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Four Key Components of the Ultimate Emergency Survival Kit

Viola enjoys passing on the nuggets of wisdom she's collected. She has made eye contact with Robert Redford and chatted with Julia Roberts.

Emergencies can happen at any time. Are you prepared?

Emergencies can happen at any time. Are you prepared?

Why You Need an Emergency Survival Kit

Natural disasters can strike anywhere, anytime. Whether it's a hurricane, earthquake, fire, or flood, a natural disaster can leave you literally powerless for days or weeks.

It's wise to prepare for a disaster in advance since these events can sometimes occur without any notice. An emergency survival kit, officially known as a "Disaster Preparedness Kit (DPK)", can be a lifesaver.

How to Make Your Disaster Preparedness Kit (DPK)

Many survivors of natural disasters agree that food is low on the list. Most of us have enough food in our pantries (and enough calories stored on our waistlines) to last at least a week or more.

More importantly, experts agree, is the ability to communicate with each other and the world. When the power goes out, so too do cell phones, computers, and the ability to access the internet.

In an emergency, you'll want to know about local shelters, where to find emergency assistance, and how to reach loved ones. After that, water and a way to stay warm are critical. Most of your items can be kept in a portable file box or plastic container with a lid.

Being prepared will help you stay calm when and if disaster strikes. Above all else, try not to panic.

Phones may only work for a short time during a disaster.

Phones may only work for a short time during a disaster.

1. Communication Essentials for Your Survival Kit

You'll want to include as many of these communications essentials in your survival kit as possible.

Portable Power Banks for Your Cell Phones

These inexpensive phone chargers can be kept in a purse or backpack in case cell phones die and electricity is out. Keep a charged unit in your survival kit.

Walkie Talkie App

Download a walkie-talkie app, such as Zello. It will turn your phone into a two-way radio, however, the app still requires internet access or cellular data to function.

A Pre-Arranged Meeting Place

Talk with your family about where you will all meet up if members are not home during an emergency and they can't be reached. Will everyone try to get home? Where will you meet if you can't get home?

Write down the location and keep it in your wallet in case panic keeps you from remembering clearly. Keep a copy in your DPK.

Transistor Radio

A battery-operated transistor radio with extra batteries is a good idea for your survival kit.

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Contacts for Loved Ones

If your loved ones live far away, write down the phone number of their neighbor. If cell phones are working but you can't reach your loved one, call the neighbor and ask them to check on your friend or relative.

Real Walkie Talkies

A set of walkie-talkies. Ideally, have one in every car and one at home in case cell towers are out. Plan what channel you'll use ahead of time and keep the channel number in your DPK.

Many inexpensive walkie-talkies have a range of up to 16 miles.


Fresh batteries of all sizes are invaluable in an emergency situation.

Keep a minimum of a gallon of water per person per day.

Keep a minimum of a gallon of water per person per day.

2. Food and Water Essentials for Your Survival Kit

You'll want to prepare as many of these food and water essentials as possible.


One gallon per person per day. The American Red Cross recommends you have enough on hand at home for two weeks should the water supply be cut off or become undrinkable.

Water is necessary for hydration and sanitation. You don't need to have the water in your survival kit, but know where it is stored.


Again, this is low on the list but it is wise to have some non-perishables on hand that doesn't need cooking. Good ideas include peanut butter, canned meats and fruit (and a manual can opener), and nutrition bars or drinks.

Special Dietary Needs

Some people require digestive enzymes or other specialized items, such as infant formula or gluten-free food. Prepare as needed.

Be smart about staying warm during a power outage.

Be smart about staying warm during a power outage.

3. Warmth and Light for Your Survival Kit


Ideally one per person and one per room. Flashlights are preferable over candles since candles can injure or start a fire. Solar-powered or hand-crank flashlights don't need batteries.

Keep these in your survival kit and resist the urge to take them out when it's not an emergency.

Solar Lighting

If you have portable exterior solar-powered lights, bring them indoors at dusk.


Make sure your chimney flue is open if you burn wood indoors for heat. Even if you don't have a wood-burning fireplace, you can create an outdoor rock fire pit and burn firewood to stay warm.


Make sure you have enough matches to last at least two weeks.

Emergency Space Blankets

One per person. These windproof, waterproof, heat-conserving space blankets are lightweight and inexpensive. Keep them in your survival kit and another one in your car.

Be Safe When Using Propane

Don't use a propane heater or a gas or electric stove or oven to try to stay warm. These could be lethal. Only use them for cooking purposes.

Other Emergency Preparedness Ideas to Keep You Safe and Sound

The American Red Cross, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), and have other suggestions to help you prepare for an emergency.

Keeping a supply of life-saving medications such as epinephrine, heart medications, and asthma inhalers as well as ID information and a basic first aid kit in your portable DPK is essential if you need to grab and go quickly.

Some things you might also want to think about:

  • Keep a Bible or paperback book in your survival kit in case you're away from home and without electricity for a while. Sanity saver!
  • Have some cash on hand. In case of a power outage, credit card readers won't work.
  • Don't forget Fido! If you are in a flood zone, do you have a way to tote Toto along? Stash some extra canned dog/cat food in your survival kit, too.

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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