NC State Extension Publications

Preparing the Kit

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Disasters happen anytime and anywhere. Is your family prepared to cope with an emergency until help arrives? You need to prepare now before a disaster strikes. Put together a disaster supplies kit. When you’ve gathered supplies, discuss an emergency plan. Then you will be better able to stay at home with no water or electricity.

Use the following checklist as a guide to see what supplies your family will need. To be ready for a disaster, you will need to stock the basics: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, emergency supplies and tools, and special items. You will need these items if your family is confined at home.

Water, Food, and Clothing

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Water is the most important item. Purchase bottled water and keep it on hand at all times.

If necessary, store water in a plastic container, such as clean soft drink bottles, and avoid using containers that could contaminate the water, decompose, or break. To keep stored water fresh, change it every 6 months.

A normally active person needs to drink at least 2 quarts of water each day. If it’s hot and you are very active, you need twice as much. Children, nursing mothers, and sick people will need more.

  • Store at least one gallon of water per person per day (two quarts for drinking and two quarts for food preparation, washing dishes, and bathing). Two gallons per person is better.
  • Keep at least a three-day supply of water for each person in your household, more if you have a place to store it.
  • Include bleach for purifying additional water if supplies run out.
  • Coffee filters may be used to remove sediment before purifying water.
  • You will need extra fuel for boiling water if the stored supply runs out.
  • Include a medicine dropper or 18 teaspoon and 14 teaspoon measuring spoons for measuring bleach.

If the main water line was turned off before the emergency, the water in the pipes will be safe to use. Water in the hot water heater and toilet tank (not the bowl) also should be safe. When purifying water, use 16 drops from a medicine dropper or 14 teaspoon of chlorine bleach for each gallon of water. If the water is not clear even after filtering, double the amount of purifying agent. If a slight bleach odor does not remain after 30 minutes, do not use the water.


Keep a two-week supply of nonperishable food at home in case of a disaster. Since gas or electricity could be off during an emergency, select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation, or cooking, and little or no water. Rotate the food with newly purchased food supplies to ensure freshness. You may need some fuel source if you want to heat food.

Buy the size container that can be used in one meal.

Make sure you purchase foods that you and your family like, as well as foods that have a long shelf-life. Because they contain liquids, canned fruit, vegetables, and fruit juices are excellent choices.

Consider the following for your disaster supply kit:

  • Ready-to-eat canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned juices, milk, soup (if powdered or concentrated store extra water), cheese spreads
  • Staples (sugar, salt, and pepper)
  • High-energy foods (peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix, dried fruit, and nuts)
  • Vitamins
  • Foods for infants, elderly persons, or those on special diets
  • Comfort foods, such as cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee, and tea bags
  • Canned meats such as tuna and Vienna sausage

To prepare food, include the following:

  • Charcoal
  • Wood for the fireplace
  • Fuel cups—Sterno
  • Gas for gas grill

Clothing and Bedding

Remember that your air conditioner or furnace might be out. Be sure you can get to your clothing that is appropriate for very high or very low temperatures.

First Aid Kit

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Store your kit in a convenient place, and make sure everyone knows where it is. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about storing prescription medicines. Keep a first aid kit at home and another in each car. Store items in airtight plastic bags. A first aid kit should include:

  • Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
  • Tongue depressors for small splints
  • Gauze pads (2-inch and 4-inch)
  • Roller bandages (3-5 rolls)
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
  • Assorted sizes of safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Cleaning agent or soap
  • Tweezers
  • Latex gloves
  • Needle
  • Sunscreen
  • Moist towelettes
  • Antiseptic (alcohol and antibiotic ointment)
  • Thermometer

Non-prescription drugs

  • Aspirin or other pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid (for stomach upset)
  • Syrup of Ipecac (used to induce vomiting if advised by Poison Control Center)

Emergency Supplies and Tools

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  • Cash
  • Pliers
  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • Tape
  • Cell phone (fully charged)
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Compass
  • Cameras to document damage
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils
  • Plastic storage containers
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Signal flare
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Plastic trash bags
  • Utility knife
  • Needle, thread
  • Fire extinguisher, ABC-type
  • Wrench to turn off household gas and water
  • Tube tent
  • Medicine dropper / measuring spoons
  • Whistle
  • Plastic sheeting / tarpaulin
  • Paper and pencil


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  • Toilet paper
  • Towelettes
  • Soap, liquid detergent
  • Feminine supplies
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Household chlorine bleach (without scent)
  • Coffee filters (for water sanitation)

Special Items

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For Baby

  • Formula
  • Diapers
  • Bottles
  • Powdered milk
  • Medications
  • Baby food

For Adults

  • Heart and high blood pressure medication
  • Insulin
  • Prescription drugs
  • Denture needs
  • Contact lenses and supplies
  • Extra eyeglasses
  • Incontinence products

For Pets

  • Food
  • Water
  • Litter
  • Medications


  • Games and books

Important Family Documents

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Even if you do not need family records during an evacuation, they must be protected. Records are difficult to replace and may delay insurance claims or other important matters. You will need information about income, debts, insurance, and other financial data to apply for certain kinds of assistance. Keep these records in a waterproof, fireproof, portable container, and store copies of each in a separate, safe location.

  • Will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds
  • Passports, social security cards, and immunization records
  • Bank account numbers
  • Credit card account numbers and companies
  • Inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers
  • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)


Skip to Summary

Remember the six basics you need to include – water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items.

  • Reminder - To keep stored water fresh, change it every 6 months.

For More Information

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For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.

Adapted by Wilma Hammett and Dorothy Miner from Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit, American Red Cross and FEMA, 1992.


State Program Leader for Family & Consumer Sciences & Professor
Agricultural & Human Sciences
Extension Food Safety Specialist and Associate Professor
Agricultural & Human Sciences

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Nov. 30, 2014
Revised: March 25, 2020

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