Emergency Survival Kits

Power outages ... severe storms ... no worries! With a little planning, you can keep your family calm and safe during short-term emergencies.

  • family in storm
    Keep your family safe no matter how severe the conditions by planning ahead and creating a short-term survival kit.
  • survival kit
    From a first-aid kit and wool blankets to a battery-operated radio and refills on prescription medications, there are several items you should keep on hand to keep your family safe in a short-term emergency.
  • Leatherman Juice CS4
    Leatherman's Juice CS4 has a screwdriver, scissors, blades, can opener and more ($58.99 from Amazon).
  • Katadyn water filter
    A portable water filter, such as this Katadyn model, is essential to a good survival kit.
  • MSR multi fuel stove
    MSR's protable, multifuel stove.

  • family in storm
  • survival kit
  • Leatherman Juice CS4
  • Katadyn water filter
  • MSR multi fuel stove

In today’s world of blackouts, big storms, terror alerts and global warming, many of us will experience significant disruptions in the flow of electricity or goods at some point in our lives. Having an emergency survival kit can be a big comfort and aid — maybe even a lifesaver — in such a situation. Stocking up on a few supplies, learning new skills and making an emergency contingency plan don’t have to take a lot of time or money, and these steps will foster peace of mind in turbulent times.

You can’t plan for all possible scenarios, but a wise person plans for the most likely possibilities and stores at least a few basic supplies for emergencies. The tips here will help you evaluate your needs and goals, and plan for short-term emergency situations (72 hours to one week). To help organize your thoughts and guide your actions, ask yourself the following questions before making your emergency response plans and survival kits:

  • What natural hazards are there in my area? Have I taken precautions to protect my home?
  • What is my regional potential for being caught in an earthquake, flood, hurricane or tornado?
  • How long might I be without access to utilities and supplies?
  • If the electricity goes out for an extended period of time, how will I cook, and how will I heat and light my home?
  • Do I have supplies and training to deal with medical emergencies if medical help is unavailable?
  • If I need to evacuate my home, do I have portable emergency supplies readily available?
  • How many people do I wish to store supplies for? What about my friends, neighbors and relatives?
  • Do I have pets that I need to provide for?
  • Do I have children or infants with special needs?
  • Do I, or my family, need prescription medications?

Survival Planning for Short-Term Emergencies

The following information on short-term planning will help you to prepare for emergencies when services are disrupted for periods of up to one week. Everyone should have enough food, water and other emergency supplies to last for at least three days, but preferably two or more weeks.

I suggest making these preparations as soon as possible. It can be difficult to focus on this task when skies are blue and nothing threatens, but it’s often too late if you wait until a disaster strikes or is close at hand. Just the threat of a major winter storm is enough to send swarms of people to local supermarkets to stock up on food, and if highways are closed to delivery trucks for one to two days, local market shelves can quickly become bare.

Short-Term Emergency Preparedness Checklist

  • Store at least one 72-hour emergency survival kit in or near your home, and keep a condensed version in each of your vehicles.
  • Determine a local meeting place with a large, open area (such as a park or school) where the members of your household can gather if you become separated and don’t have access to your home during an emergency.
  • Make sure all capable members of your family know exactly how and where to shut off the water, gas and electricity in your home.
  • Stash spare keys to your vehicles somewhere on the vehicle and an additional set of keys somewhere outside of your home (securely hidden).
  • Store at least a two-week supply of food (with a long shelf life) for your household, including any pets.
  • Store a combination of water, water treatment chemicals and water-purifying filters to provide potable water for your household for at least a week.
  • Keep a survival manual in each car with at least a first-aid kit, spare clothing and a water filter.
  • Get proper first-aid and CPR training for all capable members of your family. The American Red Cross provides first-aid training and assists with local emergency planning.
  • Arrange for an out-of-state emergency contact whom you can reach for communication. After an emergency, it may be easier to call long-distance than locally, or your family may be split up and need someone else to communicate through.
  • Locate your nearest emergency shelter (call your local Red Cross for this information). Practice the route to the shelter if it’s not conveniently located.
  • Make sure you have smoke detectors in your home, and change their batteries yearly.
  • Store your most important documents in one easily accessible location, preferably in a waterproof, flameproof box.
  • Discuss your emergency preparedness plans with all members of your household. Keep the discussion light and positive.

72-Hour Grab-and-Run Survival Kits

These short-term emergency kits should be readily accessible and cover the basic daily needs of your family for a period of at least three days. Please note that three days is the minimal recommendation — you should have at least a two-week supply of food stored in or around your home. You can purchase ready-made, 72-hour emergency kits from various survival supply outlets, or you can put together your own. (One advantage to building your own kits is that you get to choose foods you like.) Remember that all foods have some kind of shelf life. Rotate stores, and use them or lose them. Large families should probably divide up the stores between several small backpacks or plastic containers so they’re easy to grab and transport. Consider including all of the following items in your 72-hour survival kit:

Portable radio, preferably one that can work with dead or no batteries, such as a hand-crank radio, or one powered with both batteries and solar cells.

Matthew Stein
1/26/2011 4:25:40 PM

It is true that dipping matches in wax makes them waterproof, and I did use this method as a child. They do work, but since the wax acts as a lubricant it can be difficult to strike wax covered matches. You can also buy commercial waterproof matches, and a windproof lighter (a hot wire sitting in the flame reignites the flame instantly each time the wind blows it out), that are good items to stock in your emergency kit.

1/26/2011 1:43:42 PM

I've heard that dipping matches in wax makes them waterproof, and that you scrape off the wax when you're ready to use them. Is this true? Wonderful article, by the way.

Matthew Stein
12/13/2010 12:16:49 PM

All of KeithK's comments are spot on. A lot of "survivalist theory" like starting fires with magnesium and flints, or a bow and drill, look great on paper but are a real hassle, and practically impossible if your tinder is damp, and definitely impossible when wet. I always travel in the back country with a couple butane lighters, and they are recommended items in my grab and run kits. Candles have come in handy for me too, and I don't find them worthless.



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