Once you have created your own emergency plan, you should prepare an EMERGENCY KIT. A disaster supply kit should include a collection of basic items that you and your family may need in the event of an emergency. There are two emergency kits that you should have, one to keep at home when you are advised to shelter in place, and one that you can quickly grab and take with you should you be evacuated. Be sure to build them well in advance. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice, in which case you will probably not have time to search for the supplies you need or shop for them. And remember, disaster supply kits do not have to be costly! See FEMA’s cost-friendly supply kit tips!
On this page, you’ll learn about:
- Building a Home Disaster Kit
- Building a Portable Disaster Kit
- A Disaster Kit Checklist
- Considerations for Unique Needs
- Preparing your Pets
- Maintaining your Kit
Build Your Home Kit
You may need to survive on your own for some time after an emergency. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantities to last at least 72 hours (3 days). 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. You may even want to consider having supplies for sheltering for up to two weeks.
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 long periods.
Keep this kit in a designated place that is quickly and easily accessible. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
Consider the following things when putting together your emergency food supplies:
- Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
- Choose foods your family will eat.
- Remember any special dietary needs.
- Avoid foods that will make you thirsty.
- Choose salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.
Because power outages could last for several days following a disaster event, stock canned foods, dry mixes and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water or special preparation. Be sure to include a manual can opener and eating utensils. And don’t forget to periodically go through your kit to maintain your supplies. See below tips for maintaining your disaster kits.
Water is an essential element to survival and a necessary item in an emergency supplies kit. Following a disaster, clean drinking water may not be available. Your regular water source could be cut-off or compromised through contamination. Prepare yourself by building a supply of water that will meet your family’s needs during an emergency.
How Much Water Do I Need?
You should store at least one gallon of water per person per day. A normally active person needs at least one gallon of water daily just for drinking however individual needs vary, depending on age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate.
To determine your water needs, take the following into account:
- One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation.
- Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more water.
- A medical emergency might require additional water.
- If you live in a warm weather climate more water may be necessary. In very hot temperatures, water needs can double.
- Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person.
How Should I Store Water?
It is recommended you purchase commercially bottled water, in order to prepare the safest and most reliable emergency water supply. Keep bottled water in its original container and do not open until you need to use it. Observe the expiration or “use by” date. Store in cool, dark place.
Preparing Your Own Containers of Water
It is recommended you purchase food grade water storage containers from surplus or camping supplies stores to use for water storage.
- Before filling with water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely so there is no residual soap.
- Sanitize the bottles by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Mix the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.
- Fill the bottle to the top with regular tap water. If the tap water has been commercially treated from a water utility with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using.
A slight chlorine odor should be noticeable in the water, if not, add another dose of bleach and allow the water to stand another 15 minutes.
- Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger. Place a date on the outside of the container so you can know when you filled it. Water that has not been commercially bottled should be replaced every six months. Store in cool, dark place.
Water can also be treated with water purification tablets that can be purchased at most sporting goods stores.
If you chose to use your own storage containers, choose two-liter plastic soft drink bottles – not plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have had milk or fruit juice in them. Milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth when water is stored in them. Cardboard containers also leak easily and are not designed for long-term storage of liquids. Also, do not use glass containers, because they can break and are heavy.
More information on water treatment is available at RedCross.org.
Build Your Portable Kit
In addition to a kit for your home, you should have a smaller kit ready to take with you should you be evacuated. As with the home disaster kit, portable disaster kits need to be customized to fit you and your family, adding items such as medications and infant formula.
Be sure that your portable kit can be easily carried and has your basic need items. Portable kits should also include items that will help you get around (e.g. maps), keep you in contact (e.g. battery-powered radios), help you stay comfortable (sleeping bags and hygiene items), and should include copies of important documents in addition to some cash.
Your Kit Checklist
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
- Manual can opener for food
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit (see below)
- 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
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
FIRST AID KIT
In any emergency, you or a loved one may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies you will be better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt.
Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. You may consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection and assist in decontamination.
- Two pairs of Latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to Latex
- Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
- Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes
- Antibiotic ointment
- Burn ointment
- Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
- Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
- Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. You should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates.
- Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies
- Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
- Anti-diarrhea medication
Other first aid supplies:
- Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
ADDITIONAL KIT SUPPLIES
Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following items:
- Prescription medications and glasses
- 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 – EFFAK (PDF – 977Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
- Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or free information from this web site. (See Publications)
- 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
Remember the unique needs of your family members, including growing children, when making your emergency supply kit and family emergency plan.
For Individuals with Unique Needs:
For individuals with disabilities, or access and/or functional needs, the City of Baltimore recommends that you take extra steps when preparing for the unexpected. Here are three tips provided by Ready.gov:
- Stock a basic disaster supply kit.
- Inventory what you use every day to live independently. Identify the essential things that you will need to be able to survive for 3 to 5 days or longer, if people cannot get to you.
- Stock these custom essentials in your kit. For example, your kit may contain items such as durable medical equipment, assistive technology, food for special diets, prescription medicines, diabetic supplies, hearing aids and batteries, a TTY, manual wheelchair, and supplies for a service animal.
One of the biggest challenges to your safety and access to information is loss of electrical power. You should plan alternate ways to charge your communication and assistive technology devices before disaster strikes.
The City of Baltimore is taking precautions to better understand how the City is accommodating individuals with access and medical needs, but recognizes that not every situation is currently ideal. Please take a moment to determine which shelters will be accessible and can provide individual assistance to citizens with unique needs.
- For more information, see Ready.gov’s suggestions for individuals with disabilities or access and functional needs.
- A supply kit fact sheet for individuals with disabilities [PDF].
- FEMA’s informational brochure for people with disabilities [PDF].
- Powdered milk
- Moist towelettes
- Diaper rash ointment
For more information about the care and feeding of infants and young children during an emergency, visit the California Dept. of Public Health website.
- Denture needs
- Contact lenses and supplies
- Extra eye glasses
Ask your doctor about storing prescription medications such as heart and high blood pressure medication, insulin and other prescription drugs.
Do not forget to consider changing seasons; you must think about warmth. It is possible that you will not have heat. Think about your clothing and bedding supplies. Be sure to include one complete change of clothing and shoes per person, including:
- Jacket or coat
- Long pants
- Long sleeve shirt
For more information, see also Ready.gov’s Recommended Supplies Lists:
Don’t Forget Your Pets
The American Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends the following supplies for a pet care kit:
- Medications, leashes or harnesses and carriers to transport, current photos in case the pets get lost, food, water, bowls, kitty litter/pan, hand-operated can opener, bed and toys if easy to carry, newspapers, paper towels, trash bags, household bleach.
- A written list of medications, behavioral issues, feeding schedule, contact information for veterinarian – in case of boarding needs.
- Birds: Move in a secure travel cage and wrap in a blanket if the weather is cold. Provide sliced fresh fruit or vegetables high in water; have a photo; keep carrier in quiet area, if possible.
- Reptiles: Transport snakes in a pillowcase, include large water bowl for soaking and carry food.
- Pocket Pets: Take in secure carriers, along with food bowls, bedding and water bottles.
Pets and their supplies should be evacuated with you. If your pets cannot stay with you, plan ahead for sheltering at a safe, prearranged location. (Pets are not allowed at Red Cross shelters.) Take extra care to keep your pets safe. Remember animals react differently under stress than they would normally behave. They may panic and hide, run away, bite or scratch. In emergency situations, dogs should be kept on leashes and cats should be kept in carriers.
Maintaining Your Kit
- 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.
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.