Emergency Preparedness: The Emergency Kit

This post for Emergency Preparedness Month is about Emergency Kits.  Imagine that you’ve become aware of an impending emergency. Maybe you have a day or two to plan, or maybe an hour, or maybe just a few minutes.  I promise one thing:  You won’t have the luxury of stress-free brainstorming on what you think you may need, and the ability to gather it all, when you’re staring an emergency or a disaster in the face.  The point of an emergency kit is to set aside supplies you’ll need on a moment’s notice, whether in your home or evacuating, so that your time can be best spent when you need to focus on executing a plan. Being prepared takes careful thought, organization skills, and some resources.


I’m sharing our kit and the thought that went into it with you today. Hopefully, it inspires you to think about your own emergency supplies, and build or enhance the kit you already have.  Keep in mind:  We are two adults, no children, no pets.  If we had children or pets or were caring for people who could not care for themselves independently, we’d be adding other items to this list, for sure.  Keep your own situation in mind as you read through my list.


Our supply stash has three levels of supplies built into it. We can use it as a “shopping” place so that we can increase or diminish the supplies we might need on a moment’s notice, depending on the situation we anticipate facing:


  1. Shelter-in-place (“S-I-P”) at home.  This assumes that we’ll need some supplies to help us at home through a 3-day power outage, potentially fresh-water outage, but we can stay in our home.   Assumes we’ll have access to food, clothes and first aid supplies in our home.

  2. Short Term Evacuate/ “Go Bag”, assuming we can get to a hotel or other shelter, and will be away for about 3 days.

  3. Long Term Evacuate /”Go Bag”, assumes no obvious shelter, and we will be away for longer… maybe even indefinitely.


Let’s start with the things to have on hand for sheltering in place:


Non-perishable foods (tuna, canned chicken, peanut butter, crackers, energy/meal bars, camp food/dehydrated meals that can be reconstituted with water, etc.) Review semi-annually for expiration. Plan for 3 days worth, minimally. Bags for storing opened/unfinished food. Don’t forget a can opener (a manual one, and know how to use it)!
Large bottles of water, small bottles of water.  FEMA recommends one gallon per person, per day. Plan for 3 days worth, minimally. Don’t rely on your own water supply.
Cell phones, back up phone batteries (charged), car charger. Battery, solar or hand-crank operated radio, with weather channels.
Flashlights, extra batteries.  Propane lantern. Glowsticks. Solar-charging lights can help, too. Candles, as long as we are able to keep them in an area that is safe.
Assuming we are home and can use our whole wardrobe to layer, we still will include a blanket in our kit. Chemical hand warmer/foot warmer packages. Battery-operated fan in case this is a warmer-weather event.
A basic first aid kit that can address injuries and illness (bandages, gauze, tape, antibiotic cream, tweezers, ibuprofen, anti-bacterial gel, hydrocortisone cream, arnica gel, cauterization stick, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide.)  Latex gloves, dust masks, and wipes.
Have prescription medication? Plan ahead. Grab a supply that can last longer than you think you’ll be gone. Keep a list of your prescriptions with you. Small cooler with freezer packs for any refrigerated medication.
Wrench, pliers or screwdriver to turn off any utilities and (even more importantly!) know where our shut-offs are in our house for electricity, gas, water, just in case (and know the process for turning things back on when you return… gas will require a professional). Distress whistle and dust masks, too.
Small scissors, duct tape, swiss army knife/ leatherman/ multi-tool, weatherproof matches, garbage bags, mylar sheets for warmth. Basic clothing for 3 days (see list at bottom of the post). Pen, pencil, permanent marker. Poncho and Towel. Toilet paper.
Cash on hand (Assume if you have to leave your house to purchase something, or need to pay others for help cash registers won’t work, ATM’s won’t work, credit card swipes at the gas station won’t work.  You will likely have to work in pure cash in a short term emergency. Plan on having at least $100 (best kept in small bills), a bit more if you can manage it, on hand, that you DON’T TOUCH during times of non-emergency. 
Extra gasoline on hand to fill up the car on short notice (fill up the car as SOON as we learn that evacuation may be possible).  Don’t travel with a can of gasoline in your car… that’s as much a safety hazard as the disaster you’re fleeing.
Build a great check list that I can go over before having to leave.  Don’t rely on my own clear thinking in the moment!  Also, activities to occupy our time and divert our attention: Books. Games. Cards. Use your imagination.


