Preparing an Emergency Kit/Supplies


September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. Throughout the month, I am going to post a series of articles about saving money while preparing for emergencies.

I've decided to take this opportunity to update the information I posted last year regarding preparing an emergency kit that wouldn't cost a fortune.

Emergencies can range from natural disasters to terrorist actions or even just plan old accidents. Yes, accidents can really cause citywide emergencies. Whether you live in an area that gets lots of storms or somewhere that you never expected to have a problem, I recommend having an emergency kit that will last at least three days in an emergency but four or five days would be better. Why three days you ask? FEMA has stated that in the event of a catastrophe, it can take three days for emergency crews to arrive. While they might arrive in three days, it could take longer for them to set up and start helping.

Once you've prepared your emergency kit it's important to check it once in a while. If you're lucky and don't have an emergency, food might expire and batteries might die. Therefore, just like changing the batteries in your smoke detectors, I recommend checking your kit every six months. If anything is close to expiration then replace it.

Below I have created a list of must haves and suggestions for your kit. You don't need to buy a special container but if you are going to purchase one, I recommended something plastic so it's waterproof if the disaster is a flood. A plastic container with a lid will also keep bugs out if you are storing your kit in a basement or garage. I personally keep the food on a shelf in my pantry and I have flashlights in most rooms of my apartment. Perhaps I shouldn't call it kit, as much as a plan.

The items I am recommending can all be purchase for $1 or less on sale. A full emergency kit shouldn't cost more than $20. Less if you live alone, more if you have multiple mouths to feed.

Flashlights - Make sure to store the flashlights without the batteries because you don't want the batteries to crust and damage the flashlights. This type of problem is even more common with dollar store flashlights and batteries.

Radio - Battery operated radios are great for keeping up on what's going on. Play around with the dials and you'll find a station somewhere, probably on the AM channels, where the emergency messages are playing. Dollar stores will have really small radios with earbuds. You don't need something fancy, just something with a tuning dial.

Batteries - You should have any batteries that you will need for items like flashlights, radios, and other necessary electronics. Most flashlights take C or D batteries while portable radios might use AA if small and D is larger.

Non-perishable food - Whether you have a few cans of tuna fish or something else, remember that if there's no power you won't be able to refrigerate or heat food. Most canned foods are good for a few years, but they do still expire which is why I suggest checking your kit every six months and replace food that is close to the end.

Pet food - You're preparing for yourself, what about your pets? If you use dry food you should already have it around but if you use wet food, keep a few extra cans around, the smaller size if possible. Since you won't have a refrigerator, you can't store leftovers for the next meal and will need a fresh can.

Hand can opener - Having cans of food is great. Not being able to open them because you have an electronic can opener isn't. You can get a cheap can opener at the dollar store, so keep it around for an emergency.

First Aid Kit - Basic first aid items like assorted bandaids, alcohol wipes, instant ice packs and heating pads, and OTC pain killers.

Entertainment - No computers, no video games? Make sure you have something to keep you mind occupied like playing cards, books, or puzzles.

Water - Emergencies might contaminate water supplies or freeze the pipes, so keep bottled water around. The most common recommendation is one gallon per person per day. So for a three day emergency kit, keep three gallons per person.

If you have any additional suggestions, please leave a comment. Remember this is just a bare minimum emergency kit. Depending on where you live, other items might be necessary for an emergency kit. Check out for all of FEMA's recommendations.


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