1 minute readHealth & Safety

How Our Preparedness Kit Taught Me to Re-Define Disaster

By Leigh-Anne Dennison, American Red Cross Communicator

After moving into our own first house, I brought to a happy corner of our finished basement my ready-made backpack preparedness kit and a large plastic bin. Over the course of a few weeks, as we moved around and unpacked boxes, I filled the bin with all the things I know you need in a disaster preparedness kit. A new family first aid kit, bottled water, travel-sized toiletries for me and my spouse, a few rolls of extra toilet paper and so on.

As months and years wore on, our new home came together, and situations arose that prompted trips to our basement preparedness kit. Mostly little things…

  • Organizing the boxes in our attic necessitated my use of a dust mask to keep allergies from devastating my sinuses and latex gloves to protect my hands from the dry air and possible splinters.
  • The first aid kit in the bathroom ran out of bandages, but the first aid kit in the basement was full.
  • A pair of feral cats moved into our garage in one of the coldest winters on record – the emergency mylar blanket from our go bag and a couple leftover Styrofoam coolers from summer became a make-shift insulated shelter to help shield them from the cold.
  • A “boil water warning” that followed a storm that had knocked out power had me snatching bottled water from our emergency supply.
  • The can opener at my husband’s office kitchen disappeared, and he needed one to take with him to open his soup for lunch.
  • Then there’s that time I forgot to pick up new toilet tissue during our weekly grocery trip…

The first few times I felt badly about dipping into our “stash” of preparedness supplies, until I realized that not every disaster comes with lightning, thunder and 50-mph winds or is accompanied by sirens or warnings from the Emergency Broadcast System. Sometimes we just need to be ready for the scraped knee that comes from falling while riding a bike or be prepared to offer creature comforts to a stranger (or two) who crosses our path.

That epiphany was followed by another thought – while it’s okay to take from your preparedness kit when faced with life’s little emergencies, you also have to replenish your supplies. You want to be sure they are ready and waiting for you the next time you have a skull-splitting headache and reach into your medicine cabinet only to find the bottle of aspirin is empty.

As I inventoried our disaster supplies, Chewbacca pointed out that our kit seemed seriously lacking in emergency kitten supplies. He's right, of course, so cat food, treats and toys are being added to our replenishment list.
As I inventoried our disaster supplies, Chewbacca pointed out that our kit seemed seriously lacking in emergency kitten supplies. He’s right, of course, so cat food, treats and toys are being added to our replenishment list.

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  1. Good point. However, it’s also a good idea to check annually and replace out-of-date items, including foods, OTC meds, first aid supplies, etc. if you live in a flood area, maybe don’t keep it in the basement! I keep extra kitty food, medical record in the pocket of her soft carrier and keep it in the home office, quick to grab in case of fire. I’m in an apartment, so it’s easy to have “Rescue my pet” stickers posted on Windows and doors.