15 Emergency Supplies Everyone Should Have On Hand

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"Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." It's a line sometimes attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but it's sound advice whether it came from Honest Abe or not. Being prepared with the proper tools in the right condition makes all the difference, whether your "tree" is a professional challenge, a personal goal, or, well, an actual tree.

Of course, it's much harder to prepare when you don't know what type of "tree" you'll be dealing with. We'd all like to imagine that we'd be level-headed in an emergency situation, but unfortunately, stress directly impairs critical thinking skills. Thus, the best way to prepare for any type of crisis is to stock up on tools and supplies ahead of time, practice emergency procedures (fire drills, changing a tire), and prep for the most likely types of scenarios, like power outages. Keep these 15 items in your home, your vehicle, or on your person, and you'll be ready for (almost) anything life throws your way.

IN YOUR HOME

Tree branches down in front of a house.
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Snowstorms. Broken water mains. Fires. Fallen tree limbs. Earthquakes. Floods. Power outages. Any number of events could happen to or around your home that could leave you with limited access to the amenities you're used to. Take stock of how well-prepared your abode is for a number of the most probable emergencies (perhaps you don't live in a flood zone, but everyone is susceptible to blackouts and fires), and start making plans to help weather any ordeal.

1. EXTRA FOOD AND WATER

jars of canned veggies
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It's an obvious place to begin, but extra food and water are the most critical resources in an emergency that requires you to stay inside for any length of time. The CDC recommends keeping enough food for at least 72 hours, although naturally more is better. Non-perishable canned goods are a sensible choice (don't forget to keep an extra can opener nearby), as well as dry snacks such as granola bars and dried fruit, and any home-canned or pickled jars, like of garden veggies. Extra gallons of water will be necessary for drinking and cooking in case of a water main break or prolonged drought. Be sure to consider your whole family's dietary needs—that might mean stocking up on extra baby food or pet food, too!

2. CANDLES

Colorful, lit candles
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When the power goes out, candles are an easy and inexpensive way to provide temporary lighting—just be sure to store them somewhere where they'll be easy to retrieve in total darkness, and keep a lighter or matches nearby. Even better, especially for families with children, is a battery-powered camping lantern, which can provide hundreds of hours of illumination without being a fire hazard.

3. WORK GLOVES

pair of work gloves
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Natural disasters like earthquakes, fires, or floods can cause massive physical damage and leave plenty of wreckage in their wake. Because of this, the CDC recommends keeping a pair of work gloves with your emergency kit in case you need to move heavy branches or clean up sharp debris. An injury to your fingers or hands could be devastating in a crisis—be sure to protect yourself!

4. WATERPROOF TARP

rope through a tarp
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Unglamorous but extremely multifunctional, a waterproof tarp is an important part of any emergency kit. A tarp can be used to temporarily seal a broken window, prevent leaks from a damaged roof, or keep firewood dry. If you're trapped in a house with no heat, it can provide insulation and help create a "warm room." Furthermore, if you need to evacuate your home, a tarp can be used as a waterproof tent or basic shelter in wooded areas.

5. DUFFEL BAG OR BACKPACK

backpack
Mike Coppola, Getty Images

Having all these supplies on hand is a good start, but it's just as important that you're able to access them quickly and easily. A strong, waterproof duffel bag or backpack is a convenient way to keep your emergency kit together and organized. Plus, if you do need to evacuate your home quickly, you won't need to waste time assembling necessities—you’re ready to grab and go.

IN YOUR VEHICLE

Car on side of road with snow
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As you prepare a home emergency kit, don't forget about your wheels! Catastrophes can strike anywhere, so it's important to make sure your car, truck, or van is stocked with some essentials. This is especially relevant if you live or are traveling in a rural area where you may be stranded many miles from the nearest source of help. The CDC provides a lengthy list of items to consider, but the below suggestions are an easy place to start.

6. SPARE TIRE

Spare tire on a classic car.
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Most modern vehicles will come fully equipped, but start by double-checking that your vehicle has a spare tire—and just as importantly, the tools for changing it: a tire iron and jack. (If you never learned how to change a tire, now's the time to get a quick lesson!) The compartment where these tools are stored might also be a good spot to keep some jumper cables in case you need a quick battery jolt, as well as a basic multitool for any number of small jobs.

7. FLASHLIGHT

orange flashlight
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Should you encounter trouble after nightfall, you'll need a good flashlight to examine under the hood or check out your surroundings. Yes, you can use your phone in a pinch, but in a real emergency you'll want to conserve your battery (and you won't want to use your expensive smartphone outside during a downpour). Far smarter to keep a heavy-duty flashlight in your glove compartment, which can also double as a blunt self-defense weapon in a real pinch. You might also consider a headlamp, a perennial favorite of campers, which offers similar brightness while keeping your hands free.

8. EMERGENCY SIGNAL DEVICE

emergency reflective sign on road
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Picture this: your battery dies on a back road, and the rain is coming down hard. You've called for a tow, but in the meantime, you're nearly invisible to other drivers. To prevent a bad situation from getting worse, invest in some type of emergency signal device that will alert other drivers to your presence. Signal flares, a battery-powered flashing light, or just simple reflectors will give fellow motorists advance warning of your location, and good-quality signals can be found for around $30.

9. FIRST-AID KIT

first aid kit
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As you stockpile materials to keep your vehicle in working order, don't forget about your most precious cargo—yourself and your family. In the event of an accident, a first-aid kit may buy you precious time while you wait for paramedics to arrive. Make your own if you prefer (ActiveJunky.com provides a great list of recommended supplies), or buy a pre-assembled kit. Assuming you're not a nurse or doctor yourself, don't forget to include a first-aid booklet [PDF] as well—kits are only valuable if you know how to use them appropriately!

