Emergency Essentials To Always Have on Hand

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Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes… no matter where you live, an emergency can strike without warning, potentially leaving you without electricity, gas or running water. That’s not the time to discover that you don’t have any working flashlights in the house, or that you are out of a critical medication.

Run through the following list of emergency essentials before a disaster strikes, and rest a little more peacefully knowing you’re well prepared for whatever comes.

Water For Drinking, Bathing & Cooking

If the water supply is shut off, finding a clean supply of water will be your most pressing concern. At a minimum, you should have one gallon of water per person per day to last three days. If you have pets, add an extra gallon for their needs. It’s easy to stock up on bottled water when it’s on sale at the market, and you can stack it in a clean, protected corner of the garage or pantry. Make sure you take into account all needs for water: drinking, cooking and washing up.

Flashlights and Batteries

It does no good to have a flashlight if its batteries are dead and you have no replacements. You should have at least one small flashlight for every member of the family, as well as two or three larger, battery-operated lanterns powerful enough to cook by. Stock at least a dozen each of AA, C and D batteries, the most common sizes for flashlights. Keep batteries stored in a cool, dry place and check annually to replace any that are past their expiration date. After spending your first night in a dark home, you’ll understand just how important flashlights can be. Should your home be damaged in a storm or earthquake, clearly seeing where you’re going becomes crucial.

Emergency Radio

Whether battery-operated or hand cranked, you should have a radio on hand for tuning into local emergency broadcasts. If you live in an area that experiences hurricanes or severe storms, you should also have a NOAA weather radio that receives transmissions from the National Weather Service. If emergency strikes, tune into your local station, and keep the radio on to receive updates. This could be the only way you hear about an approaching storm, other warning, or where to find emergency services or shelter.

First Aid Kit

You should have a fully stocked first aid kit in your home, and a small kit in your car. While minor cuts and scrapes aren’t normally a big concern, even a small laceration can easily become infected if exposed to dirt or sludge from a storm. If you’re trapped at home due to inclement weather, caring for small injuries is incredibly important, and can mean the difference between a dangerous infection and a simple cut. At a minimum, the first aid kit should contain:

  • Bandages in various sizes
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Alcohol pads
  • Gauze pads
  • Burn cream
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Space blanket
  • Tweezers
  • Disposable gloves
  • Small scissors
  • Rolled bandages
  • Aspirin
  • Instant cold pack

Hygiene Supplies

You will feel better if you can maintain hygiene and some level of personal comfort even in a difficult situation. In the aftermath of a disaster, you’ll be glad to have a sufficient supply of toilet paper, toothpaste and toothbrushes, feminine hygiene products, diapers and baby wipes, paper towels and moist towelettes. Keep small, wastebasket-sized plastic bags with twist ties on hand. These can be used as an emergency toilet in a prolonged water-outage.


Make sure your toolbox contains basics that might be needed to turn off utilities, board up broken doors or windows, and remove obstructions inside or outside your home. This is also a good reason to learn how to turn off your gas should you need to. You should have:

  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Wrench
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Handsaw
  • Dust mask
  • Rope
  • Duct tape
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Eye protection

Extra Blankets

If your home is without power during the winter, you need to be prepared for cold nights. Always have an extra blanket for each person in your home. Even in warmer climates, you probably haven’t experienced a week without any additional heat in your home. Don’t be caught off guard!

Backup Power Sources

If you truly want to be prepared for an extended survival situation, you need to have your own sources of power. A generator, even a small one, can power lights, fans, a small refrigerator or space heater. You will need to have safely stored gasoline to fuel the generator. A camping stove with several extra propane cylinders not only can cook food, it can boil water for a safe drinking supply. If your home has a fireplace or fire pit, always have seasoned firewood on hand.

Other Essentials For Emergencies

The more prepared you are, the easier it will be for you and your family to emerge unharmed from even dire circumstances. Miscellaneous items that can make a difference include:

  • Extra prescription and OTC medications
  • Pet food
  • Cash
  • Copies of important information, such as insurance, deeds, bank accounts, medical records
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Hand can opener
  • Bleach
  • Matches
  • Paper and pencils
  • Plastic tarps

No one knows when a natural disaster or manmade emergency will strike, so increase your family’s chances of avoiding harm by having essential supplies on hand at all times. Hopefully you will never need them, but if you do, you cannot be too prepared.

Last Updated: November 13, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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