This article appears in Disaster Prep 2018.

Because it’s better to be ready, an emergency kit is a good thing to have in case you and your family need to make a quick getaway.

“After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life,” said Michelle Ralston, a spokeswoman with the Federal Emergency Management Agency/U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“When something bad happens, time is of the essence and mere seconds can mean the difference between life and death,” said disaster preparedness instructor Andrew Pontius. Certified as a disaster relief responder with the Salvation Army and Hope Force International, Pontius shares educational resources at Bug Out Bag Academy,

“Having a go bag (also known as a bug-out bag or 72-hour bag) pre-packed with everything you need to make your getaway means you can spend those crucial moments getting to safety instead of scrambling to grab the essentials and potentially forget critical supplies in the midst of all the chaos … or worse yet, not make it out in time at all,” Pontius said.

Bug out bags are not a one-size-fits-all solution. An emergency kit should be specific to the needs of everyone in your home as well as customized to your particular climate and skill level. Learn more about building a kit at

— Duration: “A go bag’s contents should be able to provide for at least 72 hours of food, water and shelter,” Pontius said. “As a general rule of thumb, this is the average duration it takes rescue crews to locate and retrieve people in times of disaster. This is also the amount of time that a person can generally survive without water, although you should plan for having plenty of water on hand during those three days.”

— Water: Have one gallon of water per person, per day for at least three days. This includes water for drinking and sanitation, Ralston said. For tips on storing water and other safety considerations, visit

— Food: “Non-perishable, calorie-rich nutrients such as energy/protein bars are lightweight and easy to pack and eat on the go. Datrex bars are a survival ration intended for this purpose. Pack some gum as well to help curb hunger cravings, and keep your mouth moist and breath fresh,” Pontius said.

— Personal info: Carry copies of identifying documents such as your driver’s license, passport and birth certificate along with immunization records and anything else that would be helpful for emergency crews, such as paperwork identifying your blood type, medications and any medical conditions. “You’ll also be glad to have spare cash on you as ATMs and card swipes may not work,” Pontius said.

— Clothing: Dressing in layers will help accommodate different weather scenarios and regulate your body temperature. Choose clothing made of moisture-wicking material such as polypropylene, polyester and wool. In addition to clothes, add a hat, gloves and multi-purpose scarf.

— Electronics: “A solar charger for your phone is relatively affordable and worth every penny when you need the extra juice,” Pontius said. A lightweight power bank with extra USB cables will be worth the added ounces, and a compact solar lantern that doubles as a USB-charging device works well for emergency situations.

— Important extras: Add in flashlights, a first-aid kit and extra batteries, along with a whistle to signal for help, Ralston said. “Have a dust mask for each person in your home to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place. (Include) moist towels, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, manual can opener for food and local maps,” she added.