While they may never happen to you, fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and other catastrophes strike millions of households each year.
So it is only prudent to prepare for them. Assembling a disaster survival kit should be a top disaster planning priority.
While you can buy emergency kits, it's simpler and less expensive to create your own.
Here are the essentials you'll need to keep your family safe in the aftermath of a catastrophic event.
Your disaster kit should contain enough supplies to see your family through at least three days without essential services.
Start with a few basics: drinking water (about 1/2 gallon [approximately 2L] per person daily), can opener, gas stove, current family photos (to help find family members who are missing), flashlights and radio with spare batteries, lantern, heavy-duty work gloves, candles, and matches.
Food: Stock up on a week's worth of nonperishable, easy-to-prepare foods.
Good bets include canned or powdered milk, canned goods, granola bars, and comfort foods such as candy or cookies. (You may be needing a little comfort.) Avoid salty foods because you'll need to conserve your water.
First aid: You should have a first aid kit, whether it's part of your disaster planning or not. Stock it with a first aid manual, bandages, adhesive tape, scissors, thermometer, latex gloves, sunscreen, aspirin, acetaminophen, antacid, anti-diarrhea medicine, and syrup of ipecac.
Cleaning: You'll need liquid soap, toilet paper, antibacterial soap, disinfectant, bleach, garbage bags, and paper towels.
Clothing: Pack at least one change of clothing for each family member, heavy-duty boots or shoes, gloves, and blankets or sleeping bags.
Extras: Flares or an alarm to summon emergency crews, a personal commode with sanitary bags, a tarp, aluminum foil, matches, a camp stove, fire extinguisher, and books or games for the youngsters.
A crowbar and shovel are useful if you need to work your way to a family member trapped by fallen objects. A hammer and nails will help secure your home's doors and windows if you must evacuate.
Stash enough cash in your disaster kit to see you through several days, as banks and automated teller machines may be shut down.
If you have an infant, stock up on formula, diapers, and baby wipes. And if a family member requires medication, make sure you have a current supply on hand.
Don't forget food, water, and a leash or cage for pets.
Getting your disaster supplies all together before a disaster strikes will make survival easier for you and your family.
Store these supplies in a duffel bag or backpack that you can easily carry should you have to evacuate quickly.
Keep all items that don't fit in the bag, such as water containers, in a place where they're easy to reach in a hurry.
To the top of your kit, tape a "Don't Forget" list of last-minute items to take; such things might include an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses, your address book, important family documents, and keepsakes.
Keep the following documents in a waterproof, portable container: wills, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds certificates, passports, social security cards, immunization records, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and company contact information. That way they'll be ready to go - safely - with you.
Plan for the worst case scenario. In the best case scenario, all your disaster planning efforts will have been a complete waste of time. Oh darn, we never had a disaster! Who could complain about that?