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Changing the Odds: Creating a Disaster Survival Kit

Nobody ever hopes for an emergency, but everybody should prepare for one. The best thing you can do to prepare your family is to put together a preparedness plan and create a disaster survival kit. Keep the kit in an easy to carry duffel bag, and make sure items in it are kept from expiring. The Red Cross offers many of these items online, or you find them from a retailer near you. 

The absolute minimum for a kit includes:

  • Water: you will need one gallon per person per day, and you will need three days supply for evacuation, and a two week supply for your home.
  • Food: You will need to get together non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food items – ready to eat canned meats, vegetables, and fruit – for each person. You will need three days of supplies for evacuation, and two weeks for your home.
  • Non-electric can opener.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) and extra batteries.
  • A first-aid kit that includes seven days worth of prescription medicines.
  • A credit card or traveler’s checks and cash.
  • Disposable cell phone with chargers.
  • Copies of personal documentation, including medicine list, pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, and a list of family and emergency contact information in a waterproof container. The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) published by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps can help you get your necessary financial information in order.
  • Emergency blankets (one per person).
  • Map(s) of the area.
  • A compass and matches.
  • Sanitation, including: toilet paper, soap and liquid detergent, and personal hygiene items.

Consider the needs of your family, and add any of these additional items as necessary:

  • Medical supplies: hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, dentures, etc..
  • Baby supplies: diapers, dry formula, baby bottles, and canned baby food.
  • Games and activities for children.
  • Pet supplies: collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl, any other necessary pet care items.
  • Two-way radios.
  • Extra sets of car keys and house keys.

Additional items to keep in the area with the bag, based on the types of disasters common to your area:

  • One sleeping bag or blanket per person.
  • Emergency reference material, such as a first aid book, or a survival guide specific to your environment.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
  • Paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils.
  • Tube tent.
  • Plastic sheeting.
  • Duct tape.
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Plastic bucket with a tight lid
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – make sure the black is not scented, “color safe,” or combined with added cleaners. If you dilute bleach to the ratio of nine parts water to one part bleach, it can be used as a disinfectant. In an emergency, if you dilute it further, you can disinfect water, as directed by the EPA:
    • If water is cloudy, allow it to settle and filter through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter.

      disaster water prep ratios of water to bleach
      *Bleach contains 8.25% sodium hypochlorite.
    • Use fresh liquid chlorine bleach, or liquid chlorine bleach that has been stored at room temperature for less than one year, labeled as containing 8.25% of sodium hypochlorite.
    • Add 6 drops of bleach to each gallon of water.
    • Double the amount of bleach if the water is cloudy, colored, or very cold.
    • Stir them together, and let the solution stand for 30 minutes. The water should give off a slight chlorine odor. If you cannot smell this, repeat the dosage and let the water stand for another 15 minutes before use.
    • If the taste of the chlorine is too strong, move the water from one clean container to another and let it stand for a few hours before use, so that the chlorine evaporates.
  • Handheld GPS.
  • Whistle.
  • N95 or surgical masks.
  • Rain gear.
  • Towels.
  • Work gloves.
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home.
  • A change of clothing, hat, and sturdy footwear for each person.
  • Scissors.
  • Entertainment items, including paper and pencils.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Easy to grab, water-resistant storage bags containing those items that cannot be stored individually.

Go to for more information on maintaining and storing your kit and other disaster preparedness information.