Packing a Disaster Evacuation Kit

The type of disaster kit you should make depends on your needs. If you're in an area where you are likely to evacuate in the event of a disaster, pack your portable kit in road-friendly boxes. If you're likely to be stuck at home without water or power, storing a "kit" really just means dedicating a few shelves to disaster supplies. Of course, even if you expect to stay home—what disaster planners call sheltering in place—it's always a good idea to have a plan which involves packing your supplies quickly and easily into the car for a quick getaway.

Tsunami evacuation sign against a blue sky
Bryan Mullennix / Getty Images

Take It in Small Bits

It may seem overwhelming to pack an entire disaster evacuation kit at once. The trick is to break the kit into little chunks. Start with water and food supplies, then move on to other items.

Concentrate on each section until you have what you need before moving to the next. A disaster evacuation kit should be stored at home, packed, and ready to go in less than 10 minutes.

Tips for Packing and Maintaining Your Kit:

  • Keep things small
  • Store water where it won't freeze, food where it won't get too hot, and everything else wherever you have room. Just be sure you can get to it easily.
  • Pack the entire kit in plastic storage boxes to make them easier to load into the car on short notice. Keep the food in a different container than everything else. Bottled water can be loaded separately.
  • Load everything into the car ahead of time to see how it fits and if you need to make changes.
  • Write down the earliest expiration date for both food and medication. Log the dates in your calendar and check all food and medication on those dates. Replace anything that will expire within six months and start over with the new earliest date.
  • Replace water every year to maintain fresh taste.

Supplies for a Disaster Evacuation Kit

Food and Water:

  • Three gallons of water for each person using the kit
  • 6,000 calories of food per person using the kit (three days' worth)
  • Disposable utensils, plates, and bowls (washing wastes water)
  • Manual can opener
  • Sharp knife
  • Small cutting board
  • Sugar and spices
  • Aluminum foil and plastic wrap
  • Resealable plastic bags

Light and Communication:

  • Portable radio or television and extra batteries
  • Emergency radios that don't require batteries are better
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Whistles for each person
  • Hand-held, two-way radios and extra batteries or chargers

Health and Hygiene:

  • First aid kit including nonprescription medications
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • Dust masks
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Comb and brush
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Contact lenses/solution and glasses
  • Toilet paper
  • Towelettes
  • Soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Liquid detergent
  • Menstrual products
  • Plastic garbage bags with ties for personal sanitation use
  • Medium-size plastic bucket with tight lid
  • Disinfectant
  • Household chlorine bleach

Shelter and Clothing:

  • Complete change of clothing for each person
  • Sturdy shoes or boots (no open toes or heels)
  • Rain gear, hats, and gloves
  • Thermal underwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag for each person

Miscellaneous Items and Safety Gear:

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Utility knife
  • Games and books to pass the time (a deck of cards, easy-to-pack board games, crayons/coloring books, crossword puzzles)
  • Pens and paper
  • Map with emergency shelters marked and their telephone numbers
  • Extra keys
  • Copies of driver's licenses, work identification, and passports
  • Copies of deeds and insurance information
  • Copies of vehicle registration and insurance
  • Cash and two rolls of quarters for vending machines
  • Compass
  • Shovel
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • Resealable plastic bags of various sizes for all types of non-food uses

Special Supplies for the Sick, Nursing Mothers, Elderly, and Infants:

  • Hearing aid batteries (to keep them fresh, use the batteries in the kit and put new ones in whenever you need to change)
  • Special foods
  • Denture supplies
  • Spare oxygen
  • Eyeglasses
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Baby bottles with extra nipples and inserts (if necessary)
  • Breast pump
  • Powdered formula

What to Grab When You Go:

  • Prescription medications, including inhalers
  • Special medical equipment (oxygen tanks or nebulizers)
  • Walkers or wheelchairs
  • Dentures
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • Identification
  • Credit cards
  • Favorite dolls and stuffed animals for small children
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