Tips for creating an emergency safety kit
(CNN) U.S. homeland security officials aren't the only ones operating under a heightened state of alert.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, many Americans have adopted their own homeland security measures.
In a "worst case scenario" world, the thinking goes, the best way to sleep well at night is to follow that old Boy Scout motto and be prepared.
Experts suggest a range of simple steps that families can take that would prepare them not only for a biological or chemical attack, but also for a natural disaster.
Any of these events could prompt mass evacuations, utilities failure, lack of water and shortage of food.
With that in mind, there are a number of items to check off the to-do list, compiled from expert advice.
"During the first few hours or days following a disaster, essential services may not be available," reads the Web site for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "People must be ready to act on their own."
One way to act is to create an emergency kit to keep at home, for use in case you have to leave your house quickly. It should be kept in a place that's easily accessible, and it should have supplies to last at least three days, including:
A supply of nonperishable food (canned meat, fruits and vegetables, health food bars, canned or powdered milk and juice)
A first-aid kit, which includes bandages, tape, scissors, tweezers, needle, aspirin and other over-the-counter medication, rubbing alcohol and antiseptic
Two quarts of water to drink and two quarts for sanitation for each person every day
One extra warm outfit for each person; include rain gear and footwear.
A battery-powered radio (and batteries), flashlights, spare car keys, tools, matches, backup eyeglasses, sanitation supplies, important family documents, non-electric can opener, sleeping bags.
Supplies for pets, including food and medicine
Away from home
There's a chance if emergency unfolds, it will happen while you're away from home. That's why having an emergency kit in the trunk of your car is a good practice.
Experts also say families should have a plan worked out on what to do if an emergency unfolds while they're away from home. Recommended in the plan:
An outside contact person. Don't rely on cell phones; they didn't work in New York during the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Instead, have a designated contact person out of your area for family members to call on a hard line and relay messages to each other if they are separated. Families should also have at least two designated meeting spots -- one near home, and one away from home, in case the area where you live is inaccessible.
Planned emergency escape routes. These should be known by family members; safety experts don't recommend back roads or shortcuts, which might be closed or affected by the emergency.
Finally, if you already have an emergency kit in your house, you should check its contents to make sure they're still usable. Items like packaged food, water and batteries need to be changed out periodically.
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