Are you ready for an emergency? Would you be able to provide for yourself and your family if disaster struck? As the flooding happening in Texas right now has shown us, it is important to be prepared because emergencies do happen, often when you least expect them.
September is National Preparedness Month. During that time, we are reminded to “Be Ready in 3” by 1) Creating a plan, 2) Preparing an emergency kit and 3) Listening for more information related to emergency response. In an emergency, two possible scenarios include sheltering in place (staying where you are) or evacuating to a safer location. Regardless of the scenario, having an emergency food supply is a must.
Right now, you may be wondering a few things: What should I put in my kit to feed my family and what specific types of foods should I stock? How much emergency food should I have in my kit for each family member? How much water should I have? Here are the answers to those questions:
What should I put in my kit to feed my family?
The best foods for your emergency kit are non-perishable, canned or dried foods. These are typically packaged foods that have a longer shelf life. While this may not reflect your normal daily diet, keep in mind that an emergency is not a normal situation. Planning ahead can allow you to make rational choices about your emergency foods and reduce the possibility of not having something appropriate to eat.
Many companies are marketing survival foods, foods processed and packaged specifically for use in emergencies. While these foods may be convenient as well as easy to stock and transport, they are not necessary and are often more expensive too. It is better to select from items commonly found in your local grocery store.
What specific types of foods should I stock?
Select items that are ready-to-eat and don’t require cooking. Some suggestions include canned tuna, raisins or other dried fruits, crackers, peanut butter, trail mix, nuts, granola bars, and cereal. (If you have any canned foods, remember to pack a can opener too.) If you have an infant, be sure to include formula and appropriate baby foods. Make sure all food items are stored in airtight, water-proof containers to preserve quality and keep them safe from pests.
How much emergency food should I have in my kit for each family member?
Pack enough to last for at least 3 days. A 3-day supply is generally sufficient to last until you can get to help or help can get to you.
How long should I keep the food items in my kit?
If you select non-perishable, packaged foods for your kit, check the dates on the packages. Use those dates to determine when to replace food items. Plan to replace your food items so that the items coming out of the kit are still safe for consumption. By rotating your emergency food items periodically, you will ensure that you have emergency food that is edible, and nothing goes to waste.
How much water should I have?
The general recommendation is one gallon of water per person per day, with enough to last at least three days. Water does not spoil, but may need to be replaced if not used in a timely manner.
What about my pets?
On a final note, pets are family members too. You need to provide for them as well in the event of an emergency. If your pet(s) will be with you as you shelter in place or evacuate, please have enough pet food and water to last at least 3 days. However, because your pets may not be able to access the same amenities your human family members can (i.e. come inside a shelter), the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommend having up to 7 days worth of food and water for each pet.
Of course there are other items that should go in your emergency kit besides food and water. If you need more information on how to make a plan, what else to put in your kit or how to be more informed about emergencies, please visit: http://health.mo.gov/emergencies/readyin3/. Additionally, if you need more information about planning for emergencies when you have pets, check out: https://www.ready.gov/animals, the Humane Society or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Written by Lori Jones, MS, MPH, RD, LD
Let's Move! STL Dietitians