An emergency supplies kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.
Try to assemble your kit well in advance of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you. You will probably not have time to search for the supplies you need or shop for them.
You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days.
Additionally, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days or even a week, or longer. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages. Click here for a supplies checklist.
Keep items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as an unused trashcan, camping backpack or duffel bag.
Prepare Multiple Kits
Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.
- Your home supplies kit should contain essential food, water and supplies for at least three days.
- Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
- Additionally, you may want to consider having supplies for sheltering for up to two weeks.
- Get more information on building a disaster supplies kit.
- You need to be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Make sure you have food and water and other necessities like medicines in your kit. Also, be sure to have comfortable walking shoes at your workplace in case an evacuation requires walking long distances.
- Your kit should also be in one container and ready to “grab and go” in case you are evacuated from your workplace.
- Get more information on building a workplace disaster supplies kit.
In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car. This kit should include:
- Jumper cables
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- First aid kit and necessary medications in case you are away from home for a prolonged time
- Food items containing protein such as nuts and energy bars; canned fruit and a portable can opener
- Water for each person and pet in your car
- AM/FM radio to listen to traffic reports and emergency messages
- Cat litter or sand for better tire traction
- Ice scraper
- Warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and an extra change of clothes
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- A fully-charged cell phone and phone charger
- Flares or reflective triangle
- Baby formula and diapers if you have a small child
Be prepared for an emergency by keeping your gas tank full and if you find yourself stranded, be safe and stay in your car, put on your flashers, call for help and wait until it arrives.
Maintain Your Kits
Just as important as putting your supplies together is maintaining them so they are safe to use when needed. Here are some tips to keep your supplies ready and in good condition:
- Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
- Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers to protect from pests and to extend its shelf life.
- Throw out any canned good that becomes swollen, dented or corroded.
- Use foods before they go bad and replace them with “fresh” supplies.
- Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in the front.
- Change stored food and water supplies every six months. Be sure to write the date you store it on all containers.
- Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.
Other suggested kit items include first aid supplies, a flashlight, a weather radio and batteries.
- Allow for 1 gallon of water, per person, per day for drinking and personal care. If you have pets, include their water needs in your estimates.
- Keep at least a 3-day supply of water per person.
- Children, nursing mothers, and sick individuals may need more water.
- People in warm weather areas need more water.
- Store water in clean plastic containers such as soft drink bottles.
- If you know an emergency situation is eminent and you have time, fill as many containers as you can with water, including bathtubs.
- As a last resort, the water contained in your water heater can be filtered through several layers of cotton (a tee-shirt will do the trick) and used.
- If water supplies run low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow.
- Store at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food.
- Choose foods that do not require refrigeration, preparation, and cook with little or no water.
- Pack a manual can opener and eating utensils, like forks, knives, and spoons.
- Choose foods your family will eat:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
- Protein or fruit bars
- Dry cereal or granola
- Peanut butter
- Dried fruit
- Canned juices
- Non-perishable pasteurized milk
- High-energy foods
- Food for infants
- Comfort/stress foods
- Try to avoid salty foods as this will increase your thirst.
- Take into consideration the needs of people with dietary restrictions and allergies, infants, toddlers and the elderly.
Power outages can occur at any time of the year and it may take from a few hours to several days for electricity to be restored to residential areas. Without electricity or a cold source, food stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, and if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick.
- Keep food in covered containers.
- Keep cooking and eating utensils clean.
- Keep garbage in closed containers and dispose outside, burying garbage if necessary.
- Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.
- Discard any food that has come into contact with contaminated floodwater.
- Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.
- Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
- Use ready-to-feed formula, if possible, for formula-fed infants. If using ready-to-feed formula is not possible, it is best to use bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula. If bottled water is not available, use boiled water. Use treated water to prepare formula only if you do not have bottled or boiled water. Breastfed infants should continue breastfeeding.
- Eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented or corroded, even though the product may look safe to eat.
- Eat any food that looks or smells abnormal, even if the can looks normal.
- Let garbage accumulate inside, both for fire and sanitation reasons.
Note: Thawed food usually can be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.” It can be re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember, “When in doubt, throw it out.” For more information about food safety during an emergency, visit FoodSafety.gov.
Alternative cooking sources in times of emergency including candle warmers, chafing dishes, fondue pots or a fireplace. Charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only. Commercially canned food may be eaten out of the can without warming.