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20 must-have items for every family's emergency kit

Sep 16, 2022 11:07AM ● By Editor
Photo: Shutterstock

By Amy McCarthy from yard breaker.com • September 15, 2022

In the event of a disaster, being prepared can provide some much-needed reassurance in a time when that's scarce. Most Americans aren't prepared for a disaster, but more and more are becoming cognizant of the need to build a well-stocked emergency kit in the event of severe weather or other major crises. 

Flip through the gallery for a list of 20 essential items for your emergency kit. Even though it might feel a little bit like doomsday prepping, having these items on hand could save lives if tragedy strikes. 

Bottled water 

Bottled water
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For both drinking and sanitary purposes, the American Red Cross recommends storing one gallon per person of water for at least two weeks in an emergency stash at home. 

External batteries and phone chargers 
External batteries and phone chargers
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Whenever the power goes out or weather conditions get wild, make sure that you've got a few external power bricks charged up and ready to go. It's also important to grab batteries for any essentials that you need to carry, like medical equipment. 

Flashlights 
Flashlights
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Flashlights can be invaluable in a disaster, especially if the power's gone out. A good rule of thumb for keeping the house stocked with flashlights is one per room, and make sure they're LED for longer battery life. 

First aid kit 
First aid kit
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A well-stocked first-aid kit seems like a given, but what exactly does that entail? In addition to items like bandages, pain medications like ibuprofen, and ice packs, make sure your kit is outfitted with essentials like gauze, an emergency blanket, and antiseptic wipes. Scope out the American Red Cross's full list of items for a first aid kit here


Essential hygiene items 
Essential hygiene items
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If there's an emergency, getting clean is going to be tough. Make sure to stock your emergency kit with wet wipes, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, and other essentials. 

Non-perishable foods 
Non-perishable foods
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Disaster relief organizations suggest keeping a three-day supply of non-perishable foods like peanut butter, canned goods, and energy bars on hand. Make sure to buy enough for everyone in the family, and stock up on items like infant formula if necessary. 

Pet food and supplies 
Pet food and supplies
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If you've got pets, making sure they're safe during an emergency is essential. Keep an extra bag of food around, and make sure that you know where your pet's medical records and 

Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer 
Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer
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If you don't have access to clean, running water in an emergency, things are going to get dirty quickly. Stock your kit with antibacterial wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and even plain rubbing alcohol to kill germs. 

Hand-crank weather radio 
Hand-crank weather radio
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An NOAA Weather Radio, recommended by disaster relief organizations and the federal government alike, is operated by hand-crank and can provide essential information in the event of serious weather like a hurricane or tornado. They're easy to find at outdoor stores and online, and will only set you back about $40. 

Essential documents stored in waterproof containers 
Essential documents stored in waterproof containers
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Everyone should have a safe space for important documents like financial papers and birth certificates, and it's best if that space is both portable and easy to keep safe from fires and floods. Store your items in a fireproof, waterproof safe, and make a plan to grab them first in the event of an emergency. 


Masks 
Masks
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Even without the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, keeping N95 or KN95 masks in your emergency kit is a good idea, especially if you live in an area that regularly experiences fires. 


A good knife 
A good knife
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Whether it's a Swiss army knife or just a classic multi-tool, every emergency kit needs a good knife that can be used in pretty much any scenario. 

Basic tools 
Basic tools
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You won't want to lug around a whole toolbox during a disaster, but having a few key items at hand could make things easier. Stock your emergency kit with a crowbar, wrench (to shut off utilities like water), and a screwdriver kit for easy access. 


Emergency blankets 
Emergency blankets
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Mylar blankets may seem weird, but they're an essential addition to a well-stocked emergency kit. They're both great for locking in heat during seriously cold scenarios and can help you stay dry in the event of a hurricane or massive storm. 

A stash of cleaning supplies 
A stash of cleaning suppliesPhoto:  Shutterstock

If your home is flooded, it's likely that a variety of nasty bacteria will be left behind. Disaster preparedness experts recommend keeping at least one gallon of liquid bleach in your home's disaster kit, which can be used for everything from washing dishes (when diluted) to sanitizing surfaces. 

Cash 
Cash
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In addition to your regular savings accounts and emergency funds, keep a small stash of cash in your emergency kit in the event that getting to a bank just isn't possible, or power lines are down and businesses can't accept credit and debit cards. 


Plastic bags for storage and waste 
Plastic bags for storage and waste
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Plastic bags, both zip-lock and garbage bags, can be seriously handy in the event of a disaster. Stock your kit with trash bags for dealing with waste or protecting items that might get wet, and zip-lock bags to store personal items and food. 

Plates, cups, and utensils 
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Doing dishes isn't exactly easy in an emergency, which is why it's a good idea to have disposable plates, cups, and utensils in your emergency kit. If you're staying away from plastic, consider disposables made with bamboo or other renewable materials. 

A sturdy, portable backpack for emergency evacuations 
A sturdy portable backpack for emergency evacuations
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If you have to leave your home, even the most well-stocked emergency kit won't be beneficial if you can't take it with you. Keep a sturdy, roomy backpack with lots of pockets stocked with items that you might need on the go in the event of a hurricane or other weather disaster. 

Maps
Maps
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If there's a power or cell tower outage, you may not have access to apps like Apple Maps. As such, it's never a bad idea to toss a couple of paper maps — and maybe an atlas, if lengthier travel could be necessary — in your emergency kit. 

A sturdy, portable backpack for emergency evacuations 
A sturdy portable backpack for emergency evacuations
Photo:  Shutterstock

If you have to leave your home, even the most well-stocked emergency kit won't be beneficial if you can't take it with you. Keep a sturdy, roomy backpack with lots of pockets stocked with items that you might need on the go in the event of a hurricane or other weather disaster. 

Maps
Maps
Photo:  Shutterstock

If there's a power or cell tower outage, you may not have access to apps like Apple Maps. As such, it's never a bad idea to toss a couple of paper maps — and maybe an atlas, if lengthier travel could be necessary — in your emergency kit. 

Amy McCarthy is a Texas-based journalist. Follow her on twitter at @aemccarthy

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