making a home emergency kit


If there can be any silver lining at all found in the horrific disasters that recently hit New Zealand and Japan, perhaps it’s that many more of us will be better prepared should a similar event occur closer to home. I felt a little like a crazy survivalist when I told my husband I thought we should have an emergency stash of food and water in case “the big one” hits the Pacific Northwest, as seismologists have warned, but Jamie Lee Curtis is making me feel a lot less dorky. As spokesperson for the American Red Cross campaign, Do More Than Cross Your Fingers, she touts her preparedness stance and offers tips for what to put in your emergency kit. I bought a few IKEA SAMLA storage bins for supplies and am starting to fill empty 2-liter plastic bottles with tap water. Originally I was only thinking of storing food and water, but FEMA and the Red Cross suggested much more. So now I will also be packing a First Aid kit, blanket, fleece jackets, some old boots, a Leatherman multi-tool, can opener, flashlight and extra cash. Since an earthquake would likely force us outside our home, I’ll be putting our kit in our detached garage. Depending on the types of catastrophes that could hit your area, an evacuation backpack in your entryway closet or a kit in your basement could make more sense. Have you, too, been inspired by recent events to start an emergency kit, or have you been prepared for a while? What’s in yours? — Ginny F.

From our partners

I put in some canned food the kids would possibly eat because we don’t eat alotta canned food! I found some mac and cheese in a can. Yuck, but ya never know.

After hearing a friend of a friend had to walk 12 miles to get home after the recent disasters in Japan, I was inspired to put together a backpack to store in my car


I, too, need to do a better job of being prepared. I live in the Midwest, where tornadoes are atop the threat list. I can see needing two preparedness kits — one in the basement, for tornadoes, and the other stored somewhere more accessible for evacuation-based emergencies. (Having to schlep down to the basement in case of flood, fire or, rare though it might be, earthquake seems to defeat the purpose of a preparedness kit!)

It’s important to remember things like spare contacts or glasses, prescription medication, shoes, house and car keys. Not all of these things can be kept in a kit all the time, but a checklist in your kit and knowing where these things are at all times are huge helps. You might even want to think about throwing in some toothbrushes or those disposable toothbrush things and some wet wipes or some such. And don’t forget feminine hygiene needs.

Hmmm. Seems I have a serious project ahead of myself here!


I’ve gotten as far as bookmarking and mentally assembling items in the home. My current emergency stash consists only of the remains of a pallet of water bottles from the day I decided to stop using disposable bottles. I wonder what the expiry is there?


As a resident of an earthquake-prone state, I’ve had mine ready for years.

I buy cases of bottled water from Trader Joe’s and put the boxes all over the house and garage. You want to spread out your locations in case one or several isn’t accessible after a quake. I believe it’s the Red Cross that says that as long as the water is properly sealed, it can stay indefinitely. It may start tasting a bit off, but it doesn’t really expire and become dangerous.

For non-food items, I have rope, heavy work gloves, paper towels, duct tape, tarps, plastic garbage bags (you can make a toilet using a bucket and garbage bags) , flashlights, batteries, a wrench (for gas shut off), first aid kits, battery powered radio, extra leash for the dog.

I try to pick food items that I eat and enjoy anyway so that my choices won’t add insult to injury: chocolate/candy, canned pistachios/almonds/cashews, vacuum packed Indian food in pouches, candy, crackers, chips, sardines, dried fruit, energy bars, juice concentrate, and vodka (I’ll probably need a drink or 3). And, food for the dog.

Finally, I have about $100 in 1’s. ATM’s won’t be working and if you do need to buy something – it’s good to have cash and in small denominations.

Wish list: hand cranked radio that has a port so that I can charge my cell phone.

For car kit: women should always include a heavy pair of shoes in the trunk as we’re more likely to be wearing shoes that are not sensible for long walks over debris.


Wow, so many great tips here. I did a Trader Joes run today and started with some canned salmon, soy milk, dried fruit, Joes Os and cereal. Need to look for food in pouches. I think it will be a few weeks until I’m ready, but it feels good to be on the way. Thanks again for the suggestions everyone!

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I really need to update ours too. I am curious about putting the kit in your garage. How is a detached garage more safe/secure than your house? I am sure advice varies; it’s just that in the training I’ve had we were told not to go outside unless the home/bldg we are in is clearly unsafe because so many earthquake injuries here (PNW) are from debris falling off of buildings. Just curious!


k – I don’t remember where I read it. I think the thinking was that perhaps an earthquake would make a home dangerous/unstable. The recommendation was to put the kit in a shed or detached garage where damage would be less extensive. But thanks for bringing it to my attention … I’ll look into that more.

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Sally N

General idea in the Bay Area (Calif.) is to store your supplies outside in a rolling bin (like your municipal garbage can) so that if you needed to move you AND your supplies to another location you could. Don’t know if this would work in less mild climates.

I second laila’s suggestion to have some alcohol. During the big ’89 quake, several neighbors and I gathered over a glass of wine outside our homes—it was a much needed time to come together.

I keep a personal safety fanny pack (albeit very heavy) in the car. The other thing I have which gives me some sense of security is a emergency potty. Earthquakes bring new meaning to the phrase “scared sh*^less”.

I started keeping one of these a few years ago. I forget exactly what it was that prompted it. Well, I do remember being in a hurricane (Isabel in DC area) and finding out I didn’t have batteries or a decent flashlight, so that could have been it. I have limited space in my apartment, and basically have enough to get me by in case of a storm–really a few days. I had to balance the need for having an emergency kit together with the space allowance. I figure if there were a catastrophic terrorist attack on the Capitol, I’d be toast anyway…so the most likely emergency would be a bad storm or something where I’ve lost power for a few days.

I have a few gallons of water, some canned goods, some toiletries (though not much because I figure if I had to leave, I could grab whatever is in my cabinet), a weather radio that works with batteries or a hand crank and also charges cell phones, some toilet paper, a first aid kit, flashlights and batteries. A lot of things I’ve seen suggest keeping blankets, extra towels, and clothes in the kit. Given that I live in a 1 bedroom apartment, I’m pretty sure I could quickly grab those items if I needed to.

One thing I’ve done that has helped me keep it freshly stocked is to keep an inventory of what is in the kit and when it “expires” if that’s the case.

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