Putting together a home emergency preparedness kit you hope never to use may seem like a waste of time and money. But when disasters happen that are beyond your control, you can take charge of how you respond.
Items for an emergency preparedness kit
Store all items in an easy-to-carry bag or suitcase that’s readily accessible. Make sure everyone in the family knows where it is and what it contains. If you need to evacuate your home quickly, here are the essentials you’ll need for a basic “grab and go” kit:
- Water: One gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation; double if you live in a very hot climate, have young kids, or are nursing. Bottled water is best, but you can also store tap water in food-grade containers or two-liter soda bottles that have been sanitized. Factor in your pet’s water needs, too.
- Food: At least a three-day supply of non-perishables and a can opener. Pack protein, fruit, and vegetables, but make sure they’re in a form you actually like—it’s bad enough not to have access to fresh food without also having to subsist on nothing but canned tuna. Include treats like cereal bars, trail mix, and candy bars. Store food in pest-proof plastic or metal tubs and keep it in a cool, dry place.
- Flashlights and extra batteries: Candles are not recommended because there are many house fires caused by candles left unattended.
- First-aid supplies: Two pairs of sterile gloves, adhesive bandages and sterile dressings, soap or other cleanser, antibiotic towelettes and ointment, burn ointment, eye wash, thermometer, scissors, tweezers, petroleum jelly, aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, and stomach analgesics such as Tums or Pepto-Bismol, and a laxative.
- Sanitation and hygiene supplies: Moist towelettes in sealed packets, paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, and plastic ties. You might also want travel-size shampoo, toothpaste/toothbrush, and deodorant.
- Radio or TV: Keep a portable, battery- or crank-operated radio or television and extra batteries to remain connected in case the power goes out, as well as an extra cell phone charger. You can buy an emergency radio online from the Red Cross.
- Helpful extras: Duct tape, dust masks, a signal whistle, toys for kids.
- Cash: Have at least $100 in your kit.
Tailor a emergency preparedness kit to your needs
Along with the basics like food and water, it’s important to have what you need for your particular situation. You may not need extra blankets in southern California, but you do need escape ladders in case of wildfire. And you’ll want extra blankets to survive a winter power outage in Maine.
Update your emergency preparedness kit regularly
Replace all food and water approaching its expiration date. Replace batteries. You might pick a specific time each year to check, such as before hurricane season in the south or after Thanksgiving if you live in the north.
Buy a pre-made kit
As an alternative to making your own kit, you can buy a fully stocked kit from the American Red Cross. A kit with a three-day supply of essentials for one adult costs $50 to $70.