Your emergency kit, aka disaster kit, bug-out bag or go-bag, is an essential part of your emergency plan. Depending on how well you’ve stocked yours, your chances of faring well in a disaster can be high or low. However, you tip the scales in your favor when you’ve got the bare necessities – and more – packed and ready to go. So, when do you pack an emergency kit? What items need to be in your emergency kit? And how much of those items do you need to pack? You’ll find answers to these questions and more in this article.

When to prepare your emergency kit

The best time to put your emergency kit together is before a crisis or disaster strikes. The saying “In times of peace, prepare for war” holds true here. Natural disasters can occur or progress faster than predicted; so waiting for a warning before you start assembling your emergency kit can be dangerous. Moreover, some disasters (gas leaks, chemical spills, fire outbreaks, terrorist attacks etc.) can’t be predicted.

Basic emergency kit checklist

We’ll start by listing out the basic things every emergency kit ought to have. You may choose to buy a pre-assembled disaster kit or assemble your emergency kit by yourself. Whichever one you choose, your disaster kit should contain:

  • Water
  • Non-perishable food
  • First aid kit
  • Medication
  • Medical supplies (inhalers, contact lens and cleaner, hearing aids etc.)
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight
  • Waterproof matches or gas lighters
  • 2-way radio
  • Backup batteries
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Phone charger (spare cellphone and battery where possible)
  • Emergency weather radio
  • Toiletry kit (personal hygiene supplies)
  • Wipes
  • Feminine care products for women (tampons, pads, liners etc)
  • Washcloths or hand towels
  • Change of clothes
  • Emergency blanket
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Printed list of emergency contacts
  • Copies of important documents (store with emergency contact list in a waterproof pouch)
  • Spare cash

This is a list of basic items for one person. If you have a child (or a baby), in addition to their clothings and any medication they might be on, include:

  • Diapers
  • Baby food
  • Toys, games or puzzles

Additional items you may add:

  • Face masks (N95 or surgical)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to seal of contaminated spaces)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Survival cooking stove
  • Mess kit
  • Safety shoes
  • Consider installing a family tracker app to keep tabs on your family if you get separated

You’ll need a sturdy bag or container to store them in. A large bag with multiple pockets would do. If you decide to use a storage container, it should be lightweight, well-built and come with grips or handles. Although moving around with it on foot might be a hassle, it’ll fit well and transport easily in a car boot.

How much to pack?

It’s nearly impossible to accurately predict how long a natural disaster and its effects will last. And this is also true for any other type of emergency. However, the general consensus is to pack 3 to 7 days worth of items in your evacuation go-bag. This means that if you live alone, pack enough supplies to last a week. On the other hand, if you’re packing a go-bag for your family, you’ll have to pack enough to last everyone for about a week. For sheltering at home, store enough supplies to last you and your family for 2 weeks. Take any special needs that members of your family might have into consideration as you put yours together. If you have a pet, preparing an emergency plan and kit for them is also important.

To make the process of assembling your emergency kit less demanding, break it smaller tasks. You can put aside some money weekly for items you’ll need to buy. If you’d rather get the whole thing over and done with, set aside a weekend and a reasonable sum. And have fun with the process; you just might learn a thing or two.

Emergency kit preparation tips

Water

Events like storms, hurricanes and flooding can cut off or contaminate drinking water. Always make sure you have enough water stored at home for when you’ll need to shelter at home. Store enough water to last for 2 weeks. For your evacuation emergency kit, include a gallon of water for each day. This means that if you’re preparing a family emergency kit, you’ll add 3 gallons for each person to last at least 3 days.

All that water can take up space and make your kit heavy. First pack the quantity of water your go-bag can take without sacrificing other items. After that, consider stocking up on iodine tablets to purify water on the go. Filter straws are also a good idea. If you run out of water while sheltering at home, they can also be used to purify suspicious water, after you’ve boiled it to rolling boil for a full minute.

Food

Store non-perishable food in your house for when emergencies make food shopping difficult. Power might also be out so it’s important that your emergency stock is ready-to-eat. Aim to have food that meet your dietary needs and household’s. Remember to consider any special needs in your family as your stock up on food. Here are some food suggestions:

  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned meat
  • Non-perishable milk
  • Baby food and ready-to-drink formula
  • Food bars
  • Comfort food (e.g. chocolate)

Always check for expiration dates on the products you intend to store. Make a note to replace them as their expiry dates draw near. This way, your kit will be in proper order and thus useful to you. Store your emergency kit in a place where it’ll be out of the way yet easily reachable. Your car boot and hallway closet should serve as good storage spaces. You can put a kit in your work place and have your kids keep a mini emergency kit in their school lockers. After all, emergencies are unpredictable.

If you have pets, consider making an emergency kit for them. You can also discuss your emergency plans with neighbours and help them where you can. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the emergency kit is stored. And that they’re mindful not to move except to replace its contents. Putting together is an emergency kit is like buying accident insurance. You do it not because you look forward to using it; but because you know that if the time ever comes for it, you’d be glad you did.