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Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes strike indiscriminately, which means every homeowner should be prepared for life-threatening emergencies. Here are ten essential items to have on hand.

  1. A source of power.  A generator will keep your refrigerator working to preserve food, and provide lighting at night. Gas generators provide more versatile power, but need a supply of fuel, which you would have to have stored in advance.  New generation lithium battery power stations provide electricity without fuel dependence and can be recharged with a set of solar panels.
  2. A fully charged cellphone. Keep your cellphone charged — at all times — in case of an emergency. If you receive advance warning of an emergency, take the time to power up your devices.
  3. Water. You can live several days without food, but only a few days without water. Store the equivalent of one gallon of bottled water per person in the household per day, for both drinking and sanitation.
  4. Food. At minimum, keep a three-day supply of nonperishable food on hand. Compare prices in stores and online. Have matches for rudimentary cooking by fire or lighting lanterns or candles.
  5. Basic utensils. Plates, forks, knives, spoons, a manual can opener, and drinking cups are all needed.
  6. Hand-cranked lights and radios. As a supplement to your power station, hand-cranked lights and radios provide extra lighting and a source of information, which can be crucial in evacuation scenarios. A hand-cranked light will last for 20 minutes and doesn’t need to be connected to your power station. Old school candles and lanterns are useful. A hand-cranked radio with NOAA weather alerts keeps you informed about emergency conditions. Some units come with charging ports for cellphones.
  7. First aid kit. A well-stocked emergency bag, including bandages, antiseptic, and saline for eyewash, will help deal with urgent medical care.
  8. Hand sanitizers and wipes. When water is scarce, sanitizers are crucial to keeping things clean.
  9. Hand tools. An assortment of wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers is smart to keep on hand to fix things, and shut off utilities.
  10. Maps. We’ve become pretty dependent upon Global Positioning Systems, or GPS to get us places. But in a worst-case scenario, what if GPS is not available? Paper maps will come in handy.

What if you have to evacuate? Cash is always crucial in an emergency situation, so keep a stash of several hundred dollars in small bills. Take changes of clothes, as well as blankets and coats, and the power cords for your cellphones. Take any vital family documents such as wills, passports and insurance policies in a lock box. Don’t forget to bring food and extra water for your pets.