With hurricane season upon us, the Fool wants you to be ready for anything. We've got lots of useful advice to help you prepare in case disaster strikes.

It used to be that "disaster preparedness" was the province of Boy Scouts, the National Guard, and survivalist types holing up in the more isolated corners of the Rockies. But in recent years, being prepared has gone mainstream, because of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the possibility of a serious flu epidemic. Whether you're worried about hurricanes, epidemics, or zombie invasions, having some basic tools and supplies stashed in the bottom of the coat closet or the back room of the basement makes sense for everyone.

But what should be in a disaster kit? Here are the basics:

  • Water. The Department of Homeland Security suggests a gallon per day per person, for drinking and sanitation. I think you can get by with a little less, if you're willing to be a little smelly for a few days, but not too much less. (A box or two of moist towelettes or wipes can help with the sanitation problem.) Also include a bottle of unscented, plain chlorine bleach and an eyedropper -- in addition to its disinfectant uses, you can make suspect water safe to drink by adding 16 drops of bleach to each gallon. How much to store depends on how much room you have (and how willing you are to refresh it every few months), but at minimum I suggest at least three or four gallons for every member of your family. Don't forget your pets!

  • Food. A few weeks of canned or dried shelf-stable foods won't take up a lot of room, and they could be a lifesaver. You can add some basic supplies (canned tuna, canned vegetables, dried pasta, etc.) to your weekly grocery list for a month or two, or you can buy a prepackaged emergency food kit like this assortment from Costco (NASDAQ:COST). I'm kind of skeptical of Costco's claim that the meals are "delicious," but after two weeks of being homebound during a flu epidemic, you might not care much. And the kit is fairly inexpensive and easy to store. If your stash includes cans, don't forget to include a can opener. Again, don't forget your pets' needs.

  • Radio. A hand-cranked unit that receives National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather warnings as well as the usual AM and FM bands is best. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) offers several, including this one, which looks like a good bet.

  • Flashlight. Pick a good-sized, sturdy one (I like Maglites, which are rugged and affordable) for each adult in your household, and include extra batteries.

  • First aid kit. Target (NYSE:TGT) teamed with the American Red Cross to develop a pretty decent first aid kit to use when disaster hits. That kit includes some helpful extras such as dust masks -- if you decide to assemble your own, use that kit's contents as a guide. Remember to add at least several days' worth of any medications required by anyone in your family.

  • Duct tape and plastic sheeting. They can be used for all sorts of things, from covering broken windows to collecting rainwater. Don't skimp.

  • Matches in a waterproof container.

  • Garbage bags.

  • An ax or saw. Use it to deal with downed trees or home damage -- or to cut through your house's roof if rising water chases you up to the attic.

  • Extras. Depending on your individual situation, you may also want: maps, a first aid or survival handbook (Boy Scout Handbooks, new or old, are great for this), infant supplies like diapers or formula, tools to shut off water pipes or other utilities, mess kits or disposable plates and utensils, a camp stove and fuel, a fire extinguisher, and games or books for your children.

Fool contributor John Rosevear grew up in New England, where every forecast of snow causes a run on milk, bread, and eggs at the local grocery stores. He has no position in the stocks named in this article. Costco and Amazon are Stock Advisor recommendations. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy always stands firm in high winds, shrugs off the flu bugs, and laughs mockingly at zombies.