You may need to survive on your own after a disaster. Households should be self-sufficient for at least three days (72 to 96 hours). This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last at least three days. The more severe the disaster, the longer you may be on your own. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for rescue workers to meet your family’s needs. That’s why it’s vital to have a supplies kit on hand to be able to sustain yourself until assistance is available. In addition, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days or even a week or longer.
Planning ahead will give you peace of mind. Put together a disaster supply kit with basics for you and others you care for if you need to evacuate your home or shelter in place.
The Basic Supply Kit
Remember that your family or caregiving situation may require something different or additional supplies. This list is a starting point. Every situation is unique. In some cases, you may need two sets of supplies. Keep the items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to-carry container.
When preparing for a possible emergency situation, think first about the basics of survival: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth.
According to Ready.gov, a basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following items:
- Prescription medications, hearing aid batteries and extra eye glasses. If you are responsible for providing care for someone who is disabled, review the medical supply checklist.
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler's checks and change
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
- Emergency reference material such as a first aid book
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
For more information, see Ready.gov, Be Red Cross Ready or the Extension Disaster Education Network Family Preparedness course.
In addition to a disaster supplies, write out a family disaster plan.
Photo by arvindgrover / CC BY