9 must-haves for your emergency kit

by Kaiser Permanente |
Backpack and emergency kit supplies on a table

Have you ever wondered what you and your family would do in the case of an emergency? For example, what do you need to grab during an evacuation? How much water should you pack? No matter what time of year or where you live, there’s always a chance of natural disasters or general emergencies. That’s why it’s important to have a disaster plan — and a well-stocked emergency kit.

How do you make a disaster plan?

To plan for an emergency, start by learning what kind of disasters are likely or common near you. Are earthquakes a risk? Wildfires? Tornadoes? You can find disaster plan information for different kinds of emergencies on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.

Every 6 months or so, review your plan with everyone in your household. Decide who’s responsible for each task in case of an emergency, and practice if you can. Schools and offices do regular disaster drills for the same reason — it’s important to know your evacuation routes and be prepared.

What should you pack in an emergency kit?

The contents of your emergency kit depend on where you live and what your family needs. For example, if you’re at risk of being trapped, like by an earthquake, a whistle can help alert rescue teams of your location. Or if you have a baby or pet, you’ll need supplies for them. But every basic survival kit should have at least the following:

  • Food, water, and clothes — Pack a 2-to-3-day supply of clean clothes, water (about 1 gallon per person per day), and nonperishable food that’s easy to prepare. Don’t forget a can opener if your canned goods don’t have pull tabs.
  • Battery-powered flashlight and radio — Always include extra batteries, and consider a portable cell phone charger too.
  • First aid kit — You can buy a pre-made first aid kit or build your own. If necessary, add hygiene items like face masks, toilet paper, and pads or tampons.
  • Medications — Always fill prescriptions on time and keep extra on hand. Your survival kit should have a week’s supply of medication.
  • Personal documents — Make copies of any deeds, passports, birth certificates, or other legal documents. (Originals should stay somewhere more secure, like a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.) Include up-to-date emergency contacts and maps for your area.
  • Extra cash — ATMs and credit cards may not work during a disaster, so pack plenty of small bills in case you need to purchase more supplies.

For more emergency kit recommendations, check the American Red Cross or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Where should you keep an emergency kit?

An emergency kit should always be somewhere that’s quick and easy to find in your home. If you drive often, keep an extra kit in your car. Just be sure to check them every 6 months and restock as needed.

If you have your own desk or locker at work, it never hurts to keep one there, too. If not, ask your employer about their disaster plans and where to find emergency supplies.

Once your emergency kits are in place, hopefully you can get a better night’s sleep knowing you have one less thing to worry about.