It was 11 years ago this week the devastating tornado demolished 95 percent of Greensburg, Kansas on May 4, 2007. At least 60 people were injured and 11 were killed in the EF5 storm.

I hope that nothing the magnitude of the Greensburg tornado ever strikes your family. Disasters can be devastating, not only to property, but also to family emotions. Being prepared in advance will help your family survive the disaster, ease the emotional impact and improve your ability to recover and rebuild your lives.

Experts say you should plan for “when” an emergency happens, rather than “if.” In severe weather season, it’s important to be prepared. Now is the time to assemble a disaster supply kit to help your family survive a storm or other emergency. The latest advice says to be sure your kit includes helmets and shoes.

When the EF5 tornado struck Joplin, Mo., in May 2011, one of the things that came to the attention of emergency management professionals was the number of head injuries. Consequently, the latest recommendation is to add a bicycle helmet or similar protective head gear for each member of the family to your disaster supplies. Putting on a helmet during a tornado can reduce the risk of head injury from flying debris or falling structures.

Having shoes with your emergency supplies is another important recommendation. Shoes will protect your feet from the large amount of dangerous debris and broken glass following a storm. I’ve kept shoes for all members of my family with my disaster supplies ever since my Extension colleague in Kiowa County shared that she had to crawl out of her demolished home barefooted after the Greensburg tornado.

Your family disaster supply kit should also include items to keep your family safe and healthy for two to three days. Assemble these items in a durable plastic tote, a heavy duffel bag or other weather-proof container and keep it in your “safe area” — the place where your family will go to weather a storm.

Start with necessities such as water, canned food and medications for at least three days. The recommendation is one gallon of water per person per day. Include formula and diapers if you have an infant, and pet food, a pet carrier and extra water for pets.

Add items for first aid, safety and communication such as a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit and a battery-operated or hand-crank radio. If you’re a cell phone user, put in a portable charger or an extra car charger for recharging your phone. Include a small whistle which you can blow to signal for help.

Other useful supplies might include a small fire extinguisher, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, mess kits or disposable tableware and a change of clothing for each family member. In the event of a disaster, you may not have immediate access to your bank account, so a roll of quarters and a small amount of cash or travelers checks would be a useful addition as well. Natural disasters in the news have emphasized the importance of emergency preparedness. Taking time now to assemble your disaster supplies may help to ensure that your family can survive a disaster and recover more quickly afterward.

For more information, see the steps for building a basic disaster kit at

Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.