How to Make an Emergency Preparedness Kit

An emergency can hit your home at any time — whether it be a citywide natural disaster, or an isolated crisis such as a house flood or fire. And while it's hard to predict when the worst will happen, it's important to be ready and prepared for if it does.

Being ready for an emergency goes beyond having the basic supplies necessary for survival. You should also have important personal and financial documents somewhere safe and easy to grab when you only have a few minutes to think. Here's how to start building your kit. (See also: 8 Signs You Aren't Prepared for an Emergency)

Keep important documents in a safe

Invest in a fire-resistant, waterproof safe that is easy to pick up and carry in an emergency. A digital safe with backup keys is a good idea. Keep the following items inside:

  • Marriage certificate.

  • Birth certificates for each family member.

  • Social Security cards for each family member.

  • Passports for each family member.

  • Military ID.

  • Pet ID tags.

  • Prescription medicine information.

  • Important USBs, computer backups, and external drives.

It is also wise to keep some cash in this box. Ideally, between $500 and $1,000 will be enough to get your family through an immediate crisis. When a disaster strikes, you may not have the time or ability to access your bank accounts right away. This little cushion of cash can cover you until then.

Use the cloud to protect other important info and photos

Thankfully, the internet makes it easy to access insurance policies, medical information, important bank and housing info, and beloved photos from anywhere. If you don't have access to these documents through online accounts, either keep physical copies of these documents in your safe, or scan them to a secure cloud storage site.

Personal photos and videos can be uploaded to social media or private websites, or saved to cloud storage like Amazon Drive, Dropbox, or Google Drive. (See also: 10 Critical Steps to Protect Your Data in the Cloud)

Stock your pantry for emergencies

If you have to evacuate your home quickly, it probably won't matter what's in your pantry. However, in the event a natural disaster or massive storm confines you to your home, you still want to keep extra, nonperishable food on hand in case you can't get to a store.

You don't need to spend a ton of money or invest in emergency meal prep kits; simply buy a few extra boxes or cans of food each time you visit the grocery store. This will allow you to stay within your food budget and still build up a helpful supply. Here are a few things to stock up on and keep in your pantry:

  • Water bottles and a few gallons of water.

  • Protein or granola bars and protein powder.

  • Canned soup, beans, and tuna.

  • Trail mix and nuts.

  • Peanut butter or other nut butter.

  • Beef jerky or other dried meat.

  • Dried fruits and vegetables.

  • Bulk rice and grains.

  • Large containers of sugar, cornmeal, oats, oil, and flour.

  • Bottled juice.

  • Jarred tomatoes and spaghetti sauce.

  • Manual can opener.

To keep your pantry useful and budget-friendly, buy items that you normally eat anyway. Rotate them to avoid having food spoil or go to waste. If you would never eat canned sardines, don't stock up on them thinking you will learn to love them in desperate times. (See also: Micro-Prepping: How to Prepare for Small Disasters)

Other emergency supplies to have on hand

Buying a fully equipped pre-made emergency kit can cost you over $100. You can put together your own kit for less by shopping sales and buying a little each month. Just make sure to have a dedicated spot for your emergency items. You don't want to stash extra flashlights in one drawer and a respirator or water in a hard-to-reach place on the other side of the house. Keep everything in a clearly labeled 20 to 45-gallon tote in the garage, basement, or hall closet.

Here's what you should purchase and keep in this kit:

  • A comfortable backpack or wheeled luggage to pack the items in.

  • A first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, disinfectant pads, oxytetracycline tablets for diarrhea and infections, tweezers, scissors, antibiotic cream, and aspirin.

  • Emergency power source or external battery that can act as a flashlight and charge phones.

  • Extra prescription glasses for you or family members.

  • Extra batteries and flashlights.

  • A pocket knife and multifunction tool.

  • Hand and foot warmers.

  • A portable blanket.

  • Baby wipes and disinfectant wipes.

  • N95 respirators.

  • Boxed water and water filters.

  • A few food items with long shelf life, such as beef jerky, peanut butter, and protein bars.

Keep all of these items in the tote, along with extra supplies that are nice to have but not essential, like ponchos, hiking boots, and extra blankets. You can also keep your safe in here, though a personal closet might be a safer option in case of a break in. (See also: 13 Essentials Every Emergency Bag Should Have)

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