Think it will be more than 3 days? Or maybe gone for a long, undetermined amount of time? Bring everything from above, but now we need another level of supplies, and can’t rely on our own pantry, closet and medicine chest at home.    This is how we start adding to it:


Add more non-perishable, ready-to-eat foods: dried fruit, beef jerky, other healthy sources of protein. Canned foods (pasta, fruit, vegetables, etc.) Coffee, shelf-stable drinks like milk (in packs or powdered). Add a basic “mess” kit – camping kit and stove, plates, napkins, cups, utensils.  Extra fuel for the camping stove.
More of it, same per person guidelines as above. While a water purification system would be more ideal, we can make do with a few home-made options. FEMA recommends a solution that includes a small amount of bleach diluted — research this as an option and get comfortable with it.
A list of key phone numbers and e-mail addresses to stay in contact, and a plan on “if you only get one person to contact in the outside world, who will it be?”. Charger for phone, both wall charger and car charger.
More of what is listed above.
Assume shelter is possible, but plan for a worse situation. Small tent, sleeping bags and mylar space blankets.
Eyeglasses and set of contact lenses and saline, tampons/pads, my husband’s inhaler, over-the-counter medication (colds/cough, pain, allergy, stomach issues), any prescription medication (including birth control), soap/shampoo, toothbrush/paste, deodorant, sunscreen. First aid manual. Moist towelettes. Something that can work as a tourniquet.
Local maps (on paper… internet may not be there to help). Bright-colored clothing/top. Compass, whistle, mirror.
Passport/ID and any original documentation at home (birth certificate, car title, etc.). If you can’t get the originals on short notice (in a safe deposit box?), keep a set of copies. Copy of home insurance policy/information. All in a waterproof bag. Extra digital copies of important items on a flash drive, ready to go.
Longer term checklist to review before leaving. Take pictures of inside of home before leaving and bring camera with you (helpful in case insurance comes into play). 
Changes of clothing – light weight, layers, easy to pack, carry, and wash/dry if necessary. More clothing, and items for special weather: wool socks, sturdy sneakers, or hiking boots. Hat and gloves if it is colder weather. 
More Cash (Some people will advise other currency, maybe gold, silver, or traveler’s checks, too.) Credit cards (may or may not work).  
Tools: Compact, hand-held tools such as an axe or hatchet, mallet and shovel.  Tarp. 
We may never return home again, or home may be destroyed.  Any portable valuables (Jewelry, heirlooms, photos, etc.). We can’t pack them all in advance, but we can make a list of what the items would be, and can leave that list in our go bag.


We keep all of our items together, in accessible clear bins on a particular set of shelves in our basement. (The risk of course is that, if the power goes out, or a flood is imminent, we have to grab those in a risky situation).  We don’t keep everything there; items that are cloth (sleeping bags, clothing) we keep in a closet, protecting from potential moisture or musty smell from the basement.


Building our kit took time, and I revisit it every year to make sure that expired items are replaced, and identify any gaps we need to fill or upgrades to make. Most of our supplies either come from our own camping supplies and gear, like our stove, tent, sleeping bags or lantern. A few (like extra stove fuel, waterproof matches, or Lifestraw  water purifiers) I have bought at outdoor stores or Amazon.  Almost every item for our first aid kit, medicine  kit or hygiene kit all come from the Dollar Stores, so it is very inexpensive to stay on top of most of these items.  I label them with their expiration date in larger print than is printed on the box, and include dosage amounts.  Also, we check our batteries to see if they’re still good.  Check out this cool tip to help with that.


I group things together and, wherever possible, use clear, durable, waterproof boxes. I also repurpose those clear plastic bags that linens and sheets come in; they’re not entirely waterproof, but I can keep things that stand up to water well in them, and still have items grouped together and easily identifiable. We can ” go shopping” in the bins and narrow down what we don’t need if we’re planning on a 3-day evacuation, rather than a longer term one. But if it’s a longer term evacuation, the bins go as-is into the car.  We keep Thule cargo bags with waterproof bases  right there in our supply area, as well as backpacks, so that we can grab supplies and go.


