10 Must-Have Items for Your Disaster Survival Kit
Life + Money

10 Must-Have Items for Your Disaster Survival Kit

Have these items packed and ready now – just in case.   

The list of disasters that can strike in the U.S. is long and getting longer – which is why organizing your family’s survival kit is a smart priority.

Americans know about most of the natural disasters specific to their area, from hurricanes in the South and tornadoes and floods in the Midwest to earthquakes and wildfires in California and winter storms in the Northeast. Since Oklahoma City, the Boston Marathon bombing and of course the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, we also know that terrorism can cripple a city, let alone a family.

Related: FEMA’s $240M Disaster Relief System Doesn’t Work

Yet with ongoing political unrest, new health epidemics (most recently Ebola) and even technological advances (think cybercrime), the risk of other types of disasters striking close to home has also increased. Cyber attacks could take down power grids and banking and communications systems – so there’s a chance you could be without electricity, functioning credit cards and even cell phone reception.

“Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling a supply kit and developing a family emergency plan, are the same for all types of hazards,” notes FEMA on its Ready.gov website.

The rule of thumb is to pack enough for 72 hours. Here are the 10 basic items you should include in your disaster planning kit:

  • One gallon of water per person per day, for both drinking and sanitation.
  • Non-perishable food including ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, granola bars and peanut butter. Replace this food on a yearly basis and remember to pack a can opener.
  • An AM/FM radio with batteries or a hand-crank radio can help you stay up to date on weather developments or assist when rescue crews are coming to your area.
  • A whistle is useful if you’re stuck in your home and need to alert rescuers of your presence. 
  • Pack enough cash for at least a week in case you or bank has been hacked.

Related: 11 Ways to Fight Ebola and Other Diseases

  • A first aid kit is a must. You’ll need it in an earthquake, for example, if debris has fallen or you step on broken glass.
  • A flashlight and candles can be useful if you’ve lost power. Keep matches in a dry plastic bag.
  • Copies of personal documents for each family member, including passports, health insurance cards, birth certificates and proof of address, are useful.
  • FEMA also recommends packing maps of your area, which you’ll need if your cell phone is out of juice.
  • Also pack warm clothes or emergency blankets if you’re facing a winter storm or live in a cold climate.

Related: Auditors Still Finding Misused FEMA Katrina Funds

It’s also a good idea to back up all your important documents digitally, or your whole system, to a cloud. There are plenty of options from Google, Apple’s iCloud, Amazon Cloud Drive or Carbonite.

Depending on your location or the specific disaster you’re preparing for, you may need additional supplies. In the case of a pandemic, for example, FEMA recommends having a two-week supply of food and water as well as prescriptions for all your medicines. (Don’t forget supplies for your pet.) And if there’s a chance of air contamination in your area, pack plastic sheeting, duct tape and a dust mask.

Experts recommend having at least one emergency supply kit in your home and another work. The kit can go in a bag, backpack or box.

For more information packing essentials, FEMA has its own list available online, while the American Red Cross offers a similar preparation kit.

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