Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Katrina. What do those names make you think of? Disasters - and bad ones. And people who experienced them weren't all prepared.
But you can be prepared if you put the time and money into creating a disaster supply kit. It takes some effort, but it's much better to be with, than without.
Learn what to put in your kit below.
Building a Disaster Supply Kit: Tax-Free Weekends
There are some weekends in the year where the government waives taxes on certain items. They're only the items you would need in case of an emergency. It's their way of making sure (or helping) that everyone is prepared.
These aren't nationwide weekends, they happen in states where preparedness is essential. Like in Florida, where hurricanes are not only possible - they're a promise.
You'll have to get information online about which items are tax-free on that weekend. They're most likely the items on this list, but they change a little each year.
To find out if your state offers tax-free weekends, Google it or listen to your local radio stations. They usually shout out when they're coming out.
Supplies: What to Buy
You're going to want some sort of big (Ikea?) bag or hamper to keep your stuff in. That way your family knows that those supplies are for disasters and aren't to mess with.
One of the first things to "go" in an emergency is a safe water source. If there's any sort of flooding, assume it's not safe to drink tap water.
Why? Any sort of breach of pipe can affect the entire system. When there's a hurricane or a flood, water collects in the sky/clouds. It also collects whatever debris and bacteria are on the ground, and mixes them all together.
It's why floodwaters always look a murky brown - they're like anything-and-everything soup.
Your city will turn off water lines and access if the quality is breached. Which leaves you without water - a basic human need.
That's why you see people in Florida with carts full of water bottles and gallons at the first mention of a big storm.
If you have an in-home water dispenser, like the water cooler type - that's great. That's safe and hopefully, you have a refill on hand.
If not, big water gallon jugs and pre-packaged water bottles will do the trick. Get about a gallon, per person, per day to be safe. Most people aren't without water (or are rescued) for more than 3-4 days.
2. & 3.Extra Batteries and a Radio
When the power goes out in an emergency, nothing will work. You may lose cell coverage as the networks or towers get damaged. You shouldn't use your phone much during an emergency to conserve power and to not use up the network, which emergency rescue crews need.
So what do you use to get information about the storm, when things are safe, and when they aren't?
You have to have a battery powered emergency radio to find out when it's safe to leave the shelter. Extra batteries are essential because you never know when the ones in there currently will die out.
You don't want to be left with no way to get information in a storm.
Extra batteries will also power other things, like flashlights. If you're out of power overnight, they're essential for things like going to the bathroom.
(Yes, that means you need a flashlight in your kit too)
Another part of your emergency kit is food. You'll need non-perishable items that you don't have to cook. For most people, that means canned food, like canned spaghetti or soups.
While cold soup isn't awesome, it's better than nothing. You can also buy bulk snacks at your local big-box store. Try to find the box with the farthest-out expiration date. That way you don't have to replace it that often.
Make sure you get food that you and your family will actually eat. You're not going to sit there and eat canned chopped tomatoes. You need something reasonable.
To eat these foods, you'll need a can opener and utensils. That's assuming that you're in your shelter and you don't have access to the rest of your house.
Put a can opener, some plastic plates and utensils in your kit, just to be safe.
5. Baby Wipes
If you're without water and power, you're going to get smelly, fast. That's where baby wipes come in. You can take a baby-wipe shower, which isn't the same, but it helps.
You're likely in close quarters with other people, so the less you all suffer, the better. Some people put bags with basic cosmetics, like a toothbrush and deodorant in their kits. That's up to you.
If you're in the middle of a natural disaster and you don't brush your teeth for a few days, your dentist will forgive you.
6. Garbage Bags
If worst comes to worst, you may have to urinate/defecate into plastic bags. It's not fun or ideal, but sometimes it's all you can do. If you're stuck in a shelter for days, you're going to need to go.
That means that you'll need to have something to tie the bags closed with too. Hand sanitizer will help you keep germs at bay when you have to do your business in a small space.
If you're not trapped in your shelter and you have access to the house, then that's great. You can use your toilet - but, oh, there's no water to flush.
That's why you should fill all your bathtubs and deep sinks with water before a storm. That way you can use water pressure to flush, by pouring a bucket of bath water into the toilet.
You want to make sure you're only flushing a few times a day, to preserve what water you have.
This should not be the water you depend on for drinking - that needs to be bottled and sanitized.
7. Backup Batteries (Portable Batteries)
If you don't have power, how are you going to charge your phone? Once your phone is dead, there's no way to contact the outside world post-storm.
Thankfully there are pretty affordable portable charging bars that you can plug in, then throw in your kit and forget about. They won't give you the kind of power to watch videos all day, but they're enough to make emergency phone calls and let your family know you're okay.
8. A First Aid Kit
Having a first aid kit in your disaster supply bucket is essential. In it, you should put any life-saving medications that people use daily, for about four days.
If you can afford to get an entire bottle for emergency cases, that's even better - but a couple of days is enough for most people.
Bandaids and other things, like alcohol wipes and ice packs, are good too. Ideally, the storm will pass and you'll never have to use it. But disasters cause injuries and you can't always get to the hospital.
If you wear contacts, throw some contact solution and a case in your first aid kit too. Other over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and antihistamines are a good idea too.
It should be like a mini-version of the medicine cabinet in your home.
9. Comfort Items
Sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows are all essential. Even something as simple a soft blanket can help keep kids calm in an emergency situation. If they have a special toy or a blanket, make sure to grab that before you shut yourself in.
As far as toys go - don't overload your supply kit with them. A pack of cards, markers, and a coloring book are enough. You don't want to take up precious room in your shelter with unnecessary supplies.
Kids throughout history used to only have one or two toys, your kids will get through for a few days.
10. Important Documents
You should have a fire and water-proof box in your home where you keep important documents. That means things like social security cards, passports, bank account information, and emergency contacts.
You should have some cash in this receptacle as well. You never know if you're going to have a house at the end of a disaster, so these things need to be with you or they risk getting destroyed.
11. A Generator
If you can afford it, your kit/home should have one or two small diesel generators. It can help keep you online when the city power is out. Just make sure they have fuel (and you have some on-hand.
The best thing you can do in case of an emergency is to stay calm. Grab your disaster kit and get to an interior room or storm shelter.
You already have the disaster supply kit, so you should be ready to go. After that - all you can do is wait, and hope.
For advice and inspiration on how one city got through their disaster, click here.