Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Having a home emergency disaster preparedness kit is something every household could readily obtain to help during any impending emergency. Whether a severe storm, flood, wildfire, earthquake, pandemic, or any natural or man-made disaster that causes an emergency or power outage, a home emergency disaster preparedness kit has the potential to make an emergency event more enduring, and even lifesaving!

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits
Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

When contemplating preparing for any emergency, the home will usually be the first choice for riding out the disaster, unless your place of residence becomes threatened. Therefore, a home emergency disaster kit may be the most important emergency disaster preparedness kit you build or obtain. The home emergency kit need not be expensive, as long as it is functional.

The Container for a Home Emergency Preparedness Kit

The first consideration is the container in which to store the components of the kit. The container would ideally be waterproof or at least water-resistant to keep the contents dry. During any emergency, there are a number of reasons why such a kit could be exposed to water, besides flooding, such as burst water pipe, leaking roof, fire hose and rain.

A properly sealed container will also help keep the contents clean and operational. A suitable container can be as inexpensive or as elaborate as desired, but it would ideally have a lid or opening that can be fastened closed. Options include a simple plastic storage box, ideally of around 50 to 60 litres (13 to 15 gallons), to a lockable footlocker for extra durability, or even a durable waterproof backpack.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits
Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

The size will of course depend on what supplies you choose to have in your home emergency kit, and on how many people it will potentially service. As such, options include accumulating everything first to determine the container size, or simply obtain a container deemed suitable and build the kit over time as your budget allows.

Following is a list of components deemed suitable and necessary to create a functional home emergency disaster preparedness kit. This information is based on advice from many government bodies around the world, including the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, to help prevail, at a minimum, the first three days of an emergency. We at Survival Aid, however, recommend obtaining a home emergency disaster preparedness kit to survive successfully for a minimum of one week.

Emergency Food

Most authoritative agencies recommend having a minimum of three days’ stored food for each occupant. Long shelf-life is a prerequisite for the home emergency kit, as the kit may well be stored for a long period. Take note of expiration dates, and for convenience write this somewhere on the container or a piece of paper or cardboard, taped to the inside if a clear container is chosen.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Use these food items before they expire and replenish accordingly. Be aware though that many canned goods stay edible after the ‘best-before’ or expiration date. Canned foods are a good option and relatively inexpensive. Remember that infants and pets will need to be catered for too. A compact can opener may also be worthy to include in the kit. Consider having a dedicated storage container solely for food, with some basic rations within the home emergency kit.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

It may be worth to recognise that many canned foods these days, as identified by independent research undertaken by the Breast Cancer Fund for example, leach harmful levels of Bisphenal A (BPA) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), from the epoxy-resin lining inside tin cans. Scientists discovered “significant doses of the potentially dangerous chemical, which has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer”, and other forms of cancer (The Sydney Morning Herald, 9th December 2011). Aim to purchase cans without these toxic plastics.

Freeze-dried foods and packaged meals are an excellent choice, are light weight, but will be more expensive. Specialised long-life emergency preparedness meals are also available, sometimes with a shelf-life of up to 25 years. These include MRE’s (Meals, Ready to Eat), which were originally designed for military use, and generally include entire rations to fulfil the complete dietary requirements for a specified time period. Consider, though, that freeze-dried meals will require water and usually require cooking or adding boiled water.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Emergency Water

Humans can survive up to a week without food, but will usually perish within three days without water. During an emergency, municipal water may be the first resource to be shut off. In preparation for an emergency, both the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and FEMA recommend to have one gallon, or nearly four litres, of water per person per day.

Realistically, this would be an absolute minimum. More may be needed in higher temperatures and if more physical exertion is performed. Pregnant women, babies, the sick and elderly may also consume more water. This quantity is to cover drinking, food and hand washing. It does not include water for showering and toilet flushing. Don’t forget to provide water for pets.

Water storage poses some dilemmas when it may need to be stored for a period of time. Single use plastic water bottles are not designed for long-term storage, and in fact are not food-grade. If they are not BPA (Bisphenal A) free, they will leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals over time.

The best plastic containers for storing potable water are food-grade HDPE (high density polyethylene, #2), of either 10 or 20 litre (2.5 to 5 gallon) volumes. Aim to choose opaque containers to eliminate light penetration and algae and bacterial growth.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Fill these with municipal tap water (do not use the typical garden hose as they are not suitable for drinking water), or take them to be filled at a filtered water shop or station. For long-term storage, consider adding a few drops of pure unscented household bleach to maintain purity. For more information on water purification, check out our ‘Water for Survival’ article.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Boxed water is another good choice for medium to long term storage, some with a shelf-life of up to two years if stored in a cool location. Boxed water uses non-toxic, BPA and phthalate free plastic bladders, and the water is usually chlorine and fluoride free. They are commonly in 10 litre sizes, cubed shaped for more efficient storage, come with a dispenser and relatively easy to carry.

