vegetables will likely spoil over 14 days, so canned foods that have a long storage life and need little or no cooking are recommended. Meat products, fish or beans, soups, broths and stews, fruits and fruit juices, vegetables, canned (or powdered) milk, are among good supply choices recommended by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Disaster Education Network.

Frozen foods are an option, too. Other recommended foods are peanut butter, jelly, crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, granola bars, bouillon cubes, and staples like sugar, salt, pepper. (Keep in mind you may need to include some special foods for babies and family members on special diets, as well as pet foods.)

Water and liquids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests you have plenty of fluids on hand, such as bottled water and supply of fluids with electrolytes, such as Pedialyte or Gatorade.

Medicine. You will want to have a 14-day supply of any prescription medications for those in your home. You may also want over-the-counter pain relievers, antacids, cough and cold medicines, and vitamins.

Supplies. Many homes already have a 14-day supply of most daily items on hand. But make sure you have toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine supplies, diapers, laundry detergent and disinfectant.

Other items. Perhaps have some board games, cards, toys books, magazines and other fun items to keep the family occupied.

In the days ahead, people should listen “to the CDC and pay attention to their local governments and know where they can go to get up to the minute information” about the outbreak, Tornetta said.

“If you are out and you are at Target or Walmart or at a grocery store and you have the ability to pick up a few things, by all means (do) … and use those to start building a safety preparedness kit that you can use no matter what the disaster is, whether you have to shelter in place or flee your home,” he said. “Now is the time to prepare.”

The American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and CDC all recommend you have a home emergency preparedness kit for disasters such as hurricanes, fires and floods. If you don’t have one, this could be a good time begin compiling that.

Suggestions for an fully-stocked emergency preparedness kit, some of which should be stored in a backpack or container that you could grab should you have to leave your home:

Food. Stick to canned, cooked food. However, frozen foods can supplement your supply, if you have a gas stove or an alternate cooking plan (propane or charcoal grill). Should you lose power at home in an emergency, a full freezer can keep foods frozen for two days, while a half-full one can keep them frozen for about one day.

Medicine. Should you decide When you have time to plan, The American Red Cross recommends you have at least a 30-day supply of any prescription medications for those in your home. Also worth having are over-the-counter pain relievers, antacids, cough and cold medicines, and vitamins.

Razors and shaving cream, extra eyeglasses and contact lenses (as well as contact lens solutions), heavy duty garbage bags (for personal sanitation), are among FEMA‘s other suggestions.

First aid kit. Gauze bandages, antibacterial ointment, antiseptic wipes and non-latex gloves are among the items recommended by FEMA and the American Red Cross.

Lights and power sources. Have flashlights and extra batteries (for the lights and other products including hearing aids), the CDC suggests. If possible, have a generator. Other worthwhile items include car chargers and adapters, jumper cables, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and a surge protector strip.

Medical and personal identification records. The CDC also recommends you collect important medical and insurance records and other items such as living will documents. You can also prepare an emergency plan with important contact information and personal information. Copies of important records kept in a Ziploc bag and in your backpack could be invaluable should you have to evacuate because of a flood or fire.

Other items. Remember a can opener, scissors and perhaps a multipurpose tool. Also likely to come in handy are matches, blankets and rain gear. Set aside some actual cash for emergencies. 

You can compare your emergency kit with the American Red Cross survival kit. and get the agency’s outline for creating your own disaster response plan, too.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.


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