Disaster Survival Kit

Two Words: Duct Tape. (Just Kidding.)

Laura Marrich
5 min read
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According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, there are six basic items that dangle mere inches between you and an uncomfortable demise in any given disaster situation: water, food, a first aid kit, clothing and bedding, tools and supplies and “special items.” Survival experts posit that if you meet each necessity in sufficient quantities, your chance of survival can increase almost exponentially over those who do not. Don’t be a fool — prepare and survive, already!

The following list is an easy reference for the survival-minded. Everything you might need in most survivable disasters is accounted for — but note the word survivable. Let’s say you get caught smack dab in the middle of a nasty nuclear winter. Now, do we actually believe that having all of your necessitous ducks in a row is going to save you from two tons of toxic fallout? Of course not! Not unless you packed some sort of magical protection talisman in there, too. But should you indeed manage to survive, your kit will most likely prove to be at least moderately helpful. You might have to repopulate the planet, after all — and nobody wants to get turned down as a mate because of a lack of fresh underpants. Now, first things first:

The Rules of the Disaster Survival Kit

• Keep items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to-carry container. Possible containers include a large, covered trash container, a camping backpack or a duffle bag.

• Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members.

• Keep a smaller version of the supplies kit in the trunk of your car.

• Keep all items in airtight plastic bags.

• Re-think your kit and family needs at least once a year. Replace batteries, update clothes, etc.


• Water should be stored in plastic containers that will not decompose or break.

• A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day.

• Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount.

• Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need more than the minimum amount of water.

• Store one gallon of water per person per day; that’s two quarts for drinking and two quarts for food preparation/sanitation.

• Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person.

• Change your stored water supply every six months so it stays fresh.


• Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.

• Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water.

• If you must heat food, pack a can of Sterno.

• Select food items that are compact and lightweight.

• Replace your stored food every six months.

• Include a selection of the following foods in your Disaster Survival Kit:
Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
Canned juices
Staples: salt, sugar, pepper, spices, etc.
High energy (calorie) foods: peanut butter, trail mix, beef jerky, etc.
Food for infants
Comfort/stress foods

First Aid Kit

• Assemble at least one first aid kit for your home and one for each car.

• Include a selection of the following first aid supplies in your first aid kit:
Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
Assorted sizes of safety pins
Cleansing agent/soap
Latex gloves (two pairs)
Two-inch sterile gauze pads (four to six)
Four-inch sterile gauze pads (four to six)
Triangular bandages (three)
Nonprescription drugs
Two-inch sterile roller bandages (three rolls)
Three-inch sterile roller bandages (three rolls)
Moistened towelettes
Tongue blades (two)
Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant

• Include a selection of the following nonprescription drugs in your first aid kit:
Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
Anti-diarrhea medication
Antacid (for stomach upset)
Syrup of Ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center)
Activated charcoal (use if advised by the Poison Control Center)

Tools and Supplies

• Include a selection of the following tools and supplies in your Disaster Survival Kit:
Mess kits, or paper cups, plates and plastic utensils
Emergency preparedness manual
Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
Flashlight and extra batteries
Cash or traveler’s checks, change
Nonelectric can opener, utility knife
Fire extinguisher: small canister ABC type
Tube tent
Matches in a waterproof container
Aluminum foil
Plastic storage containers
Signal flare
Paper, pencil
Needles, thread
Medicine dropper
Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
Plastic sheeting
Map of the area (for locating shelters)

• Include a selection of the following sanitation supplies in your Disaster Survival Kit:
Toilet paper, towelettes
Soap, liquid detergent
Feminine supplies
Personal hygiene items
Plastic garbage bags, ties (for personal sanitation uses)
Plastic bucket with tight lid
Household chlorine bleach

Clothing and Bedding

• Include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person, including:
Sturdy shoes or work boots
Rain gear
Blankets or sleeping bags
Hat and gloves
Thermal underwear

Special Items

• Remember family members with special requirements, such as infants and elderly or disabled persons.

• For the baby, include:
Powdered milk

• For the adults, include:
Heart and high blood pressure medication
Prescription drugs: Ask your physician or pharmacist about storing
Denture needs
Contact lenses and supplies
Extra eye glasses

• Pack games and books for entertainment

• Keep these records in a waterproof, portable container:
Will, insurance policies, contracts deeds, stocks and bonds
Passports, Social Security cards, 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)

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