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Ask a Dietitian: Tornado Preparedness

by Nichole Hudon MS, RD/LD

Q: My friend lost her home in the recent tornado. When we were talking, she said to me, "I didn't know when I left this morning that I should have prepared to be homeless". That statement made me think about having an emergency supply kit with me at all times. Is there a resource where I can find a list of the types of things I should keep?

A: I am so sorry about your friend and the many others who lost their homes. This is a very important question as in natural disasters such as this, people are suddenly left with not even the basics to get by for a few days let alone an extended amount of time.

In researching this, I did come across multiple resources with lists as extensive as you choose to get based on the nature of the disaster. Although I always keep such a kit in my car during the winter, I had not considered keeping one all year round. The most concise resource I found is which is developed by FEMA.

For this discussion and with keeping in mind how quickly people had to find shelter, I researched basic lists of kits which could be carried and which would get you by about 72 hours. For those who have tornado shelters, this is a good resource center for what kinds of items to be stored in the shelter and the best ways to store them to prevent contamination.


  • keep a backpack for each member of the household in an area that it is easily found and able to be grabbed at a moment's notice
  • have an extra pack for each adult, if possible, for additional items
  • keep a plastic tote in vehicles in case you are not home when the disaster strikes or if you are able to leave in your vehicle before it happens.

Some suggested items to put in backpacks (plan for 3 days):

  • water-may get too heavy for little ones; put the largest bottle that they can carry.
  • protein or fruit bars, granola or dry cereal, peanut butter, dried fruit packs, nuts, crackers, powdered milk, boxed juices, soups (ready-open or pack a can opener), hard candy
  • avoid high salt foods that increase thirst
  • for diabetics, low blood sugar tablets, glucometer/supplies
  • 3 days of mandatory medications kept in plastic pill separators in a zip lock with names and dosing information on an index card.
  • baby wipes, sanitizing gel, toilet paper roll, feminine supplies
  • lip balm, insect repellent, sunscreen, travel size shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • socks, underwear, rain poncho, sturdy shoes, change of clothing, hat, gloves
  • Laminated List of emergency numbers and vital information (including medical history, usual medications, dates of birth) about each family member
  • personal flashlight, whistle

Extra bag should include:

  • a copy of important documents in a water-proof package such as marriage/birth certificates, credit cards, insurance information, house/auto details, driver's licenses, social security cards, passports, bank account info, etc.
  • portable first aid kit
  • extra credit card, cash
  • extra set of house and car keys
  • all purpose knife
  • water purifying tabs
  • radio and batteries
  • phone chargers
  • camping lanters
  • pet food/supplies
  • trash bags

In vehicles, be careful not to over-pack but this is where you can store additional items for extended needs, such as:

  • tent, sleeping bags, more clothes and water, hand shovel, larger emergency kit, towels
  • it is recommended to have one gallon of water per person, per day
  • vehicle emergency supplies

The lists can get extensive and it is easy to overload bags. Remember that if the bags are too heavy, they may get left behind all together so think about absolute essentials for the packs and keep the totes for non-critical items that would be nice to have. Do not place the personal information in these totes as they are not guaranteed to be with you. For more ideas, visit  

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.

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Office (405) 307.2143
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