What are Some Essential Emergency Supplies?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Emergencies are usually unpredictable, and it’s far better to be prepared for emergencies by having a few essential emergency supplies than it is to try to find needed things after an emergency occurs. There are quite a few organizations that dedicate themselves to helping people put together earthquake or disaster preparedness kits. The emergency supplies that might be required in these kits doesn’t vary much except by where the kit is located and the number of people who are likely to be present during an emergency.

Canned foods should be included in an emergency preparedness kit.
Canned foods should be included in an emergency preparedness kit.

Sometimes emergency kits are organized by length of days a person might need to survive without access to medical care, water, or food sources. In this case a three-day kit could require a flashlight, preferably one that can be cranked, battery powered, solar powered and recharged. It’s also helpful to have a battery or crank radio, and people can find flashlight/radios that are combined together. The emergency kit should also contain food for three days that is non-perishable and doesn’t need to be cooked. Multiply food needs by number of people likely to be present.

Antibiotic ointments are typically included in emergency first aid kits.
Antibiotic ointments are typically included in emergency first aid kits.

Some emergencies leave people without access to safe drinking water. It’s important to keep drinking water on hand, preferably in plastic bottles. Exactly how much water can depend on needs of the people involved. Some people like to have multiple small bottles of water available, which may be cleaner than a larger gallon (3.79 liters) size bottle. Consider having about a half gallon of water per person for each day of an emergency. A family of four should probably stock six gallons (22.71 liters) to cover water needs for three days.

A generator for backup electricity.
A generator for backup electricity.

Emergency supplies should include any medications a person depends on for survival. Again this supply should be at least sufficient for three days, and longer if the nature of an emergency could cut people off from medical care for a longer time period. Be sure to observe prescription expiration dates on bottles to make certain that meds don’t expire while they sit in an emergency kit.

Batteries may be useful in an emergency kit.
Batteries may be useful in an emergency kit.

Along with prescription medications, emergency supplies should include some common over the counter meds. Valuable ones to purchase would include anti-diarrhea meds, antacids and fever reducers or those medications that offer some pain relief. People may also want to stock antiseptic lotion and antibiotic ointment to treat minor injuries.

Flashlights are essential emergency supplies.
Flashlights are essential emergency supplies.

Most people should have other emergency supplies that are medical in nature. These include gloves, scissors, gauze pads, band-aids in a variety of sizes, and tape. It’s usually easy to obtain a good first aid kit by purchasing one already prepared at a drug store. Several kits may be required if a number of people might need access to the kit.

Personal hygiene items, like soap, should be included in an emergency kit.
Personal hygiene items, like soap, should be included in an emergency kit.

Other emergency supplies should include blankets, a change of clothing, some trash bags, a can opener and disposable cups, plates, forks and knives. Providing soap, waterless handwash, and some supplies for personal hygiene is valuable too. Periodically inspect any emergency supplies to make certain that everything is still useable by date, and that there has been no damage to any sealed items.

Emergency supplies should include clothing.
Emergency supplies should include clothing.
First aid kits are essential emergency supplies.
First aid kits are essential emergency supplies.
Photocopies of personal documents, like social security cards and passports, should be kept in an emergency kit.
Photocopies of personal documents, like social security cards and passports, should be kept in an emergency kit.
Water bottles are good to have on hand in case of an emergency.
Water bottles are good to have on hand in case of an emergency.
Feminine products are considered essential supplies.
Feminine products are considered essential supplies.
An emergency kit should include gauze pads.
An emergency kit should include gauze pads.
Trash bags should be included in an emergency kit.
Trash bags should be included in an emergency kit.
A can opener should be kept on hand in case of an emergency.
A can opener should be kept on hand in case of an emergency.
An emergency kit should include safety pins.
An emergency kit should include safety pins.
Paper towels should be available for emergency situations.
Paper towels should be available for emergency situations.
A supply of gasoline can be used as fuel for generators and other emergency equipment.
A supply of gasoline can be used as fuel for generators and other emergency equipment.
Toilet paper can be used for a variety of purposes in an emergency situation.
Toilet paper can be used for a variety of purposes in an emergency situation.
Water, batteries, flashlights and extra food should all be included in an emergency kit.
Water, batteries, flashlights and extra food should all be included in an emergency kit.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

Wisedly33

I remember all the survival nuts going nuts right before Y2K. Of course, nothing at all happened. All went on and it was business as usual.

I didn't even worry about it because I felt pretty sure nothing was going to happen.

But for real emergency supplies, I think this article pretty well covers the basics. I'd also suggest picking up some of those dehydrated campers meals at the sporting goods store, along with a water filtration kit so you can make sure you have safe drinking water. You can use a camp stove outside to boil water for coffee and tea, if you don't have a generator.

And take it from someone who also got caught in the 2011 storms: make sure your car has gas in it *before* the storm system hits, if you know it's coming. Stations may have gas, but the pumps run on electricity.

Scrbblchick

Water would definitely be on my list of must-have emergency kit items. A first aid kit ranks up there, too.

When tornadoes hit my area in 2011, our power was out for four days. We had canned food and ate that. I was able to leave town with my mom, so we got out and to somewhere with power, but it really did impress on me the importance of having a well-stocked emergency kit.

Nowadays, especially during severe weather season, I keep my pantry stocked with non-perishable convenience foods that don't have to be heated, bottled water, flashlight batteries and radio batteries. Our radio was our life saver after the 2011 storms. It was our only source of information.

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