Your home provides safety and shelter most of the time, but during an emergency, that can all change. Last year saw parts of the U.S. hit by devastating storms, floods, fires and other events that forced thousands to evacuate, sometimes with little or no warning. That’s why it’s important to have an emergency plan, which includes maintaining a kit of critical supplies that can last for at least 72 hours. Here’s how to build your own inexpensive emergency supply kit. 

Basic kit

Your basic kit should be something you can quickly find and grab in an emergency. Consider using a sturdy backpack for each family member’s supplies or plastic tubs that are easy to carry. Make sure moisture-sensitive items are stored in airtight plastic bags.

The following are some recommended items for your basic kit.

  • Water: one gallon per person per day for at least three days (more info)
  • Food: at least three days’ worth of non-perishable food (more info)
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Battery- or crank-powered emergency radio
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps (and offline maps on your smartphone)
  • Cell phone with charger and backup battery

Additional supplies

These other supplies are worth considering for your kit or keeping somewhere where you can access them easily in an emergency.

  • Prescription medications and non-prescription medicines
  • Glasses and contact lense solution
  • Necessities for infants, seniors and pets
  • Cash
  • Important documents (e.g. identification, insurance policies, bank account records) saved to digital storage devices and/or in a waterproof container
  • Safety whistle
  • Sleeping bags or warm blankets
  • A change of clothes and sturdy shoes
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Personal hygiene supplies
  • Tools for shutting off utilities
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Dust mask, plastic sheeting and duct tape (for protection from contaminated air and sheltering in place)
  • Eating utensils and supplies
  • Writing materials

Final tips

Reassess your kit every year as your family’s needs change, and replace items as they expire. Make sure all family members know where the kit is stored, and consider keeping additional versions of your kit in your vehicle and workplace.

Hopefully you never have to use your kit, but if an unexpected situation arises, you’ll be very glad you took the time to plan and prepare.