The other dilemma of storing water for emergency preparation is volume. For a family or group of four people, at four litres (one gallon) per person per day, to cater for three days, then 50 litres (13 gallons) would need to be stored. That’s five 10 litre boxes, or realistically three 20 litre containers. This, once again, is an absolute minimum. Consider having at least a few litres within the home emergency disaster preparedness kit.

One tactic is to purchase collapsible water containers, and there are food-grade options available. These are compact and easy to store, and can be filled at the initial stage of an impending emergency. In the event of a disaster, consider filling the bath tub, basins or any sufficient container to use for hygiene maintenance. Additionally, consider purchasing a large food-grade barrel for storing water.


Emergency Lighting

Multiple light sources would be warranted to include in a home emergency preparedness kit, in case one of these fails. Lighting would ideally include a handheld flashlight, a lantern for omni-directional lighting, and a head lantern for hands-free operating, all with spare batteries. Lanterns are ideal for lighting up an entire room.

As with all electrical equipment, do not store batteries in the torches, as batteries will degrade at a much faster rate in any equipment and cause rusting and corrosion. Preferably, store batteries in an enclosed container. Try not to purchase cheap batteries, as these will not store or last as long as better brands.

Consider including a solar rechargeable lantern to save on batteries. Many lanterns and torches these days are rechargeable, but if the power goes out then recharging may be impossible. A good option may be lighting sources that are both rechargeable and use standard batteries.

Emergency authorities seem not to mention glow sticks, but a couple of these may be very useful during an emergency. Glow sticks are cheap, lightweight, compact, can be stored for years and can serve as a signalling device. Same with candles, being an effective light source relied upon by civilisations for centuries, and if used effectively, a heat source as well.

Lighting can be inexpensive. Cheap gear does, however, tend to be poor quality, but may suffice for getting through an emergency. Aim to obtain the best quality possible, as with anything, reliability will be invaluable during an emergency. For more information on this topic, read our article on ‘Camping and Emergency Lighting‘.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

As a side note, I have spoken with many people wanting to purchase high quality hand-held torches with very high luminosity. Such directional torches, of up to 5,000 lumens, are considered an effective self-defence apparatus for temporarily blinding an assailant and as a striking weapon. That is why security guards use them! Unfortunately, during an emergency or disaster, the unscrupulous will often prey upon the more vulnerable.

First Aid Kits

A first aid kit is a prerequisite for any home emergency disaster kit. Many options are available, from the inexpensive to the sophisticated. A basic first aid kit to clean and treat minor cuts and scratches to prevent infection would be a minimum. A first aid kit may already exist in the household which would be suitable for emergencies. Consider that during an emergency, serious medical treatment may not be readily available.


We recommend a family sized kit that is waterproof or water-resistant and able to cater for more than just cuts and scratches, as emergencies can become unpredictable. Aim to have a kit that also treats burns, sprains, closes open wounds, provides splints for broken bones, and either comes with first aid instructions, or better still, invest in a first aid instructional book.

One very good example would be the AMK Mountain Series Explorer First Aid Kit for comprehensive first aid for up to four people. Although a cheaper kit from your local supermarket etc will provide basic first aid. Consider including in the first aid kit any medications that the household would potentially use, particularly aspirin for pain and fever relief, though recognise that these have an expiry date.


Emergency Radio

Most emergency management authorities recommend including, in a home emergency kit, an emergency radio. These will be of value if an emergency lasts more than a few days. Government authorities may likely broadcast emergency messages, including weather forecasts, to inform the public of any circumstances regarding an emergency or disaster. Government authorities may also broadcast the locations of emergency help stations providing food, water and medical assistance.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

There are many options available, ranging from small battery-operated radios to the more elaborate specifically designed for emergency situations. Short to long range radios can be rechargeable with mains power, some have an in-built solar panel, some are charged with a dynamo crank handle (as recommended by FEMA), and some have multiple charging options. Some emergency radios double as a light source. There are also emergency radios with the ability to charge other devices, including mobile phones.

We also recommend having a couple of handheld UHF radios in case an emergency persists. For more information on UHF radios, read our article on the topic.

