UPDATED: Oct 19, 2019
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Importance of an Emergency Kit
Accidents and disasters can happen at any time and anywhere. Since we cannot predict them, the only way we can protect ourselves and our family from them is by being prepared at all times.
Having an emergency kit in your home or car is definitely an easy way to prepare for the unexpected, especially if you live in a region that is prone to natural disasters like storms or earthquakes.
In this guide, we will discuss what things you will need in an emergency kit, whether it is better to build or buy your own, and how you can make your own specialized emergency kit at home.
Homemade vs Pre-made Kits
The main perk of buying emergency kits from the store is that you will not have to spend much time or money buying individual supplies for it. Ready-made kits are also usually put together with specific target markets and disaster in mind. For example, you can easily find emergency kits meant to last for a specific number of days and people in both online and physical stores. Some are even designed to be kept in the car in the case of weather-related disasters or accidents
However, if you or your family members have special needs, you may find that making your own emergency kit would benefit you more. In addition, buying your own supplies can save you some money by opting out of things you might not need. There is some great advice available if you need some ideas. Check out the resources below to learn about what you should include in a personally created emergency kit.
- American Red Cross: 72-hour emergency kit
- Consumer Reports: Be prepared with a winter car emergency kit
- El Paso City-County Office of Emergency Management: DIY emergency kit
Building an Emergency Kit for Your Car
Here are some essential items you should have in your car’s emergency kit. Note that you can leave out some items you may not need considering the weather in your region, while there are some items that you may want to double up on.
- A first aid kit
- A small fire extinguisher
- Road flares
- Some jumper cables (and learn how to use them)
- A rain poncho
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- A multipurpose tool
- Some rags
- Drinking water
- Some non-perishable food
Optional items to include depending on where you live:
- Blankets and warm clothing
- Cat litter (to be used for slick roads)
- An ice scraper
- A small fan (battery-powered)
It is recommended that you pack all your supplies in a sizeable plastic container with a secure lid. To monitor your supplies, you can also tape a list of your inventory on the container, so you can replenish anything that gets used up or expires. The best place to store your emergency kit is in your trunk.
- Jackson County Emergency Management: Emergency kit
- Sacramento Ready: Emergency kit
- National Safety Council: What should you keep in the car?
Building an Emergency Kit for Your Home
To help out in case of winter storms, hurricanes, power outages, and other emergencies, here are some of the essential items you should consider including in your home’s emergency kit.
Lots of drinking water: Experts recommend allotting a gallon per person per day.
Non-perishable food: While canned food is not really the healthiest, cans are your best bet as they usually have a long shelf life and are also relatively easy to prepare. Make sure to not keep anything beyond the expiration date. Make a habit of consuming any items that may expire and then buying some more to keep your stocks replenished.
A well-stocked first aid kit: Getting one from your local Red Cross is a great idea as they also include instructions on how to use the supplies that come with the kit.
A multipurpose tool: Swiss army knives and other pocket knives are usually enough. You will want to keep one permanently with your emergency kit as they can be lifesavers in times of emergencies and disasters.
Some cash: ATMs might not work during disaster aftermaths. It is a good idea to have enough cash in your kit to get you through an emergency.
Clothes: This includes some outerwear and other protective wear that can be worn during all kinds of weather.
Your important legal documents: Keep them in a secure and waterproof bag so they will not be damaged by floods. You can also make soft copies of them in case of fires.
- Yamhill County Community Emergency Response Team: Assembling a cost-friendly emergency supply kit
- Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation: My 3-day family emergency kit in 6 minutes
- Massachusetts 211: Build an emergency kit during emergency preparedness month
Items Depending on Special Circumstances
Different situations require different ways of preparation. If you have pets, kids, or other special health conditions, you may need items not commonly found in store-bought emergency kits.
For pet owners
Prepare at least three days’ worth of food and drinking water as well as the following:
- Two weeks’ worth of medicine if your pet has a prescription
- Garbage bags for cleanups
- A separate portable cage
- A few photos of them (in case they get lost)
- A leash (for dogs)
- Extra litter (for cats)
For parents with kids:
- A diaper bag
- A baby carrier
- Necessary medicine and vitamins
- A few toys (some favorite stuffed animals or toys)
- A few changes of clothes
- Take Winter by Storm: Emergency checklist
- Get Ready for Flu: Preparedness tips: Emergency supplies for your pets
- Southern Medical Association: Emergency kit checklist for kids
Additional Tips on Being Prepared for an Emergency
We can never be too prepared for unexpected situations and emergencies. If you want to know more about emergency and disaster preparedness, check out the informative links below. You will find plenty more tips on how to prepare yourself and your family in addition to having an emergency kit.
- Ready San Diego: 30 tips for emergency preparedness
- New Jersey 211: FEMA emergency preparedness tips
- Seattle Gov: Emergency management