Doesn't matter if your regional disaster is a flood, tornado, hurricane, snowpocalypse, or earthquake, when the next one strikes you're going to need to be ready for it. Here's what you should have on hand to keep you and yours safe for at least three days.
You can't survive a natural disaster on an empty stomach. Keep at least a three-day supply of familiar, non-perishable food at the ready. Sure, you can stockpile MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) from your local military surplus supply store but they're designed to provide nourishment, not taste like anything edible—think, the gruel from The Matrix but with salisbury steak flavoring.
Instead, stick with products you know that can keep for a long time, don't require refrigeration and are low in salt (you don't want to be thirsty in an emergency). Keep canned fruit, vegetables, soup, and meat (don't forget the can opener); trail mix, peanut butter, powdered milk, cereal, fruit preserves (you only have to refrigerate them after opening), and any special items for infants or the elderly you might need in airtight, pest-resistant containers in a cool, dark place. Just make sure to note their use-by dates and rotate the stock out as it nears expiration. You should eat these foods last, since the food in your fridge will begin to spoil within four hours of the power going out, and the stuff in your freezer will only make it two days. And don't forget to store a set of camping plates and silverware as well.
How you cook your food will depend largely on what local resources you have available to you but no matter what, you'll need a way to start a fire, be it matches, magnesium, or Zippo. You'll want to keep a couple of fire extinguishers handy as well.
The human body can survive a week or two without food but without water, you'll be a goner in a few days. That's why it's critical to keep a sufficient supply of potable H2O on hand. At a minimum, just for drinking and sanitation needs, keep one gallon per person, per day in reserve. Commercial bottled water, like Aquafina or Crystal Geyser , is preferred as it's sterile, sealed, and easily carryable. You can also store tap water in camping jugs and old soda bottles, just make sure to thoroughly wash the container and boil the water to prevent bacterial growth during storage. And if you have a proper filter system like the Platypus Gravityworks or the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter, a rain barrel (or any water source, really) can work in a pinch. Heck, you can even use a bit of unscented household bleach in an eye dropper to sanitize water (8 drops per gallon if the water's clear, 16 drops if it's cloudy).
As Hurricane Sandy taught us, short-lived cell phone and laptops just aren't designed for emergency communication. Instead, get yourself an NOAA Weather Radio to keep abreast of any emergency broadcasts going out over the air. The Ambient Weather WR-089 is a solid choice, it can be charged via hand crank or the integrated solar array, it receives AM, FM, and NOAA bands, and doubles as a flashlight and phone charger. Also, you can never have enough batteries, flashlights, solar chargers, and power strips—if you don't use them, you can always barter them for stuff you do.
It's a major natural disaster, someone's going to get hurt. The Federal Emergecny Management Administration suggest you keep the following in your emergency First Aid kit:
- Two pairs of disposable gloves
- Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
- Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect
- Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
- Burn ointment
- Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
- Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
- Over-the-counter medicines such as Aspirin or other pain reliever, laxative, anti-diarrhea medication
- Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine, or asthma inhaler
- Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose monitoring equipment or blood pressure monitors
And if you don't want to build your own, you've got thousands of options for pre-assembled kits available at camping and surplus stores, as well as online.
Just because the power's out and society is likely collapsing around you doesn't mean you have to live like a savage. Keep dust masks, heavy work gloves, duct tape (as much as you can carry), plastic sheeting, and a utility knife in your emergency bag to cover broken windows and seal drafts. Also keep a crowbar (for prying open doors and minor demolition), a hammer and nails (for minor construction), a staple gun (for securing fabrics to wood in the event that you need to make an impromptu stretcher or travois), an adjustable wrench (for turning off the gas and other utilities) and bungee/parachute cords (for tying things together).
Personal hygiene is essential as well, not an easy thing to maintain if the only available toilet is a bucket. Keep a well supplied stock of toilet paper, Double Doodie bags, moist towelettes, feminine products, soap, and hand sanitizer in addition to your 5-gallon throne.
You'll want to sock away a change of warm clothes—long sleeve shirts, long pants, jackets, and sturdy shoes—as well as rain gear for every member of your family. Pack sleeping bags, blankets, mylar wraps (take them from your indoor grow op in need be), and tarps.
Other miscellaneous items include a signal whistle, a set of printed local maps, copies of important documents and phone numbers—birth certificates, Social Security numbers, insurance information, and the deed to your house, for example—a camera for documenting the mayhem, cash, ID, writing implements, and any other special items/prescription medication you might need for small children, elderly family members, or pets (which need a pound of food per week per pet on average).
All these items should be stored in a single, easily accessible place in your home. And remember, this is just the bare minimum you should have ready—if you want to stock enough supplies to go for two weeks, by all means do so. Hopefully you'll never need to use it.