One of the most important parts of being ready for an emergency is having the right supplies on hand: at home, at work, in the office, and in the car. Generic disaster kits can be a good first step, however they tend to be cheaply-made, and your needs in an emergency may be vastly different from your neighbors' needs.
First, consider everyone who lives in your household, including kids and pets. Not only do you need enough water, food, and clothing for each individual, but you must also consider things like medications, baby supplies, and allergies when making your kit. Next, assess the likelihood of different kinds of natural disasters that may impact where you live. If flooding is a risk, you may want to include portable flotation devices and rain boots in your kit. Keep inventory of your stock, and change out items like food and water at 6-month intervals.
A good emergency kit includes the following items:
Non-perishable food: including protein bars, canned soups and vegetables, nuts, and cereal. You should have a minimum of three days of food per person, including food for small children and pets. Remember that you may be without electricity and/or gas, so be sure you have food that can be eaten uncooked. You should swap out most food items within six months (crackers, nuts, etc) or within a year (canned foods, peanut butter, etc).
Drinking water: ensure you have enough drinking water to last each person at least three (but ideally seven) days. You will need about 1 gallon per person, per day. In case your water is turned off during or after the disaster, you should have additional water in your kit for hygiene, cooking, and cleaning. If you remain at home after an emergency, fill up bathtubs/sinks/buckets with water to ensure enough supply. You may want to keep a filtration straw or water purification tablets as part of your kit. In a pinch, you can also use pure, unscented liquid chlorine bleach to purify water: for clear water add 2 drops per quart, and for cloudy water add 4 drops per quart. Shake or thoroughly stir the water container, and let it sit for at least thirty minutes before drinking. Replace your water rations annually.
First aid kit & medications: your kit should include a first aid manual, bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, latex gloves, chemical cold packs, sterile water, N-95 particulate masks to protect against dangerous debris that may be released in a disaster, goggles, antiseptic solution, a space blanket, scissors, tweezers, sterile needles, pain relief tablets, hand warmers, trauma pads, burn relief gel, and hand sanitizer. You can build your own first aid kit, or purchase one (we recommend American Red Cross). Familiarize yourself with the kit's contents and how to use them. You should also keep a one-month supply of any important medications in your kit, along with a list of allergies, medications and dosages, and your family's doctors. Check your kit for expiring medications and supplies twice a year.
Fire extinguisher: your kit should include a 3-A:40-B:C fire extinguisher. To learn more about fire extinguisher usage and maintenance, reference our guide. In addition to a fire extinguisher, we recommend keeping fire suppressant canisters in your go bag, car bag, and work bag. You may also want to include at least one fire retardant blanket in your kit. These blankets can suffocate small liquid or grease fires, and can also be used as a heat shield for your body.
Hygiene supplies: in addition to first aid supplies, your kit should include soap, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, tissues, plastic trash bags to store waste, tampons/pads, sunscreen, lotion, dish detergent, deodorant, and spare glasses or contact lenses.
Clothing & shoes: keep a a complete change of clothing for each member of your family. Choose comfortable, warm, high-coverage clothes and thick-soled, heavy shoes that will protect you from injury. If flooding or heavy rains are potential hazards in your area, include a poncho, extra change of clothing, and rain-boots.
Cash: if the power grid is down for an extended period of time, you may not be able to make credit card purchases. Keep small bills, totaling about $100 per person, in your kit.
Storage: keep your kit in a waterproof canister or bin in a location that's easy to reach (like your garage or patio). It's ideal to have separate kits for home, in your car, at your office, and in a backpack in case you need to quickly evacuate. Use your best judgement and balance your resources to make sure that you have what you need available when and where you need it.
Extra credit & special considerations: think about the types of natural disasters that are most likely to impact the area you live in. If you are in a flood-prone part of the country, you may want to include PFDs or a life raft. If you want to be extra-prepared, include camping equipment like a small tent, tarp, sleeping bags, and portable stove with gas.