*Updated 6/2/2020 to add items now essential after the beginning of 2020.
If you are reading this it is likely you are in search for where to begin building your own Home Emergency Preparedness Kit. If not and you’ve come here to learn about crochet and other DIY projects, no worries they are here on a different page, but while you are here check out my previous post about why I’m running off topic for a couple of posts and why you should make your own Home Emergency Preparedness Kit. You can read all about that here:
The task of preparing a Home Emergency Preparedness Kit (HEPK) can certainly be a daunting one. When I started our first kit I dove deep into the depths of Pinterest and read every article I could find only to come to the conclusion I had gone way in over my head. How on Earth could we afford to put together a proper kit with all this stuff? There was so much and every article made it seem like if you didn’t have that fancy item right now you could DIE! Ok, I might have been a bit dramatic but really it can all be super overwhelming.
With that in mind, this post is going to focus on the absolute essentials. If you are wanting to make a very minimal kit with what you would absolutely need no frills or bells about it this is the list for you. It is also perfect for getting a handle on the basics. If you don’t have a lot of extra space for storage or budget is super tight, this will definitely be your first stop. So take a deep breathe and lets start at the top.
You need 1 gallon of water per person or pet you are responsible for for a minimum of three days. In our kit we get large flats of water bottles which equal to about eight bottles per person. You could also get the gallon jugs at the grocery store and they would store nicer. This water is specifically for drinking, eating, and minor hygiene (like face stuff). In the Tips and Tricks post you will learn about where to get water for all other uses. It is so important to have clean drinking water for your survival. I realize that seems a bit dramatic but when you’re stuck in your cul de sac with no way in or out for a week it is as good as gold, or better. The more you can store the better but start with a three day supply.
You need full meals and snacks for each person or pet you are responsible for for three days. This food needs to be non-perishable, or shelf stable for long term storage. This is where it might get a bit complicated (and where I got so very overwhelmed). To break it down, you’ll need breakfast, lunch, dinner, and at least two snacks per person for three days (or however your family’s normal eating routine follows). It is super tempting to grab a box or two of ramen and chili and call it good but this needs to be food your family will actually eat. To make sure this is the case I will periodically let my picky toddler choose a meal from the kit to eat when I can replace it. I found he is not a fan of ravioli but could eat some spaghettios with a super hero on it all day. Normally we wouldn’t eat it but if he doesn’t eat it now he sure won’t then when he is stressed and scared.
This also includes any special needs for meals. If there is a baby in the house make sure to have a plan for breastfeeding and pumping during a disaster or formula. (No judgment here) If you have pets make sure to have the food they will eat in the amounts they need for normal meals. In a disaster situation, especially with children, it is important to try to keep as much normal as is possible. You also need the way to prepare anything you have in your kit. Little propane camping stoves are great to have on hand and fairly inexpensive. Make sure to have the small propane tanks filled too. When creating your kit do so expecting everything you normally rely on to not work. No gas stoves or ovens, no electricity, no water, and plan accordingly.
I have put together a list of some HEPK friendly meals and items from our own kit here.
NOAA Weather Radio
This is the one place I beg you not to skimp. I understand completely making every penny stretch, but this will be a lifeline in an emergency so this is not the item to grab at the Dollar Tree. You need a battery operated NOAA Weather Radio. I found a really nice one that can also be powered by hand crank or a solar cell on its side and it has a usb plug in to charge your phone. (Linked here, not an affiliate link) This is the one we currently have but there are lots of great ones out there.
You need one flashlight for each person you are responsible for. There are plenty of life hacks out there for making light in a pinch, but trust me it best to just have a reliable flashlight on hand for each person. These can be picked up pretty inexpensively in the camping aisle of Walmart.
First Aid Kit
Be it a store bought kit with a fancy bag or a home assembled kit in an old bin, it is important to have a full first aid kit and keep it up to date. You need at least bandaids in various sizes, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, small multi-tool with pliers, gauze, first aid tape, hand sanitizer, benadryl cream, and basic first aid instructions.
You should have at least a three day supply of any prescription medications. A lot of pharmacies will give you this extra for emergency preparedness purposes without a special prescription but I have talked to doctors before to have a special prescription made out. Make sure it is kept up to date with paperwork showing exactly what is there and in their original bottles. Also it’s good to have some over the counter medications in an emergency as well such as pain relievers, antacids, Benadryl, and Pepto-Bismal.
You need two sets of backup batteries for each item requiring batteries in your kit. This means there should be a fresh set in the item and two backups standing by. This is where it is convenient if all your items take the same kind of batteries.
It may sound silly, but there are a bunch of disaster situations that this would make all the difference. You need at least one whistle and it needs to be on the head of the house at all times during an emergency situation.
Wrench or Pliers
This is for turning off your utilities. You may need to turn off the water to avoid flooding in the home or the gas to avoid an explosion or even the water heater for the same. This needs to be specifically in your kit, not just a pair lying around the house.
Manual Can Opener
This one seems pretty obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been camping and forgot a stupid can opener. Again this needs to be a specific one in your kit, not the one for everyday use.
For everything. It’s good to have on hand.
Again, for lots of things. It’s good to have one handy. The larger the better but Harbor Freight frequently gives these away for free with any purchase in the 6-8 foot sizes.
Toilet paper was not something originally on my list although now after living through the first half of 2020 it is a necessary addition. Have at least one large package on hand for emergencies at all times to get you through in case you can’t get anymore for a while.
Another new addition to this list though it was originally covered in the long list breakdown before. Soap is more important than ever to have on hand for emergencies since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially now it is something everyone should have a few bottles extra of for emergencies. I recommend storing it with some hand towels that can be easily washed for reuse. If you still don’t have hand soap available in your local stores due to the pandemic you can get some large refill bottles of dish soap which will work just as well and is even less expensive and can be used for multiple purposes.
This one will have its own post all about our Family Emergency Binder and what we keep in it. You can find that post here:
It’s Preparedness Season! Post 4 – Family Emergency Binder
That is the list for a bare bones minimalist Home Emergency Preparedness Kit. Of course each situation may require some additions and you will want to build up what you have over time beyond this but this is what (in my opinion) you would need to have a dependable HEPK that could help get you through an emergency.
If that didn’t scare you off, check out my next post where I expand on this basic kit to a more standard sized kit like the one we currently keep. It is significantly larger and honestly was more expensive and took longer to build, but it is very worth the step. You can find that post, and the others in this series, here:
It’s Preparedness Season! Post 1 – The Intro
It’s Preparedness Season! Post 3 – The Long List
It’s Preparedness Season! Post 4 – Family Emergency Binder
It’s Preparedness Season! Post 5 – Storage
It’s Preparedness Season! Post 6 – Getting Through the Storm