10. HEAVY BLANKETS

stack of blankets
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In an unfortunate scenario, perhaps your car breaks down miles away from any help and you're temporarily stranded while waiting for assistance. In a worse-case scenario, perhaps you're forced to hunker down in your vehicle overnight. If the engine is still working, you can make some use of the heater, but experts recommend running your engine no more than 10 minutes per hour to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. However, having a few heavy blankets will provide necessary warmth and insulation to make up the difference and keep your body heat up during a long, cold night. And, bonus: You'll always be prepared for a surprise picnic.

ON YOUR PERSON

Man riding a bike.
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Carrying "emergency supplies" on your person every day might seem like overkill, but these personal items might literally save your life someday, and all of them can easily fit in a pocket, purse, or backpack. Disaster can strike without warning, so consider keeping these items close, especially while traveling.

11. CELL PHONE

holding smartphone
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Good news! A cell phone is arguably the single most useful emergency item you can carry, and odds are you never leave home without it. Modern smartphones are best—it's easy to turn your iPhone or Android into a survival tool by downloading apps that assist with navigation, safety, and even plant identification if you need to forage for food. But even a basic flip phone allows you to call 911 from a remote location or alert your family to your condition. However, remember that your phone is generally only as valuable as its battery—consider keeping an extra charger in your purse or jacket pocket.

12. LIST OF EMERGENCY CONTACTS

emergency contact list
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Cell phones are fantastic tools, but the ease of storing data in your phone means that fewer of us are bothering to remember important contact information—a recent study from Kaspersky Lab found that nearly half of the people in their global survey didn't know their partner's number by heart, much less that of their office or children's school. Be honest: Without your smartphone, how many people could you call from a pay phone in a crisis? For that reason, survival experts recommend keeping a list of emergency contacts on your person, perhaps as a simple list or—better yet—as a laminated card in your handbag or wallet.

13. A LIGHTER

lighter in hand
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Got a light? Cigarette smoking is steadily decreasing in the U.S., but a basic lighter remains an essential survival tool. Sure, if you live in an urban center, you may live your entire life without needing to start a fire, but considering how small lighters are, there's little reason not to keep one in your jacket pocket or purse. It's a worst case scenario situation, but if you find yourself stranded outdoors, there's no easier way to generate light and warmth.

14. TACTICAL KNIFE

Tactical knife on a rock
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Speaking of backwoods essentials, survivalists will tell you that there's no replacement for a quality survival knife—in fact many experts say it's the most important tool you can own. It's certainly one of the most versatile! A good knife provides a reasonable level of self-defense, but can also be used to help construct a shelter, trim kindling for firewood, clear a path through thick brush, prepare food, or help with basic first aid. If the blade is shiny, you might even be able to use it to signal for help. All that said, some states do forbid carrying certain types of knives, so be sure to check your local laws before you start toting a blade on the subway.

15. PEN AND NOTEPAD

Old man writing in book
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They might be the least exciting items on this list, but a pen and a notepad are good choices to round out your on-person survival kit. How so? If you're truly stranded in the wilderness, you'll be able to take notes or draw up a map, marking the location of water sources or other useful landmarks. You might be able to leave notes for potential rescuers, particularly if you buy a waterproof pad—or in a pinch, crumple up a page to help start a fire. Alternately, if you're traveling in a foreign country, a small notebook is a great way to keep important information at hand, such as the address of your hotel, the phone number of the embassy, or a few useful phrases in the local language. While commuting, you might need it to write down a license plate number or another driver's insurance information if you're in an accident. And if disaster never strikes, you always have a good place to jot down a grocery list.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The 10 States With the Most UFO Sightings

According to the data, cows in Texas have nothing to fear from aliens.
According to the data, cows in Texas have nothing to fear from aliens.

According to the National UFO Reporting Center, there have been more than 4000 UFO sightings so far in 2020—meaning that this year, we’re already well on our way to eclipsing the 5971 sightings reported in 2019.

If you want to increase your odds of seeing a UFO for yourself, you’re in luck. Using NUFORC data, SatelliteInternet.com took the total number of sightings from January 2019 to June 2020 and did the math to determine how many sightings there were per 100,000 people.

According to their calculations, Idaho is the state most likely to yield a UFO sighting, followed by Montana, New Hampshire, Maine, and New Mexico.

States With the Most UFO Sightings

  1. Idaho: 9.18 sightings per 100,000 people
  2. Montana: 9.17 sightings per 100,000 people
  3. New Hampshire: 7.87 sightings per 100,000 people
  4. Maine: 7.22 sightings per 100,000 people
  5. New Mexico: 6.2 sightings per 100,000 people
  6. Vermont: 6.09 sightings per 100,000 people
  7. Wyoming: 6.05 sightings per 100,000 people
  8. Hawaii: 5.16 sightings per 100,000 people
  9. Washington: 5.07 sightings per 100,000 people
  10. Connecticut: 4.94 sightings per 100,000 people

If you want to avoid UFOs, however, the data suggest you should head to Texas (1.29 sightings per 100,000 people), Louisiana (1.44 sightings per 100,000 people), New York (1.59 sightings per 100,000 people), Maryland (1.6 sightings per 100,000 people), or Illinois (1.84 sightings per 100,000 people).

For the full rankings, head here. And remember, a UFO is an Unidentified Flying Object, not necessarily aliens—but here’s some advice for what to do if you run into E.T., just in case.