Be prepared for the worst and keep your family safe with these essential items.

By Jennifer Aldrich
Updated May 11, 2021
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In some scenarios, you have days to get ready for a natural disaster. Other times, you could have hours or even no time at all to prepare for an unforeseen catastrophe. The key to being prepared for the worst (while expecting the best) is having everything you could need on hand in advance. When there's an emergency, you're going to be stressed and will need to think quickly. By taking care of a few things beforehand and having certain supplies on hand, you can make a very tense time go a little smoother. Plus, preparedness is imperative to ensuring you and your family make it through the dangerous situation safely. Here's what you need to include in an emergency kit for your home.

emergency kit items with yellow backpack on blue backgrouond
Credit: Getty Images

Survival Food and Water

Clean, drinkable water is a must in any emergency preparedness kit. Stock up on bottled water and store them in a cold, dark place in your home. Keep in mind you'll need at least one gallon of water per person per day for three days. Survival food is another thing to always have on hand. Get non-perishable foods that are well-packaged to prevent insects, animals, or water from contaminating them. It's important to think through foods that will cover many nutritional needs: protein, carbs, sodium, and sugar. The Department of Homeland Security recommends at least three days' worth of food for each member of the household, including pets. You should also take note of any dietary restrictions.

Keep the following items in your emergency food supplies:

  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, and a can opener
  • 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

How to Stay Connected

Communication is key, especially in the frantic events of a disaster. In your disaster kit, always include a battery-powered or crank radio and an NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, like the NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio ($30, Amazon). If the power is out and your cell phone is dead, you still have a way to know what is going on in your area. Make sure to throw in extra batteries for both.

It's a good idea to throw an extra phone charger into your emergency supplies. If you still have cell service during a disaster, cell phones can be the best way to get in touch with friends and family in the area. In case there is a loss of power, choose a portable charger ($24, Amazon) (at full charge) or a charging phone case ($36, Amazon) to be sure you have a way to recharge. A dead cell phone doesn't do you any good.

When all else fails and you are in need of assistance, include a whistle ($3, Walmart) in your emergency kit. Neighbors or rescuers will have an easier time finding you if you are trapped or cannot move if you have a whistle to signal for help.

Emergency First Aid Kits

First aid kits, such as the Johnson & Johnson All-Purpose First Aid Kit ($12, Walmart), are easy to buy in stores or are easy to assemble yourself. Bandages, antibacterial ointment, an ice pack, and a thermometer are always good to have on hand in case of illness or injury. Gauze and tape are good for larger injuries. For sanitary reasons, also include hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes, a CPR barrier, gloves, and a mouth-covering mask. Scissors and tweezers are also a good addition to a first aid kit. An emergency blanket is also advised.

Your personal medical needs may vary, and you need to make sure each family member has everything they need. Make an emergency contact list for each person in the house that they can put in their pocket or wallet during an emergency. Include prescription drugs, syringes, hearing aids, and contacts as needed. A seven-day supply of medications and medical items is recommended. Also, don't forget hygiene products like toothbrushes, soap, and feminine products.

Survival Tools for Emergencies

In case of power outages, add a flashlight to your home emergency kit list (with extra batteries). Candles and matches can also help provide light but won't last in high winds or wet weather. Duct tape and plastic sheeting can help to temporarily repair leaks or cracks. Towels can help to soak up small amounts of flooding. A pair of work gloves will prevent cuts and splinters if you need to move fallen trees or branches.

Clean and dry blankets, sleeping bags, and warm clothes are good to add to your home emergency kit checklist. Staying in wet clothes can lead to hypothermia. If you have a backup generator, keep extra fuel with your emergency kit. Also, put a map of the area into your emergency survival kit.

Personal Items to Include in an Emergency Kit

It's always smart to have copies of personal documents in a safe place in case of an emergency. Insurance cards, passports, birth certificates, and medical information should all be a part of the disaster kit. It's also a good idea to include an extra set of car and house keys if you need to evacuate quickly. Credit cards won't work in a widespread power outage, so include some cash, too.

Baby Clothes and Supplies

If you have an infant, also make sure to think through what they need, aside from clothes. Bottles are important for both water and formula. Throw in a few empty bottles and baby dishes. Most types of formula are non-perishable, making them a great addition to an emergency kit. Jarred baby food also has a long shelf life. Be sure to include diapers, wipes, and extra clothes as well.

Pet Emergency Kit

Pets are a part of the family and have specific needs in an emergency as well. Pack food and medications your pet may need. Also include a leash, harness, or kennel for each pet for easy transportation. As with your personal medical records, you should also include a copy of your pet's medical records. Every pet should have a tracking chip or a collar with your information, such as the GoTags Personalized ID Tag ($6, Chewy), so you can find them if you get separated.

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