BETHANY, Mo. – Be prepared for the next big storm BEFORE it happens in your area.

“That means having a safe place, with a supply of food, water and other items ready to use when and where you may need them,” says University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist Janet Hackert.

“If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor,” she says. “Stay away from windows.”

When you head for your shelter, you may be there for a while. Have enough food for everyone in the house for several days, or even a week. “The storm may only last for hours, but if power goes off, you will still need to eat,” Hackert says.

Choose ready-to-eat foods that store well in your shelter. Suggested foods include canned meats, vegetables and fruits (if not all the cans have pop-top lids, be sure to include a manual can opener), peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola, nuts, dried fruit, cereal, fruit cups, juice boxes, and snack bars. If storing instant meals that require adding water, be sure to include enough water in the emergency kit to reconstitute them. Avoid very salty foods since these increase thirst. Mark food and replace and rotate into regular daily use every six months, or more often if “best if used by” dates indicate it. Include paper or plastic plates and cups, napkins and plastic ware in your shelter kit.

Store water for emergencies in clean, well-sealed plastic containers. Keep bottled water in its original plastic containers, or use plastic soda bottles that have been carefully washed out. “Don’t use milk containers for storing water,” Hackert says. “They are difficult to get clean and often do not have secure tops.” Store 1 gallon of water per person per day for cooking and sanitation.

To learn more about preparing for storms, tornadoes and other emergencies, go to Available resources include:

For more information on emergency preparedness, or any other topic, contact your local University of Missouri Extension center.