Respirator Masks

Respirator masks will provide protection from biological and chemical contaminants in the air, mould after flooding, and especially smoke and ash during fires. Do not pack surgical masks in a home emergency kit; these are only useful for preventing splashed liquids from entering the mouth and nose.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

We recommend using an N95 respirator dust mask with valve, which can be used for long periods while not re-inhaling your own carbon dioxide. Medical staff use these, as they filter out 95% of particles 0.3 microns and larger, including viruses and smoke, and provide a decent seal around the face (unless you have a beard). Preferably, pack at least two for each household member. Also consider including standard dust masks for those that become ill, which will provide rudimentary health protection for others.

Duct Tape

Duct tape may well be the miracle item to help endure any emergency. Duct tape can be effective in the temporary repairing of countless items including tools, torn clothing, damaged bags and containers, broken windows, and is imperative for sealing doors and gaps to keep air pollutants and the cold out.

It can be used as temporary rope and in some first aid treatments. Even NASA uses duct tape on every space mission. Duct tape is incredibly versatile and cheap, so a couple of rolls would be warranted.

Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies
Duct tape for emergencies

Plastic Sheets

FEMA recommends having plastic sheets in the home emergency kit, that could be used for repairing broken windows with duct tape, for example. Plastic sheets may help in sealing out external air contaminants, and provide some insulation during winter black-outs, and even to set up a basic make-shift tent as an inside shelter to help contain body temperature.

They may also be useful for setting up make-shift quarantine facilities during a pandemic. Plastic sheets may not be high on the priority list, but there could be emergency scenarios where they would be useful. This would include radiological or biological threats, which may be an indication of FEMA’s list of concerns.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Garbage Bags

Durable garbage bags have many uses during an emergency and are often included in many emergency preparedness kits. Poor sanitation is usually a significant threat during a disaster and plastic garbage bags would be needed to contain contaminants, apart from general rubbish, such as human waste and contaminated clothing.

If the water stops flowing to the household in an emergency. Include plastic or metal ties to seal off garbage bags when full. Large garbage bags can also be made into raincoats and rain protection coverings.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits
Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

PPE should include work gloves, such as rigger or cut-resistant gloves. Injured hands can be extremely debilitating in an emergency. Some form of safety rated eye protection is also important, although surprisingly, emergency management authorities don’t seem to include them.

Emergency Whistle

An emergency location whistle will let others know where you are if you need help.

Emergency whistle

Note Pad & Pen

FEMA recommends a note pad and pen or pencil to include in the home emergency kit but don’t explain why. Reasons could include writing down instructions or directions for you or others to use. A waterproof pen and note pad can be extremely beneficial during an emergency, however they are certainly the more expensive option.

Waterprrof note pad
Waterproof pen

Fire Starting

Include a lighter and/or matches for lighting candles, and you may have a gas or wood/charcoal barbeque or camp stove for cooking and boiling water.

Waterproof matches

Basic Tools

Predominantly, include an adjustable wrench and pliers to turn off the gas (if plumbed to the house), and to turn off the water if the plumbing could be compromised. A cheap set may suffice, as long as it doesn’t break during the first use, especially during an emergency. Aim for the best quality that can be afforded.

Interestingly, authorities do not recommend a multi-tool and a knife. However, a half decent quality multi-tool could be advantageous during an emergency for a number of unforeseen reasons. These usually come with a knife which would be beneficial for a number of purposes, including assisting in first aid, cutting rope, tape and plastic sheet for example.

Emergency Hygiene

Hand sanitiser, soap, wet wipes, paper towels, toilet paper, feminine supplies, disposable gloves, spare toothpaste and brushes, hand/tea towels, insect repellent etc. During an emergency, if there is no electricity and/or running water, poor hygiene can become deadly. Having the basics to maintain hygiene will help fight off the spread of viruses and other pathogens. For more on hygiene, check out our article on ‘Hygiene and Health Protection’.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Copies of Documents

Have copies of important documents, as either hard copies or saved to a USB flash drive, such as drivers licence, insurance policies, registration papers, contact phone numbers, passports, legal documents, photos, birth and marriage certificates etc. We recommend looking into storing such documents on a USB flash drive that can be encrypted or locked in case of theft.


FEMA recommends having paper maps of your local area as part of the home emergency kit. Paper maps are inexpensive and may be indispensable during emergencies and power outages, or if GPS or mobile phone battery power is limited. Alternatively, custom maps can be printed off the internet, and simply mark on them your required way points.

