You may have seen shows about the “prepper” movement that were a little off-putting or even scary, but preppers have a point. The one thing that is consistently true about disasters and emergencies is that you never know when they’re coming. It makes sense, then, to follow this emergency kit checklist to keep everyone in your family safe when the unexpected disaster strikes.
With a nod to preppers everywhere, here’s a checklist of 35 things to keep in a hiking backpack or duffle by your front door, in your storm cellar, or wherever you’ll be able to find it in a hurry after a disaster. This “bug-out bag” is meant to sustain your family until help arrives, and contains supplies for 72 hours of living in a disaster area, without reliable electricity, drinkable water, or sewer treatment services.
- A flash drive with copies of all your important documents
- Bottled water: three gallons for each family member. Bottles with an integrated filter are great, but even non-potable water may not be available in an emergency.
- Flashlights for everyone
- Batteries for flashlights
- $100 cash in small bills
- A week’s worth of prescription medications
- A change of season-appropriate clothes and slippers or flip-flops for every member of your family (real shoes with socks are better if you have room; think middle-of-the-night evacuation)
- Travel-sized toiletries, including wet wipes, dry shampoo, deodorant, and toothbrushes
- Lip balm
- A hand-crank radio
- Whistles for each family member
- Portable cell phone chargers (solar is even better)
- Mylar blankets (these take up little space, so pack twice as many as there are members of your family)
- Duct tape
- A Leatherman Tool or similar multi-faceted tool with pliers
- Meal bars and backpack meals: Enough to meet the calorie needs of each family member for 72 hours
- Eating utensils
- Matches (stored in a pill bottle or other waterproof container)
- Infant formula, if needed
- Diapers, if needed
- Pet supplies, if needed (3 days’ worth)
- Benadryl and OTC pain meds
- First aid/survival kit (the kind that can handle life-threatening injuries)
- 2-3 magazines (for splints or kindling)
- Toilet paper
- A medicine bottle with dropper, filled with bleach (purify water with 16 drops per gallon)
- Insect repellent and sunscreen
- Bandanas for everyone (sun protection or bandages)
- Small trash bags or plastic shopping bags for sanitary waste disposal
- Recent photos of everyone in the family, in a waterproof container.
- Preferred method of family protection
- Fire extinguisher
- 2-way radios
- State-issued identification (should be on your person)
Make a Plan
Most importantly, have a family emergency plan and practice it at least once a month. Make sure your children know where all the exits are and how to operate windows and doors (or assign smaller children a buddy who will help them), and plan where you’ll meet up after a disaster. It can be somewhere within walking distance of home, or centrally located between you and your spouse’s workplaces and your children’s schools. Make sure your children know your name, telephone number, and address (put it to music and sing it together to help them remember).
Keep Your Bag Updated, and Pack an Extra
If you live in a rural area, you may want to check out a bug-out bag checklist for wilderness survival. Whatever you pack in your bag, review its contents and check expiration dates twice a year or when you have a change in your family (such as a new baby or new prescription or other medical need). Also, keep a smaller version in your car in case you’re stranded or have to walk somewhere safe (commonly called a “get home” bag). Pack it with temperature extremes in mind, and don’t forget good walking shoes and socks if you normally wear dress shoes to work.