Disasters can strike at any time without warning. Having emergency supplies packed and ready to go in a bug out bag means you won’t have to waste precious time gathering gear when you have to evacuate or shelter in place during a crisis.
A well-stocked emergency kit provides security in knowing you have the essential gear on hand to face many emergency situations. Building your kit and learning key skills will give you independence and flexibility during a disaster—and could save your life. Start preparing now by gathering supplies for any emergency scenario.
The key is building a kit that fits your specific needs. Think about possible disasters in your area, how many people you need to provide for, tools, and gear you have experience using. Then pack versatile, high-quality gear that will stand up to hard use.
A comprehensive emergency kit provides:
- Peace of mind: Knowing you can handle challenging circumstances with resources ready for immediate use.
- Self-reliance: With the right emergency gear and skills, you don’t have to depend entirely on emergency responders or government assistance. You can handle yourself.
- Adaptability: A well-equipped kit gives you options in any crisis. You’ll have the supplies and tools to respond effectively to a range of scenarios.
What to Include in Your Emergency Kit
The contents of your kit will depend on your needs, location, and the emergencies you want to prepare for. But in general, you should make sure to include:
Food and water: Pack at least a week’s worth of food per person that’s ready-to-eat and non-perishable.. Include a portable water filter, water purification tablets, and 1 gallon of potable water per person per day.
Shelter and warmth: Pack clothing for all weather conditions, including thermal layers, jackets, hats, insulated gloves, and waterproof boots. Include supplies to protect yourself from the elements like a tent, sleeping bags, tarps, blankets, ponchos, and cordage.
First aid: Pack a well-stocked medical kit including any important over-the-counter or prescription medicines, bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, trauma scissors, and other essential first aid gear.
Tools: Pack a knife, multi-tool, emergency radio, batteries, flashlights, fire starters, navigation aids, tools for hygiene and sanitation and other essential tools.
Cooking: Pack a portable camp stove, metal pot, utensils, and storm-proof matches/lighter to boil water and cook meals.
Important documents: Have copies of personal documents like IDs, bank statements, maps, and contact lists sealed in a waterproof container.
Other supplies: Pack toiletries, hand warmers, tape, straps, battery packs, chargers, stationery, sanitation and hygiene products, emergency blankets, protective masks, whistle, tools, backpack, and other essentials based on your needs.
Optional gear: Portable power banks, binoculars, folding furniture, additional clothing, respirators, entertainment, pet items, and gear for children.[visual: Photograph of open backpack on table filled with essential emergency kit items like food, water, tools, first aid kit, clothing, blankets, etc.]
How to Build Your Emergency Survival Kit
1. Determine scenarios to prepare for.
Consider disasters likely to impact your region. Do you need a kit to evacuate or shelter in place? How long do you need to survive on your own: 3 days? 2 weeks? Longer?
2. Develop a plan.
Outline how you will respond to emergency events and where you will go in an evacuation. Meet with your household/family and establish how you will reconnect if separated. Practice and drill your plan.
3. Focus on fundamentals.
Start with the essentials: food, water, shelter, first aid, tools, and sanitation. Don’t worry about fancy gadgets until you have the critical basics covered.
4. Choose high-quality gear.
Get the most durable and dependable options suitable for emergencies. Look for lightweight, packable, and multi-purpose gear.
5. Consider your location and needs.
Pack for your climate and the number of people in your household. Factor in any medical needs or conditions, if you have children or pets, and your available resources. Your kit contents will depend on the specific types of disasters you want to prepare for.
6. Use storage bags.
Pack individual items in waterproof bags, pouches and containers to keep organized. Label each container so you can quickly find what you need.
7. Include entertainment and comfort items.
Add books, games, toys for children and anything else to combat boredom and boost morale.
8. Practice and evaluate.
Take your kit camping to gain experience using the gear. See what works, doesn’t work or needs improvement. Make adjustments based on your observations.
9. Review and rotate.
Go through your supplies at least once every 6-12 months. Check expiration dates and replace as needed. Reorganize gear if anything no longer meets your needs.
10. Gain knowledge and skills.
Take courses on emergency preparedness, survival skills, and first aid. Stay up to date with trusted resources. The more you know, the less gear you’ll need and the more confident you’ll feel facing challenging circumstances.
An emergency kit is not a one-time purchase. It requires ongoing maintenance to be ready for disasters and challenging events. Start preparing now by gathering supplies for your emergency kit, establish a disaster plan for different scenarios in your area, and practice survival skills to provide for yourself and household when help may be delayed. Your efforts today could help you adapt and overcome difficult times ahead.
Additional Tips for Your Emergency Kit
Keep weight in mind.
Aim for under 45 pounds for a kit you may need to carry on foot. Any heavier risks injury, difficulty transporting, or having to leave supplies behind.
Have emergency cash in small bills.
In a disaster, power and internet may be disrupted making electronic payments unavailable. Have enough cash for transportation, shelter or to purchase any needed supplies.
Pack for regional conditions.
If you live in an area prone to extreme weather, pack accordingly. Cold regions need insulated boots, thermal layers, sleeping bags, hand warmers, etc. Hot areas require breathable clothing, ample water, sun protection and cooling items.
