FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 8, 2011) -- During a major crisis, emergency responders typically address the most critical needs first and may not be able to reach an area until it is deemed safe. That means a lot of families are basically on their own during the height of a large-scale disaster or even days afterward if damage is widespread and roads are impassable.

Because of that reality, we all share the responsibility of ensuring our homes and families are well-prepared for times of crisis. Emergency kits are an essential tool for meeting that challenge.

To be effective, emergency kits must include enough supplies to meet your and/or your family's essential needs (water, food, medicine, flashlights, radios, etc.) for at least three days. Think reusable and multi-use. A metal bowl can do double duty as a cup and saucepan. A brightly colored poncho can be used as water repellent clothing, a marker and a temporary shelter if two of them are strung together.

Keep a kit prepared at home and consider having key emergency supplies in your car and at work as well. These "kits" will enable you and your family to respond to an emergency more quickly. There will be less rushing around to locate hard-to-find cases of water, batteries and other supplies. If the need for evacuation or sheltering in place arises quickly, you'll already be prepared.

The suggested items for a well-stocked home emergency kit include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Water -- At least one gallon per person per day for at least three days.

• Food -- A three-day supply of nonperishable canned or dry goods; consider items that do not require cooking and will maintain freshness for several months such as energy bars and freeze-dried and dehydrated foods.

• Formula and diapers for infants.

• Food, water, other supplies and documents for pets.

• A manual can opener.

• Flashlights with extra replacement batteries.

• A battery powered radio with cell-phone charger if possible (hand-cranked devices endorsed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are a good option).

• A first aid kit with dust masks rated to at least N95, disinfectants and prescription medications.

• Sanitation supplies -- include moist towelettes, disinfectant and garbage bags.

• Important documents in watertight packaging. Include financial and insurance paperwork, wills and powers of attorney. It's also a good idea to store copies of these documents at a separate location like a safety deposit box or with a trusted relative or friend.

• Local maps with highlighted evacuation routes and a phone roster that includes key numbers for your office/unit as well as electric, natural gas and water service providers.
Additional items that could be helpful include the following:

• Fire extinguisher

• Any tools needed to turn off utilities

• Matches in a waterproof container

• Metal or plastic bowls

• Coats and rain gear

• Sleeping bags or other bedding

• A weather-appropriate change of clothing for each person

• Books, games, puzzles, toys and other activities for children

Additional information and helpful checklists can be found on the following websites:;; and

The rest is up to you … given the obvious benefits of assembling a well-stocked emergency supply kit before a crisis occurs, why would you wait? Now is the time to practice the Ready Army theme -- "Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed."