Whether you live in an earthquake-prone state like Alaska or California—which is facing the inevitable "Big One"—or in a state vulnerable to hurricanes like Florida or Texas, you probably have making a disaster supply kit on your to-do list. Even if you’re not in a high-risk area, with climate change intensifying floods, storms, and potentially earthquakes, it’s a good idea to be prepared for a natural disaster. Not to worry: to make things simple for you, we’ve made a list of the 10 most important items to have on hand in case of an emergency.
1. A Three-Day Supply of Water
The CDC recommends storing one gallon of water per person or pet per day in emergency situations—and having at least a three-day supply of water on hand. It’s also a good idea to invest in a water filter—ideally a compact purification tube that can filter large quantities of water and remove nearly all of the bacteria that it might contain. The Emergency Preparedness Kit from LifeStraw, pictured here, includes a gravity-powered water purifier and a straw-like filter that remove bacteria and parasites from your drinking supply.
2. A Three-Day Supply of Food
Surviving a natural disaster can be hard on your body—particularly if you need to walk long distances. To be as efficient as possible, you want to stock up on high-calorie, lightweight foods with long shelf lives like dried fruit, nuts and nut butters, crackers, and energy and protein bars. Canned food and MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) are also a good idea, but make sure that you have the means to open them by also packing a can opener or only purchasing pop-top cans.
Few things are more important than a well-stocked first aid kit. You’ll want to make sure you have a variety of items from bandages and gauze, to pain killers and hand sanitizer. Other necessities include scissors, tape, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, towelettes, tweezers, a thermometer, latex gloves, and even sunscreen. Don’t forget other medications that you might need that aren’t in a typical first aid kit, like those you regularly take or toiletries like contact solution and extra contacts. This kit from Best Made Co. comes in a powder-coated steel box.
4. Hygiene Products
Going hand-in-hand with the first aid kit, hygiene products and toiletries will help you avoid contamination and infection. Include basics such as a few rolls of toilet paper, soap, mouthwash, pads or tampons, and baby wipes and diapers as needed.
5. Identification Papers
In disaster situations, you might need your identification card for a variety of reasons: traveling to another city, state, or country; claiming assets at banks and other financial organizations; being admitted at a hospital; registering for help with local or federal agencies. It is recommended to keep copies of passports, drivers licenses, Social Security cards, and other major documents like marriage licenses and birth certificates in a waterproof pouch or zipped plastic bag. Some even suggest keeping copies of additional documents like your will, deeds to your house, and insurance policies. A fire- and water-resistant file folder, like this one made by ENGPOW, keeps your documents extra safe.
6. An Emergency Radio and Cell Phone Charger
In the event of a natural disaster, it’s likely that you’ll lose power and Internet access, so a solar-powered or hand-cranked radio will be your best bet for staying informed and in communication. Having a backup battery for your devices is also a good idea, although it will be better to text rather than call immediately after a disaster due to overloaded service. The Kaito KA500 Voyager has a hand-crank generator and a solar panel, and includes a reading lamp, flashlight, and mobile phone charger.
If the power goes out during an emergency situation, you can be sure that credit card machines won’t be working, and so you’ll have to rely on cash for your purchases. While it’s difficult to state a specific amount, some authorities suggest keeping smaller denominations, which are easier to use.
8. Utilitarian Clothes
Clothing can play a vital part in post-disaster comfort and survival. Be prepared with lightweight, versatile items that are appropriate for the highs and lows of your region—bonus points for bright colors like neon yellow or orange that might help emergency workers spot you. Make sure you have clean underwear, layers (including a light jacket), and a hat that would protect you from the sun. Extra blankets, shoes, boots, socks, and bug spray might be necessary depending on where you live.
9. A Whistle
Sound is one of the best ways to alert rescue workers that you are trapped. A lightweight whistle you can wear around your neck, like the Vargo Titanium Emergency Whistle, will allow you to signal for help without losing your voice if you’re stuck somewhere.
10. A Light Source
Whether it’s a flashlight, lantern, or headlamp, you’ll need a steady source of light. Make sure it’s either hand-cranked or solar-powered, or have extra batteries on hand. This camping lantern by ENHANCE can be charged through a USB or hand-cranked. Emergency candles are also a good backup to have.