I also keep a list of “Don’t Forget” items that we would keep around the house or in other places, so I don’t have to think about it (listed under “Sanity”, above). These are items that don’t make sense to keep stored away in our basement supplies permanently:

  • Documents: ID, insurance policy, list of medications, etc. in a waterproof bag

  • Clothing: Extra jeans, socks, underwear, sweatshirt, t-shirts, jacket and shoes. We keep items aside when we go through our regular clothes and pull out items for donation, and keep some aside for this.  (If you have kids, make sure clothing is current sizes.)

  • Sleeping bags (kept in separate area)

  • Cash

  • Phones

  • Keys (house, car, safe,  safety deposit box, any other special keys you have)

  • Jewelry

  • Flash Drives

  • Our Computer and Charger

  • Tools (hand tools, or possibly even something more powerful, like a chainsaw)

  • Extra Gasoline Tank (in case you need to fill the car before leaving… and keep the empty tank in the car with you for the future)

  • Personal items like eyeglasses, sunglasses, wallet, etc.


Here are a few shots of our supplies.


Shelving with supplies, and the main bin:

Shelving and Bin

First Aid:


Bandages, Alcohol, Hydrogen Peroxide, Wipes, Tape, Antibiotic Cream, First Aid and CPR pamphlets, etc.

Bandages, Alcohol, Hydrogen Peroxide, Wipes, Tape, Antibiotic Cream, First Aid and CPR pamphlets, etc.  Bandages are in their own separate box, organized, of course.






Cold/Cough, Allergy Medicine, Immodium, Petroleum Jelly, Lozenges, Saline spray, Thermometer, Latex Gloves, Dust Masks, Inhaler, etc.

Cold/Cough, Allergy Medicine, Immodium, Petroleum Jelly, Lozenges, Saline spray, Thermometer, Latex Gloves, Dust Masks, Inhaler, etc. You can see the labels of expiration and dosage on the medicine packets.


Hygiene (most are for evacuation of more than 3 days, except for toothbrush, toothpaste, antibacterial gel and contact lens supplies)


Toothbrush/paste, Contact Lens Case and Solution, Deodorant, Soap, Shampoo, Compact Towels, Antibacterial Gel, Wipes, Tissues, Sunscreen, Hairbrush, etc.

Toothbrush/paste, Contact Lens Case and Solution, Deodorant, Soap, Shampoo, Compact Towels, Antibacterial Gel, Wipes, Tissues, Tweezers, Nail Clippers, Floss, Sunscreen, Hairbrush, etc.

Cooking and Food (for evacuation of more than 3 days, or if we don’t have shelter):


Camp Stove and Fuel, Can Opener, Cutting Surface, Cup/Bowl, Utensils,  Peanut Butter, Tuna, Rehydratable Meals.

Camp Stove and Fuel, Can Opener, Cup/Bowl, Dish Soap, Utensils,  Peanut Butter, Tuna, Rehydratable Meals.


Supplies (most are for evacuation of more than 3 days, or if we don’t have shelter):


Rope, Bungees, Mylar Blankets, Ponchos, Lifestraws, Batteries, Candles, Duct and Electrical Tape, Waterproof Matches, Small Tools/Multitools, Compass, Whistle, Mirror, iPhone Charger, Handcrank Radio/USB Charger,

Rope, Bungees, Mylar Blankets, Ponchos, Lifestraws, Batteries, Candles, Duct and Electrical Tape, Waterproof Matches, Small Tools/Multitools, Compass, Whistle, Mirror, Phone Charger, Handcrank Radio/USB Charger.

Other items we keep in this area:

  • Tent

  • Lantern

  • Water

  • Tools

  • Glowlights and Flashlights (I buy them after Halloween when they’re super cheap)

Glowsticks and Flashlights (yes, Halloween supplies!)

Glowsticks and Flashlights (yes, Halloween supplies, super cheap in November!)



Finally, a word about another safety issue:  Weapons.  You will read that many people have a weapon, specifically, a gun, as part of their kits. We do not, but you need to consider your own situation, risks and comfort level and plan accordingly.


Next post coming up?  *Having a Plan.* Kits are great, but a plan is essential.



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