Have already marked out on your map the locations of hospitals, friends and relatives etc, including the best route to take, to help navigate to such locations if needed. It may also be necessary to evacuate the home, and a good quality map, preferably topographic, would help guide the way. A great choice are HEMA maps of local regions, that depict both urban areas at a 1:15,000 scale and the surrounding regions at 1:50,000 scale, as these provide a good comprehensive overview.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits


Pack small denominations of cash in the home emergency kit. In the event of an emergency where the power goes out, some shops may elect to stay open but will only accept cash payments. Smaller denominations reduce the chance of not receiving any change. We recommend concealing cash inconspicuously within the home emergency kit, to reduce the chance of theft.

Extra Mobile Phone Charger

The mobile (cell) phone can be the most critical survival item you have. Having a charged phone may be necessary to contact emergency authorities for assistance. A mobile phone would also be necessary to contact family and friends, and to be kept informed of what is happening in the greater community. Include, in the kit, a charger for each of the different phone types used within the household.


Include a deck of cards, puzzles, compact board games etc. Many people, especially children, will become bored as soon as the power goes out. After any length of time, boredom can lead to frustration which could result in irrationality, complacency and mistakes being made. It would be imperative to provide some form of entertainment to keep the brain distracted and occupied.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Back-Up Battery Bank

A battery bank can be critical for charging, for example, a lantern or a mobile phone. Aim to obtain a battery bank of more than 10,000 milli-amp hours for optimum value. A great option are those that have a built-in solar panel for dual recharging options.

Bath Wipes

Surprisingly, emergency authorities that we researched did not recommend these. If during an emergency the water and/or electricity is shut-off for more than a day, personal hygiene will soon become an issue.

Bath wipes are effective at keeping the entire body hygienically clean. That’s why hospitals use them. I personally have gone a week with only using bath wipes while camping, and felt as fresh as if having being showered.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Portable Power Station

Portable power stations are increasing in popularity for many reasons, one in particular being to cope in an emergency or when the power goes out. Emergency management authorities do not mention portable power stations, however, they would be an absolute game changer in regards to living comfortably during an emergency.

Portable power stations are increasingly replacing generators. Advantages over a generator include ease of portability, silent operation, they don’t produce exhaust and can operate inconspicuously. A portable power station can be very useful, if not lifesaving, in any emergency power-outage to:

  • Keep the fridge running
  • Power heating or cooling appliances
  • Charge or power entertainment devices
  • Charge rechargeable gear like lanterns and torches
  • Power home medical equipment
  • Power and charge computers and mobile phones
  • Power mains power lamps
  • Power appliances to cook and boil water

We recommend having the associated solar panels in case the power goes out for more than a couple of days, which would keep the portable power station running for any length of time. Also include USB and power charging cables to charge any of the devices previously mentioned. We use and very much trust Ecoflow portable power stations (check out our review of the Ecoflow River Max). For more information on Ecoflow:


A home emergency disaster kit would ideally be the first form of preparedness most people would implement for a potential emergency or disaster. Get everyone in the family involved in developing a home emergency kit so that if an emergency does occur, everyone is familiar in the function and implementation of the kit. The home emergency preparedness kit would ideally need to be designed for individual preferences and household circumstances.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits
Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Back-ups, redundancy and contingency strategies are really what preparedness for an emergency or disaster is all about. There is no point in having just one source of lighting, for example, if that lighting source malfunctions. If, during an emergency, an evacuation is required, it will be advantageous to be able to take your home emergency kit with you.

Most government emergency management authorities recommend preparing for a potential disaster with an emergency kit, and as we say at Oz Survival Aid, anything is better than nothing. Consider how life altering it would be if the power and/or water were to be cut-off. The future is becoming increasingly uncertain, and the best way to protect yourself and your family is having a home emergency preparedness kit.

Home Emergency Preparedness Disaster Kits

Home Emergency Disaster Preparedness Check List

  • Container
  • Non-perishable food
  • Can opener
  • Water
  • Water containers
  • Handheld torch
  • Head lantern
  • Lantern
  • Glow sticks
  • Candles
  • First Aid Kit
  • Emergency radio
  • Respirator masks
  • Duct tape
  • Plastic sheets
  • Garbage bag & ties
  • Work gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Emergency whistle
  • Note pad & pen
  • Lighter / matches
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Pliers
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Soap
  • Wet wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Feminine supplies
  • Disposable gloves
  • Spare toothpaste/brushes
  • Hand/tea towel
  • Insect Repellent
  • Document copies
  • Maps
  • Cash
  • Extra Mobile Phone Charger
  • Entertainment items
  • Battery bank
  • Bath wipes
  • Portable Power Station

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