NC State Extension Publications


Disasters happen anytime and anywhere. Is your family prepared to cope with an emergency? Could you evacuate quickly? 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 endure an evacuation if it becomes necessary.

Preparing the Kit

Skip to Preparing the Kit

Use the following as a guide to see what supplies your family will need for a lengthy stay in a shelter. Remember a Red Cross Emergency Shelter provides shelter only. It may not have other supplies. Pack water, snack foods, sanitation supplies (diapers, toilet tissue, feminine hygiene products), and any special foods or medicines like insulin, heart tablets, diabetic food, or baby foods.

To make a stay in a shelter more comfortable, also take bedding (sleeping bag, blanket, pillow), extra clothing, eating utensils, flashlight, portable radio, extra batteries, reading materials, and games or hobbies that will help pass the time. Keep items that are most likely needed during an evacuation in an easy to carry container such as a large, covered trash container, a camping backpack, or a duffel bag.


Water is the most important item. 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 six months.

A normally active person needs to drink at least two 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.
  • Pack a three day supply of water for you and your family.


Keep a two week supply of nonperishable food at home in case of a disaster. 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.

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 evacuation disaster 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

Clothing and Bedding

Pack at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person.

  • Sturdy shoes or work boots
  • A change of clothes (appropriate for the weather)
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Underwear, socks
  • Lightweight folding chairs
  • Pillow(s)
  • Cloth face masks for every member of your family aged 2 and older

Emergency Supplies

  • Cash
  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • Cell phone (fully charged)
  • Compass
  • Cameras to document damage
  • Paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Paper and pencil


  • Toilet paper
  • Towelettes
  • Feminine supplies
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Soap
  • Disinfecting wipes

Special Items

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

Pack any non-prescription drugs that you think you might need.

  • Aspirin or other pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid (for stomach upset)


  • Games and books

Important Family Documents

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 to include the basics – water, food, clothing and bedding, emergency supplies, and special items. Keep the items you need during an evacuation in an easy-to-carry container, like a large covered trash container, a campus backpack, or a duffel bag.

  • Change your stored water every six months so it stays fresh.
  • Rotate your stored foods every six months.
  • Make sure all family members know where the evacuation kit is located.

For More Information

Skip to For More Information

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

Adapted by Dr. Wilma Hammett and Dr. Sarah Kirby from Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit, American Red Cross and FEMA, 1992.

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: June 3, 2014
Revised: Aug. 3, 2020

N.C. Cooperative Extension prohibits discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status.