Store clothing separately.
Have a dedicated clothing bag with essentials for your household. Store with your kit so you can grab it quickly when evacuating without determining what clothing items to pack.
Include hygiene and sanitation products.
Pack toilet paper, wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer, towels, trash bags, and feminine hygiene products. Good hygiene prevents disease and provides normalcy when other resources are disrupted.
Have tools, protective equipment and life-saving gear.
Pack emergency blankets, masks, basic tools, a knife, waterproof matches/lighter, first aid kit, map of your area, glow sticks, a whistle, water, and food for at least 72 hours.
Store a get home bag in your vehicle.
In addition to your household kit, keep a separate get home bag in your vehicle containing food, water, cash, clothing, walking shoes, first aid, tools, maps and essentials to walk home if roads are inaccessible.
Keep important documents together.
Store copies of personal identification, insurance papers, bank statements, cash, and contact lists in a waterproof container. Place original documents in a home safe in case you cannot access your emergency kit.\[visual: Checklist of emergency supplies including food, water, cash, tools, first aid, hygiene, documents, clothes, electronics, blankets, entertainment\]
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between an emergency kit and a survival kit?
An emergency kit and survival kit share some similarities but also have distinct differences:
- Emergency kit: A portable kit containing essential gear to survive 72 hours to 2 weeks during disaster scenarios where you have to evacuate or shelter in place. The goal is temporary self-reliance until you can get more permanent resources and assistance. Generally lighter than a survival kit.
- Survival kit: A kit containing tools and gear for long-term self-sufficiency in adverse conditions. Usually more comprehensive since the goal is ongoing self-reliance. Tends to be larger and heavier than an emergency kit.
How much should a kit weigh?
Keep your kit as light as possible while still including necessary gear and supplies. A good rule of thumb is to stay under 20-45 pounds depending on your needs and if you may need to transport the kit on foot. Pack only what you can carry to avoid injury or leaving important gear behind.
What’s the difference between sheltering in place and evacuation?
Sheltering in place means staying safely indoors during an emergency. You need adequate food, water, and other supplies to survive at your current location. Evacuation refers to departing from unsafe locations to get to a safer place. You need a grab-and-go kit, transportation, a planned destination and route of travel.
Should I build my own emergency kit or buy a pre-made one?
You can purchase pre-made emergency kits but building your own custom kit is usually a better option. Pre-made kits often lack quality gear or necessary items based on your location and needs. Building your own allows you to choose equipment based on priorities and available resources.
Making your own does require research but results in a more comprehensive kit tailored to your circumstances. For the best approach, use pre-made kits as a starting point but customize contents based on your specific region, climate, and potential emergency scenarios. With time and experience, you’ll gain valuable knowledge about the gear and skills most useful to you in challenging events.[Visual: Infographic showing icons for a house and backpack. House represents sheltering in place, backpack represents evacuation. Arrows point from each icon to lists of necessary supplies.] Prepare for the unexpected by building an emergency kit, establish a disaster plan, and practice survival skills. An emergency situation is not the time to realize what’s missing from your kit or struggle with new tools and techniques. Take a proactive approach – start preparing now so you have the confidence and ability to adapt when challenging times come your way. With the right mindset and proper planning, you’ll be ready to handle anything!
- Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss. An informative yet entertaining book about preparing for disasters and emergency scenarios.
- Where There is No Doctor by David Werner. A manual for diagnosing and treating injuries and common medical issues when professional help is unavailable. Essential for any emergency medical kit.
- The Little Black Book of Disaster Preparedness by Tim Young. A reference guide covering fundamentals of emergency preparedness including food and water storage, evacuation plans, communication options and home security.
- The Ultimate Survival Medicine Guide by Joseph Alton. A comprehensive reference book outlining how to treat and prevent injuries, illnesses and disease in emergency situations where medical help may be limited or delayed.
- CDC Emergency Preparedness and You – Information and resources for preparing and responding to disasters and public health emergencies.
- Ready.gov – Disaster planning and response resources provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- FEMA – The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency website offers guidance on preparing for hazards and disasters as well as response and recovery.
- SurvivalBlog.com – A resource for family preparedness, survival equipment, and self-reliance with a dedicated community and discussion forums.
Knowledge and experience are invaluable in challenging times. Study up on emergency preparedness and practice surviving with limited resources. When disaster strikes, stay calm and remember your training. Have confidence in yourself and your preparations. You’ve got this![Visual: Photograph of various recommended books on prepping and survival displayed on a table] Don’t become complacent in assuming local government and emergency responders alone are enough during a disaster. Their resources and staff can quickly become overwhelmed, delaying help for individuals and households. You are your own first line of defense. Prepare now by putting together an emergency kit, establish plans tailored for disaster events in your region, and practice techniques for temporary self-reliance. Your efforts today could make the difference in how quickly you adapt and survive in times of scarce resources tomorrow. Stay informed on local emergency warnings and news reports. When an event occurs, remain flexible in your response and trust in your abilities. You have what it takes to overcome challenging circumstances!