Red Cross checks our disaster kit

With nasty winter weather on the way now is the time to either check your home emergency disaster kit, or put one together.

KHQA's Chad Douglas took his home disaster kit to the American Red Cross to see what he had done right, and what he had done wrong.

At the end of the interview, Chad asked the Red Cross to grade my disaster kit.

He was given a C.

Kate Rhoads is the Volunteer and Disaster Coordinator for the Adams County Chapter of the American Red Cross. She told Chad his disaster kit was off to a good start, but is far from complete.

"What you do have here is meals. The negative is you have two meals here. Your disaster kit should have supplies for a minimum of three days," says Rhoads.

She also pointed out Chad was missing water. He told her he has a few five gallon jugs at his house to use in case of a disaster. She reminds everyone to have enough water on hand, which is one gallon per person per day.

How long of an experation date does this have?

"This is sort of like an MRE. It's a meal that will get hot that you don't have to refrigerate ahead of time. They vary for shelf life...anywhere from one to three years," says Rhoads.

Keep in mind, you can store canned soup, preferably with a pop top in your kit. Also, anything high in protein and non perishable, like granola bars are a good choice.

"It's good that you have flashlights here. I notice it's good to keep the batteries outside of the flashlight. Batteries drain down less when they are outside the flashlights," says Rhoads.

A good first aid kit is also important for your home disaster kit. Just make sure you have plenty of supplies for the entire family. Another thing Chad had in his kit was a couple of cameras. One to use before a disaster so you know what belongings you had to show your insurance company.

"Sometimes in a large scale incident, insurance companies may not be able to be there right away. So, it will be good to take a photo of the damage," says Rhoads.

Something else important Rhoads pointed out, a disaster kit should be stocked and ready to go in case you have to leave your home at a moments notice.

Where should I keep this?

"People keep it in different places. Maybe in a closet by the door. That way, you know where it's at. It's somewhere you can get to it and if you have to evacuate it's right by the door," says Rhoads.

Remember, to check your kit at least twice a year to swap out things that might expire. A good time to do that is when the time changes, and you replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

However, Chad was given a grade of a C, which means there is room for improvement.

And some of the things Chad didn't have in his kit are very important.

"One of the most important things you're missing is a battery powered radio," says Kate Rhoads with the American Red Cross.

In fact, Kate Rhoads tells KHQA, the top three things you should have in your kit are food and water for three days, and a battery powered radio. The reason is so you can get important emergency information. Something else you should have, copies of important paperwork like contact information.

"Family, doctors, pharmacies, prescription information. Also insurance information. Copies of insurance cards, policies, marriage certificates, birth certificates," says Rhoads.

Remember, it's easier to get originals replaced if you have copies in your disaster kit. Also make sure you have plenty of medicine, both prescription and over the counter for everyone in your household, including your pets.

"We encourage you to keep a small percentage of prescriptions in your kit so it doesn't outdate for the next month or two months," says Rhoads.

Remember, it's best to check your kit twice a year and swap out anything with expiration dates, and your change of clothes should be seasonal. And remember to make your emergency kit specific to your family.

"For those with infants or elderly people with them. Pay attention to their special needs. If they need glasses, or a walker, or oxygen. Anything you can pull ahead of time...information and medications. The more information you have in your kit about their special needs, the better," says Rhoads.

For babies, don't forget extra formula, bottles, and diapers. And don't forget about your pets. They also need a three day supply of food and water. It's good to have extra leashes and collars and a copy of their vet records. Also don't forget extra cat liter. It may also be a good idea to call ahead to family members or boarding facilities to see if you'll be able to leave your pet there for a few days. Just remember to never leave your pet at home by itself in a disaster.

By the way, you can buy a ready made emergency kit from the Red Cross for around $40.00.

If you want to make your own, The American Red Cross has pamphlets available that have a checklist of items in it.

You can pick one up from your local chapter office, or

The American Red Cross also offered these tips to stay safe during the winter months.

Tips for Staying Safe at Home

Be careful with candles " do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.

Don TMt use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement or garage. Locate unite away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

Prevent frozen pipes - when the weather is very cold outside, open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing. Keep the thermostat set to a consistent temperature.

Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.

If you plan on using a fireplace to stay warm, keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a lit fire unattended.

If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer TMs instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.

Avoid overloading electrical outlets.

Check on your animals and make sure that their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles. If possible, bring them indoors.

Tips for Protecting Yourself While Outdoors and Traveling

When possible stay indoors during the storm.

Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks and stairs.

Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, which will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.

Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.

Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.

If you shovel snow, be extremely careful. Take frequent breaks, stay hydrated and avoid overexertion.

Minimize travel whenever possible. If travel is necessary keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle with extra food and blankets.

Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog.

Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.

Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.

Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.

Visit or call the chapter at (217) 222-2477 for more information.