Properly maintaining an emergency preparedness kit
Monday, November 14, 2016
Oklahoma families are strongly encouraged to prepare ahead of any potential natural disaster or possible crisis by setting aside some food and basic supplies as part of an emergency kit. But, in order for these kits to be truly effective, they do require a bit of light annual maintenance.
“Emergency kits should be refreshed at least once, but preferably twice, a year. If you’ve had any new additions to your family or perhaps you’ve added a pet, this is a great chance to update your kit so they’re included,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “One easy way to remember to check your kit is to do so every spring and fall when Daylight Savings Time begins and ends.”
Recycling the food and water in the kit on a regular basis reduces the chances of those provisions going to waste, said Barbara Brown, OSU Cooperative Extension food safety specialist.
“If you’re properly maintaining your kit, you probably won’t have to throw away any food,” Brown said. “Check the expiration dates on all the food and beverages. Items close to expiration should be incorporated into the current food supply and eaten. Nearly expired foods should be replaced with items with at least a 6-month expiration date. Remember that the dates are generally guidelines for best quality, not a sign the food is unsafe to eat.”
Items with no expiration date or if the date is written in code, mark when the food was placed in the kit or the date by which the food should be removed. The same method should be used each time the kit is updated.
Without an expiration date, consider that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates high-acid canned items such as tomatoes, grapefruit and pineapple can be stored for a year to 18 months for best quality. Foods with less acid such as canned meat, poultry, fish and most vegetables can last 2 to 5 years if properly stored.
The water stored in the kit should be replenished every 6 months.
Make sure clothing items are appropriate either for the colder temperatures in the fall and winter or in the warmer weather in the spring and summer.
Families also should replace any supplies that were used or borrowed from the kit and test flashlights and weather radios to confirm they are in working order.
“Don’t forget to check the kit to ensure there are provisions for family members with special needs such as infants as well as any pets,” Peek said.