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6 Surprise Disaster-Kit Essentials

You won't see these items on standard hurricane preparedness lists—but experts agree they can help you weather any emergency nature throws your way

Emergency Know-How

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Even if you don't live in an area usually affected by severe storms, the start of hurricane season offers a good reminder to give your emergency kit a once-over. To ensure you've got what you need, check with a relief organization like the American Red Cross for their approved must-haves. Then read on to discover some handy supplies you may not have thought of that can help you safely ride out an emergency.

Fishing Line

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"You can tie almost anything with it—it's the Swiss Army knife of string," says Bill Begal, president of Begal Enterprises Inc., a disaster-restoration company in Rockville, Maryland. In a pinch, use this super-strong, waterproof filament to tie a flapping door closed or secure a tarp over a broken car window.

Vinyl Tablecloths

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Cheaper than tarps, these water-resistant spill-catchers can provide an instant island of clean, especially after a disaster where dirt and debris litter the floor, says Abby Harrison, a Hurricane Ike survivor who teaches emergency prep classes in Houston.

Triple-Duty Weather Radio

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A hand-crank radio is a standard emergency item, but one that also charges small gadgets and serves as a flashlight packs three vital services in a single package. Try the Rover by Eton ($50;, which has a USB cell-phone charger and an LED light—brighter and more impact-resistant than an incandescent, says the Red Cross's Keith Robertory. Just 90 seconds of cranking buys you 15 minutes of power.

Baby Wipes

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Staying clean when water is in short supply doesn't have to be a challenge. Baby wipes work wonders at removing grime, whether you want to use them to sub for a shower or clean food-prep surfaces (for this, get lotion-free versions).

Reinforced Work Gloves

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"When cleaning up after a storm, the last thing you want is to get pierced by broken glass or a rusty nail with flood water on it," says Robertory. Cushioned gloves will keep your hands dry and protected. Look for options with rubber or leather grips on the palms to prevent them from becoming slippery.

Solar-Powered Fan

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"After a storm, it's often hot, and if the power is still out, it can be sweltering," says Begal. To cool things down without electricity, charge a solar fan on your windowsill as soon as you receive a storm warning.

Prep Your House

Photo by Webb Chappell

Do these simple tasks before severe weather hits to help minimize or even prevent costly damage to your home:

Nail Loose Boards or Shingles

That untethered shingle you previously ignored could create a domino effect if ripped off by the storm, allowing water to get under the ones around it. Once you refasten it, apply a dab of roofing sealant under the shingle and over the nailheads to guard against leaks.

2. Board Up Windows

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You can easily board up lower windows from the outside with a single sheet of ½-inch or thicker plywood. But for those on the second and third floors, cut the wood in half to make it easier to lift when you're on a ladder.

3 .Bring in Patio Furniture

Photo by Julian Wass (Styling by Pamela Abrahams)

Unsecured objects in your yard, from the grill to kids' toys, can become dangerous projectiles when winds pick up. The same holds true for your neighbor's patio set. Look around at four or five adjacent yards and make sure everything gets cleared out or contained.