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New First Aid Kit for Today's World

Disaster preparedness takes more than duct tape.
By
WebMD Feature

Yesterday's family first aid kit has gotten an upgrade. Today's disaster kit contains all the traditional elements of a first aid kit and expands it to include survival items that could make the difference between life and death in the case of emergency.

Experts say the best way to cope with disaster is to prepare and have everything you might need in one place. That way you'll be ready to deal with emergencies large and small, from a bee sting to a biological attack.

Although recent world events may have made many people more aware of the need for disaster preparedness, researchers say the basic principles of protecting you and your family during a disaster haven't changed.

"There is no difference between the kits we've been recommending before 9/11 and after," says Rocky Lopes, PhD, senior associate for disaster education at the American Red Cross.

"What is different is that a lot more people are paying attention to terrorist threats or other types of hazards. And people are more serous about looking at kits that contain first-aid items as well as disaster preparedness things."

What's a Disaster Kit?

Lopes says the American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend that every household assemble a two-part family-disaster supplies kit.

The first part consists of a home first-aid kit with standard supplies, such as bandages, antiseptic ointments, and non-prescription drugs, to deal with minor medical emergencies.

"These are things that a lot people have in their medicine cabinet and kitchen drawers, but we recommend that people have them together in one place so they know where they can find it and can grab it and go if they need to take it with them," Lopes tells WebMD.

For a full list of medical supplies that should go into a first-aid kit or a basic first-aid manual, contact the local American Red Cross chapter in your area, or visit their web site.

The second part of the disaster kit includes tools and emergency supplies that you might need in case you have to evacuate your home quickly or are confined to your home for a few days due to a natural, biological, chemical, or nuclear disaster.

Those items include:

  • A battery-powered radio to listen to emergency announcements in case of power failure.
  • Flashlights with extra batteries. Store the batteries separately so they retain their charge.
  • Enough non-perishable food and water for each member of the household for about three days.
  • One complete change of clothing and footwear for each household member.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Sanitary supplies, such as toilet paper, soap, disinfectant, chlorine bleach, personal hygiene items, and plastic garbage bags.
  • Plastic sheeting and tape.
  • Personal identification, and cash, traveler's checks, or a credit card.
  • Emergency contact information and family documents (store in waterproof container).

Lopes say one recent change to disaster-kit recommendations is that candles are no longer recommended due to the risk of fire.

"We advise against using candles because we have seen too many times when they were used in an emergency, got tipped over, and caught fire," says Lopes.

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