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

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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.

7 Quick Tips for Disinfecting Your Home the Smart Way

Frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas can reduce the spread of illness in your home.
Frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas can reduce the spread of illness in your home.
BrianAJackson/iStock via Getty Images

With many people spending more time—or virtually all of their time—indoors, it’s natural for thoughts to turn to how to best clean surfaces that might help minimize the risk of spreading illness. Although researchers believe respiratory droplets are the primary way coronavirus is transmitted, preliminary data, which is not yet peer-reviewed, suggests the virus may remain on some surfaces for hours or days.

While scrubbing isn't a complex process, there are nonetheless some areas of your home you might be neglecting. Here’s how to best approach a household scrub, as well as identify and disinfect some common germ hot spots.

1. Pay attention to high-touch surfaces and clean them frequently.

High-touch surfaces are exactly what they sound like: Areas in the home that get handled and touched regularly. Think doorknobs, light switches, appliance handles, toilet handles, faucets, and remotes. And don’t forget laptops, keyboards, desks, and phones.

2. Don't just do a quick wipe down. Get the entire surface.

Taking a disinfecting wipe to the keyhole of a doorknob isn’t going to do you much good—it's important to really scrub all high-touch surfaces. Make sure you get every available surface area, including the plate behind the knob where fingers and hands often brush against it. When cleaning remotes, make sure you don't just scrub the buttons, but the space between them as well.

3. You can use soap and water.

While products claiming to kill 99.9 percent of germs are best in this scenario, there's another option if you're having a hard time tracking down those supplies—simply mix some dish soap in water. It won’t kill organisms, but it can remove them from the surface. (And while soap and water can work for high-touch surfaces throughout the home, you shouldn't use the solution on electronics like your remote or keyboard.)

If you’re looking to kill germs, diluted bleach (four teaspoons to one quart of water) and 70 percent alcohol solutions work well. But it's important to note that bleach and other cleaners can harm certain surfaces. So be sure to do your research and make sure the product you're using won't cause any damage before you start scrubbing.

4. Take laundry precautions.

If you’re trying to be extra-vigilant about the spread of germs in the house, you should consider washing clothes at the highest possible temperature and disinfecting laundry bins. It’s also advisable to use disposable laundry bags.

5. Remove your shoes before entering the house.

This step is more preventative, but it’s a simple way to keep from tracking in contaminants. Remove your shoes before going inside and leave them near the door. It's also a good idea to clean floor surfaces with disinfecting mop cloths, but be sure anything you use is safe for the finished surface. Cleaners like bleach can discolor certain materials.

6. Don't forget to clean your car.

Even people vigilant about cleaning their home can neglect their car interior. Since you’re constantly touching virtually every surface, be sure to wipe everything down regularly, including the steering wheel and door handles. If you have a leather interior, there are auto wipes available for those surfaces. And before you go wipe down any touchscreens, be sure to check your owner’s manual to see if they require any special microfiber cloth.

7. Give your debit cards a wipe.

It’s a good idea to disinfect credit or debit cards that follow you around on shopping excursions. As with all high-touch objects, be sure to wipe them down every day.

[h/t New York Times]

15 Facts About John Brown, the Real-Life Abolitionist at the Center of The Good Lord Bird

John Brown, circa 1846.
John Brown, circa 1846.
Augustus Washington/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Abolitionist John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859, was meant to start an armed slave revolt, and ultimately end slavery. Though Brown succeeded in taking over the federal armory, the revolt never came to pass—and Brown paid for the escapade with his life.

In the more than 160 years since that raid, John Brown has been called a hero, a madman, a martyr, and a terrorist. Now Showtime is exploring his legacy with an adaption of James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird. Like the novel it’s based on, the miniseries—which stars Ethan Hawke—will cover the exploits of Brown and his allies. Here's what you should know about John Brown before you watch.

1. John Brown was born into an abolitionist family on May 9, 1800.

John Brown was born to Owen and Ruth Mills Brown in Torrington, Connecticut, on May 9, 1800. After his family relocated to Hudson, Ohio (where John was raised), their new home would become an Underground Railroad station. Owen would go on to co-found the Western Reserve Anti-Slavery Society and was a trustee at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, one of the first American colleges to admit black (and female) students.

2. John Brown declared bankruptcy at age 42.

At 16, Brown went to school with the hope of becoming a minister, but eventually left the school and, like his father, became a tanner. He also dabbled in surveying, canal-building, and the wool trade. In 1835, he bought land in northeastern Ohio. Thanks partly the financial panic of 1837, Brown couldn’t satisfy his creditors and had to declare bankruptcy in 1842. He later tried peddling American wool abroad in Europe, where he was forced to sell it at severely reduced prices. This opened the door for multiple lawsuits when Brown returned to America.

3. John Brown's Pennsylvania home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The John Brown Tannery Site in Pennsylvania
The John Brown Tannery Site in Pennsylvania.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Sometime around 1825, Brown moved himself and his family to Guys Mills, Pennsylvania, where he set up a tannery and built a house and a barn with a hidden room that was used by slaves on the run. Brown reportedly helped 2500 slaves during his time in Pennsylvania; the building was destroyed in 1907 [PDF], but the site, which is now a museum that is open to the public, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Brown moved his family back to Ohio in 1836.

4. After Elijah Lovejoy's murder, John Brown pledged to end slavery.

Elijah Lovejoy was a journalist and the editor of the St. Louis/Alton Observer, a staunchly anti-slavery newspaper. His editorials enraged those who defended slavery, and in 1837, Lovejoy was killed when a mob attacked the newspaper’s headquarters.

The incident lit a fire under Brown. When he was told about Lovejoy’s murder at an abolitionist prayer meeting in Hudson, Brown—a deeply religious man—stood up and raised his right hand, saying “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery."

5. John Brown moved to the Kansas Territory after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which decreed that it would be the people of Kansas and Nebraska who would decide if their territories would be free states or slave states. New England abolitionists hoping to convert the Kansas Territory into a Free State moved there in droves and founded the city of Lawrence. By the end of 1855, John Brown had also relocated to Kansas, along with six of his sons and his son-in-law. Opposing the newcomers were slavery supporters who had also arrived in large numbers.

6. John Brown’s supporters killed five pro-slavery men at the 1856 Pottawatomie Massacre.

A John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry
A John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On May 21, 1856, Lawrence was sacked by pro-slavery forces. The next day, Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, was beaten with a cane by Representative Preston Brooks on the Senate floor until he lost consciousness. (A few days earlier, Sumner had insulted Democratic senators Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler in his "Crime Against Kansas" speech; Brooks was a representative from Butler’s state of South Carolina.)

In response to those events, Brown led a group of abolitionists into a pro-slavery settlement by the Pottawatomie Creek on the night of May 24. On Brown’s orders, five slavery sympathizers were forced out of their houses and killed with broadswords.

Newspapers across the country denounced the attack—and John Brown in particular. But that didn't dissuade him: Before his final departure from Kansas in 1859, Brown participated in many other battles across the region. He lost a son, Frederick Brown, in the fighting.

7. John Brown led a party of liberated slaves all the way from Missouri to Michigan.

In December 1858, John Brown crossed the Kansas border and entered the slave state of Missouri. Once there, he and his allies freed 11 slaves and led them all the way to Detroit, Michigan, covering a distance of more than 1000 miles. (One of the liberated women gave birth en route.) Brown’s men had killed a slaveholder during their Missouri raid, so President James Buchanan put a $250 bounty on the famed abolitionist. That didn’t stop Brown, who got to watch the people he’d helped free board a ferry and slip away into Canada.

8. John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry was meant to instigate a nationwide slave uprising.

On October 16, 1859, Brown and 18 men—including five African Americans—seized control of a U.S. armory in the Jefferson County, Virginia (today part of West Virginia) town of Harpers Ferry. The facility had around 100,000 weapons stockpiled there by the late 1850s. Brown hoped his actions would inspire a large-scale slave rebellion, with enslaved peoples rushing to collect free guns, but the insurrection never came.

9. Robert E. Lee played a part in John Brown’s arrest.

Artist Thomas Hovenden depicts John Brown after his capture.
Artist Thomas Hovenden depicts John Brown after his capture.
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Shortly after Brown took Harpers Ferry, the area was surrounded by local militias. On the orders of President Buchanan, Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee entered the fray with a detachment of U.S. Marines. The combined might of regional and federal forces proved too much for Brown, who was captured in the Harpers Ferry engine house on October 18, 1859. Ten of Brown's men died, including two more of his sons.

10. John Brown was put on trial a week after his capture.

After his capture, Brown—along with Aaron Stevens, Edwin Coppoc, Shields Green, and John Copeland—was put on trial. When asked if the defendants had counsel, Brown responded:

"Virginians, I did not ask for any quarter at the time I was taken. I did not ask to have my life spared. The Governor of the State of Virginia tendered me his assurance that I should have a fair trial: but, under no circumstances whatever will I be able to have a fair trial. If you seek my blood, you can have it at any moment, without this mockery of a trial. I have had no counsel: I have not been able to advise with anyone ... I am ready for my fate. I do not ask a trial. I beg for no mockery of a trial—no insult—nothing but that which conscience gives, or cowardice would drive you to practice. I ask again to be excused from the mockery of a trial."

Brown would go on to plead not guilty. Just days later, he was found “guilty of treason, and conspiring and advising with slaves and others to rebel, and murder in the first degree” and was sentenced to hang.

11. John Brown made a grim prophecy on the morning of his death.

On the morning of December 2, 1859, Brown passed his jailor a note that read, “I … am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with blood.” He was hanged later that day.

12. Victor Hugo defended John Brown.

Victor Hugo—the author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who was also an abolitionist—penned an open letter on John Brown’s behalf in 1859. Desperate to see him pardoned, Hugo wrote, “I fall on my knees, weeping before the great starry banner of the New World … I implore the illustrious American Republic, sister of the French Republic, to see to the safety of the universal moral law, to save John Brown.” Hugo’s appeals were of no use. The letter was dated December 2—the day Brown was hanged.

13. Abraham Lincoln commented on John Brown's death.

Abraham Lincoln, who was then in Kansas, said, “Old John Brown has been executed for treason against a State. We cannot object, even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed and treason. It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right.”

14. John Brown was buried in North Elba, New York.

John Brown's gravesite in New York
John Brown's gravesite in New York.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1849, Brown had purchased 244 acres of property from Gerrit Smith, a wealthy abolitionist, in North Elba, New York. The property was near Timbuctoo, a 120,000-acre settlement that Smith had started in 1846 to give African American families the property they needed in order to vote (at that time, state law required black residents to own $250 worth of property to cast a vote). Brown had promised Smith that he would assist his new neighbors in cultivating the mountainous terrain.

When Brown was executed, his family interred the body at their North Elba farm—which is now a New York State Historic Site.

15. The tribute song "John Brown's Body" shares its melody with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

It didn’t take long for Brown to become a martyr. Early in the 1860s, the basic melody of “Say Brothers Will You Meet Us,” a popular camp hymn, was fitted with new lyrics about the slain abolitionist. Titled “John Brown’s Body,” the song spread like wildfire in the north—despite having some lines that were deemed unsavory. Julia Ward Howe took the melody and gave it yet another set of lyrics. Thus was born “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a Union marching anthem that's still widely known today.

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