How You Can Prepare for Low Tier Emergencies While You’re at College

Bet you hadn’t thought of this.
September 9, 2019
11 mins read

All eyes are on the southeast as Hurricane Dorian tears through the coast of Georgia and North and South Carolina. The total amount of damage done to the United States or even the already weather-beaten Bahamas is yet to be seen, but the formation, movement and landfall of Dorian has surely turned the country’s minds to emergency preparations.

Chances are your university has measures in place for the most likely natural disasters to befall your part of the country, but here are some ways to prepare for the less devastating kinds of emergencies you might see during your stay in a dorm far from home. Read on to see the anatomy of your emergency stash.

First Aid

The first emergency preparation is, hopefully, the most obvious one. Of course, everyone knows you should have bandages and over-the-counter pain killers. But it’s important to have a more extensive first aid kit to cover many kinds of illnesses and injuries.

An effective first aid kit should start with any prescription medication you need, from inhalers to birth control. From there you add pain killers and fever reducers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, for when you have headaches, body pain or a cold.

Also, bring a thermometer to measure whether or not you have a fever when you’re feeling under the weather. If you get allergies from pollen or the like be sure to bring allergy medication, and even if you don’t, bring an antihistamine such as Benadryl to treat any surprise allergic reactions you or your friend might get.

You can’t just have one kind of bandage either; you should have bandages of as many sizes as you can find to fit just about any wound you could sustain in the course of dorm life. Aside from bandages, you’ll need something to clean wounds with once you get them, so make sure to stock up on mild, antibacterial soap and isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Once a wound is a clean, treat it with an antibiotic cream such as Neosporin before you slap that band-aid on.


After you have all of the most necessary items down, consider adding gauze and medical tape for larger injuries, cold medicine for daytime and nighttime or liquid bandage for minor cuts and abrasions. Now all you have to do is designate a box or a tin for your first aid supplies, and you’re ready for any low stakes medical emergency college could throw your way.


Power outages can happen to anyone, anywhere and for a host of reasons. Whether it’s from a thunderstorm or a botched electrician job, your power is likely to go out for even a small amount of time at some point during your college career, and there are ways you can curb the effects of a blackout.

Most important for functioning as close to normal as possible is keeping a flashlight in your dorm. There’s a flashlight on your phone, but it’ll be better not to waste your battery life on getting to the bathroom or reading your textbooks in the event of an extended power outage.

Now that you have a flashlight, keep a few extra sets of batteries for it in your dorm. Really you should keep a few sets of both AA and AAA batteries in your dorm just in case. Also keep a charging bank charged up for emergencies to prolong your phone’s battery life in a surprise blackout. Remember to charge up all of your electronics if you can expect the possibility of a power outage, such as before any big storms.


Next on the list is food for emergency situations. An event that would critically hinder your usual avenues for food is unlikely, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so stocking up on some emergency provisions is always a good idea.

There are lots of emergency survival food packs on the market that would keep you well-fed in the event of an emergency. Packs like that, however, are probably more than necessary for a college student. As mentioned above, you’re unlikely to have to go long without food, especially if you bought some kind dining plan from your school, so stashing away food for emergencies in college is pretty easy.

First, pack nonperishables that don’t need any cooking or preparation in the case of a power outage. Granola bars, cereals and other similar products are a good place to start. Then, if you can cook for yourself from your own kitchen — a countertop burner or even an electric kettle — pack simple foods that only need to be reheated or need boiling water to be made. Good examples are canned soup, oatmeal, ramen noodles or instant rice packets.

The most important part of having an emergency food stash is to make sure it’s for emergencies only. This isn’t a snack stash. You don’t come here when you’re too tired to go to the dining hall. It wouldn’t do to find yourself in a real emergency with one packet of ramen and two granola bars. You can eat all of the aforementioned emergency foods on the regular, if you like, but it’s imperative that you keep your emergency supply untouched.



Perhaps the luxury most taken for granted is access to clean, drinkable water. Your access to drinkable water, however, can be affected by events far less catastrophic than a hurricane, tornado or earthquake, which makes your actions to ensure you have clean water for emergencies one of the most important on this list.

Half of this list falls apart without access to clean water. Without clean water, you can’t clean your wounds with mild soap and water, and you can’t cook anything without it either. Of course, you need to drink water in general to survive. It’s not news that water is extremely important, and a boil water advisory is a common way to throw your access to clean water out of the window.

A boil water advisory is an advisory given to the public in affected areas that says their tap water either could be or is known to be contaminated with pathogens such as bacteria or viruses. Essentially, this means water is unsafe for internal consumption. Usually you can still wash your hands or shower during a boil water advisory, but the water is unsafe for drinking, brushing teeth or cleaning food.

As stated in the name, water should be boiled to kill any pathogens before use. If you have the means of bringing water to a rolling boil for at least one minute in this kind of emergency, make sure to have clean containers to store the water in. These boil water advisories can last for days at a time, and the Brita pitcher you got for your dorm won’t work because water filters are not equipped to filter out pathogens.

For use in boil water advisories and other emergencies, it’s important to keep a stash of bottled water. Whether you’re buying fresh bottles of water or reusing bottles full of clean water, it doesn’t matter as long as you have water stowed away.

Water is always the first to fly off the shelves in emergencies, so chances are you can’t buy it later. If a natural disaster strikes or you can’t boil water on a regular day, you need to have an emergency stash of consumable water. Just like with food, don’t touch this water until you have to.

You’re more than likely to have a safe, uneventful year at college. Apocalyptic catastrophes are rare, but life favors the prepared, so don’t let illnesses, injuries, power outages, boil water advisories or natural disasters catch you slipping, especially when it’s so easy to keep yourself prepared. Fill out this checklist of emergency necessities once at the beginning of the year and be known as the mom friend all through college.

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