How to Create an Emergency Kit

Now that your emergency preparedness documents are in order, you need to create an emergency kit to ensure that you can survive a disaster for a few days. I first learned about these when my elementary school teacher sent us all home with gallon-size Ziploc bags and instructions to fill them with non-perishable foods, and then bring them back. Since then, I’ve made sure to keep a kit in my home. If you’re at risk for an earthquake, hurricane, flood, or tornado, you need to have one, too. Don’t waste money buying a kit for your home. You can make one yourself for much less.

Emergency Kit Contents
Your emergency kit should contain enough supplies to last three days. You may not have power or fresh water, prepare for that possibility, too. Your kit should contain a minimum of the following:

  • Enough food for each person or pet for three days
  • 1 gallon of water per person or pet per day
  • Toilet paper
  • Matches
  • Candles
  • Plastic plates, cups, utensils
  • Hand-crank or battery-powered radio
  • Hand-crank or battery-powered flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Small first aid kit
  • Necessary medications for three days (like insulin or heart medication)
  • Wrench or pliers
  • Can opener
  • $100+ in cash ($20s or smaller)
  • Bleach
  • Moist towelettes
  • Red file

Depending on your family circumstances, you may need additional items like eyeglasses or diapers. You could keep shoes, socks, and warm clothes for everyone in the kit. We keep our shoes and a pair of socks under the bed so we can put them on if the earthquake strikes while we’re in bed.

Storing the Kit
Keep your kit somewhere easy to access during an emergency. It shouldn’t be inside a cabinet with a door that can jam. If you have a tornado or hurricane shelter, keep it in there. If you live in earthquake country, keep it in a backpack or duffle bag so you can grab it and go. Our food and other supplies are in a low cabinet with a swing door. We also have a camp stove and propane in the apartment in case we can stay there until the power returns. Our pet carriers are on top of the kit so we can attempt to stuff our cats into them.

Tape a list of other things to grab and the person assigned to gather them to the top of the bag, even if they seem obvious. That includes:

  • Pets (list them all)
  • Children
  • Emergency box (if you may not be able to return to your home)
  • Wallet and keys
  • Eyeglasses

Replenishing the Kit
If you keep medications in the emergency kit, replace them with a fresh set each time you get a refill. The food and water should be replaced at least every year. I keep powdered soups, chili, peanut butter, protein drinks, canned cold food, and protein bars in ours. When choosing food, look for options that are high in protein, but that shouldn’t be your only criteria. If you wouldn’t eat it under normal circumstances, you won’t want to eat it during a disaster. If you have the ability to heat water and a small pan, then chili and stews are a great choice. Pack a small bottle of dish soap, a sponge, and a towel for quick washes.

Although it might seem silly to do all of this in case of a “what if,” all you have to do is turn on the news to see the value. If you live in a disaster zone, it’s not an if, it’s a when. Be prepared now for that eventuality.

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