Even if you're not an adventure-seeker by nature, basic knowledge of survival can save lives if—and when—disaster strikes. According to the National Weather Service, about 800 tornadoes touch down in the United States every year. If you live in a coastal community, hurricanes, wildfires and floods can be common occurrences.

Every family can prepare for the worst before the electricity goes out, the dog starts barking and the children start crying. The first step? Assemble an emergency supply kit. Ready.gov , a national campaign to help people prepare for emergency situations, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency outline 12 essentials you should have on hand.

  1. Water: The most basic necessity. Store enough water to last for at least three days, which equals 1 gallon per person, per day. FEMA suggests stocking up on extra water if you live in a warm climate or have children.
  2. Food: Keep a three-day supply of nonperishable food on hand. FEMA suggests stocking up on staples and canned goods that don't require refrigeration, cooking or water. A manual can opener is also a must.
  3. Whistle: A great way to signal for help.
  4. Battery-powered or hand -cranked radio: The best way to stay informed and track inclement weather. Be sure to buy extra batteries.
  5. Flashlight and extra batteries.
  6. First aid kit: Should include sterile gloves, sterile dressings, soap, antibiotic ointment, bandages, eye wash, a thermometer and prescription medications. Ready.gov also recommends over-the-counter pain relievers, antidiarrheal medication, antacids and laxatives.
  7. Dust mask.
  8. Hygiene and sanitation supplies: Moist towelettes, garbage bags, toilet paper and plastic ties can help keep you and your shelter clean.
  9. Wrench or pliers: You never know when these multipurpose tools will come in handy.
  10. Local maps: Learn different routes out of town in case some roads are closed because of traffic or others hazards.
  11. Cell phone with chargers: Keep in contact with loved ones, emergency personnel or rescuers.
  12. Extra clothing: If you live in a cold climate, FEMA suggests packing jackets, hats, mittens, scarves and one warm blanket or sleeping bag per person.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store, but life's too short to live in fear. Be prepared, stay calm, and let local officials and relief workers take the lead.

What else would you pack in a survival kit? Leave a comment below.


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