Photo by elycefeliz on Flickr.

Residents are buying up bottled water, canned food, and more in advance of Hurricane Irene. It may cause some prolonged power outages and damage, but it looks to be worse for people in other cities.

Besides being prepared for Irene, this is a great opportunity to think about what you need for an emergency kit in general. has a list of items to stock, as does the DC government.

At the top is food and water. suggests one gallon per person per day for at least 3 days, or in short, 3 gallons per person who lives in your house.

ArlNow reported that the Potomac Yard Target was already out of bottled water last night. Veronica Davis tweeted that if bottled water isn’t available, you can fill up existing liquid containers like milk jugs, filter pitchers, and more from the tap. That also saves on the environmental costs of bottled water.

If you do get bottled water, don’t just drink it after the storm passes. Don’t eat all your canned food right away. Put it in a basement or the bottom of a closet in case there’s another disaster of any kind, possibly a worse one than Irene.

Chances are that after this storm, most of us will forget about emergency preparation until a few days before the next storm. But it’s best to have a kit set up ahead of time. There are companies that sell packaged kits; after the Japanese tsunami, we bought one of those to get all the first aid items, plastic sheeting and duct tape, and a hand crank radio and cell phone charger all in one place, then bought a few days’ worth of water and canned food to store with it.

What are you doing to prepare for this or a future emergency?

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.