What to pack in your storm preparedness kit
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking Americans to become a "weather-ready nation" one emergency kit at a time. This spring there's already been a spate of severe weather and NOAA cautions that there'll likely be more to come as May is the peak season for tornadoes and June is the start of the hurricane season. So it's time to get packing, or updating, your to-go kit.
The federal Ready.gov website is packed with information on what to put in your kit and where to keep it. Emergency preparedness experts also encourage families to make a plan that includes where everyone will gather and how you'll communicate. Often text messages get through when a phone call cannot. Here is what federal authorities recommend for a basic kit that last three days, but you should tailor yours to your family's needs, especially if you have small children.
- One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation;
- Non-perishable food and a manual can opener;
- A battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries;
- Flashlight and extra batteries;>
- First aid kit;
- Whistle to signal for help;
- Filter mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air;
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation;
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities;
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place;
- Important family documents in a waterproof container;
- Items for unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula or diapers.
Another handy thing to consider is a power inverter, a shoe-box sized gizmo that can be connected to your car's 12-volt system and convert direct-current (DC) power into the alternating-current (AC) power required to run a refrigerator or sump pump. Although not as powerful as a standby generator, it can get you through an outage and doesn't need gas. One of our staffers used an inverter during a freak snowstorm and was able to power some of his appliances. He tested two models from PowerBright, a brand sold in home centers, warehouse clubs, and other retailers such as Sears and Walmart. The PW900-12, $80, provides 900 watts (1,800 peak) and 7.5 amps; the PW1500-12, $180, is rated for 1,500 watts (3,000 watts peak) and 12.5 amps.
Consumer Reports is currently testing standby generators but until we get the results, you can read our free buying advice.