Closeup of black radio, batteries and red flashlight illuminating darkness.
Why you might need an emergency kit and what you should put in it. Photo credit: shironagasukujira/iStock

Detroit has experienced more than a few large-scale power outages that have left families in the dark for as long as a week. Utility company DTE Energy claims to be making strides to improve its infrastructure and trim trees that put it at risk, but there’s still a long way to go. DTE estimates that grid updates will take 10 to 15 years, with 2032 being the earliest completion year. 

Because of our aging infrastructure, we’re likely to continue to deal with frequent power outages for at least another decade. Keeping an emergency kit in your home can help ease the pain when the power goes out.  

Emergency kits can be customized to fit the needs of your family, but here are some things everyone should consider keeping together in a safe place. 

Battery-operated or solar-powered lights ($5-$40)

Typically, the first thing people will think to use for light when the power goes out are candles or flashlights (we know some folks even still have gas lanterns lying around). Battery-operated flashlights are great, but candles and sources that require a flame can create a safety hazard. You’ll also want to keep extra batteries on hand for your flashlights. 

Solar-powered charging bank ($20-$100)

A lot of portable chargers on the market connect to devices via a USB cord. These are great for keeping your phone battery juiced during concerts or trips out around the city, but not the best option when the power is out for days. Opt for a solar-powered charging bank, which will allow you to stay connected a little longer. Some come equipped with micro-USB and lightning extensions on them, so you don’t have to shuffle around for a cord. There are others that come with a USB port, and if you get one of those, make sure you add charging cables to your kit. 

First-aid kit ($15-$150)

Depending on the type of storm, you may need to tend to minor scrapes and bruises. Keeping a first-aid kit that includes antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, gauze, bandages and gloves could come in handy. 

Copies of important documents and storage ($0-$30): 

Consider keeping important documents like social security cards, insurance papers, passports and birth certificates in a waterproof and fireproof pouch or container that you can easily access and move with in case of an emergency. Also, stash some emergency cash with them. Although we live in a digital world, card transactions may be difficult to make in a serious outage. 

Water and non-perishable foods ($5-$20)

Keep food and snacks on hand that don’t require cooking or refrigeration. If you’re going to include canned goods, be sure to add a manual can-opener ($5-$30) to your kit. Remember, a refrigerator without a power source can keep food cool for a maximum of about four hours. A full freezer can keep its temperature for up to two days. You can also consider using a cooler and dry ice to keep your refrigerated foods cooler longer. 

Blankets ($0-$100)

Depending on the weather, you’ll want blankets to keep your family comfortable and warm. Fireplaces are typically safe to use in an outage, but that does depend on the condition of your fireplace and how well it is maintained. If you choose to light your fireplace, keep all flammable materials and objects a safe distance away from flames. You can use blankets you already have, of course, and there are also camping blankets designed to be warm and fold up very small if you’re looking to save space.

Keep it ready

Remember, keep your emergency preparedness kit in a place that’s easily accessible for you, like a bedroom closet, and store items in a bag that’ll be easy to carry. If you want more ideas for building an emergency kit that’s personalized for your family, this checklist from the Michigan State Police will give you more ideas. 

Alex (she/her) believes that the best journalism is done by members of the community being served, and the stories should always reflect those people. When it comes to Detroit, the city is her playground, but her favorite place to go is the Detroit Institute of Arts.