6 Items You Might Have Forgotten in Your Emergency Kit

Photo: Global X

Disaster preparedness has again jumped to the forefront following the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan's coastal regions.

In the U.S., emergency management officials and others have long urged Americans to prepare for the unknown, from natural disasters to terrorist attacks. The heart of that preparation is typically a three-pronged approach: building an emergency kit; creating a family emergency plan; and gaining an understanding of potential emergencies and how to deal with them. (See also: Do You Need a Disaster Survival Kit?)

While each step is important, the emergency kit is especially vital. Depending on the nature of the disaster, there's no telling how long people would have to go without basic necessities like food and water. Homeland Security officials suggest that every American have basic supplies on hand to survive for at least three days in the wake of an emergency.

The standard emergency supply kit is loaded with staples like safe drinking water (one gallon per day per person for at least three days), non-perishable food, a first aid kit, flashlight, batteries, and additional clothing. But it's difficult to prepare for an emergency that you've never encountered, which means it's easy for items that could be important to get left off the list.

Given that, here's a look at a half-dozen items that might be worth adding to your own emergency preparedness kit:

  • Cash and change in a waterproof container: There's no guarantee that ATMs or credit card machines will be operational. Having cash or even traveler's checks on hand can help families secure goods and services without the aid of technology.
  • Prescriptions, glasses and other medical needs: Check the expiration dates and then stockpile prescriptions in an emergency stash. The last thing you want to do is scramble to scrounge up the necessary medications in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Putting a spare pair of eyeglasses in the kit is a good idea, too.
  • Documents: Make photocopies of important documentation, from insurance records and identification to bank account information, and seal them in a watertight container.
  • Matches: You can buy waterproof matches or simply store some everyday kitchen matches in a waterproof container.
  • Basic tools: Keep a wrench or pliers in the kit in case you need it to turn off utilities after a disaster. A couple of screwdrivers and a hammer may also come in handy.
  • Bleach: Regular household chlorine bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Homeland Security also says it can be used to treat drinking water by using 16 drops per gallon of water. Make sure it's not scented, color safe or have other added cleansers.

It's also important for families to remember that there isn't always a one size fits all when it comes to emergency kits. Climate can dictate clothing necessities. So can medical conditions and other unique needs.

Having more than one emergency kit is also a good idea. Keep one at home and build a smaller, more portable kit for work or the car.

What other items should readers consider adding to their family emergency kit?

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Guest's picture

I would recommend insect repellent of some sort for most areas - standing water after many emergencies leads to increased numbers of mosquitoes (possibly carrying disease).

Guest's picture

I believe the title should read "have forgotten."

Guest's picture


Meg Favreau's picture

Thanks to those of you who pointed out the title error -- it's been fixed!

Guest's picture

Replace the matches with a disposable lighter.
A space blanket can be used for shelter as well as warmth.
Consider a multi-tool and a hand-cranked flashlight/radio.

Guest's picture

sanitary products for women
a bushcraft knife
a deck of cards (for morale!)
a spare cellphone battery (charged) and a prepaid sim card for another network
zip lock bags for keeping small items dry