Build Your Home Emergency Kit with These Essentials

home emergency kit - candles

Is your house prepped for an emergency? Adding a few simple items – like candles – to a home emergency kit can make you ready for anything. Image: JR-stock/Shutterstock

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If the wide range and vast number of natural disasters that have impacted the US in the last year are any indication, we need to be ready. When you watch these events unfold on the news, it’s easy to feel like they’re happening in a parallel universe. But, you never know when disaster will come knocking at your back door. That’s why having a home emergency kit prepped is so important.

Last December, we had just put up our Christmas tree and were enjoying a glass of wine in its light when we noticed the sky turn orange. Within hours, we had evacuated out of the path of the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in California history at the time. Over the next few days, I thought about everything I assumed we’d lost. Ultimately, the incredible efforts of the firefighters saved our neighborhood. But it taught me a valuable lesson.

With that in mind, I’ve started putting together a home emergency kit. From my research and based on recommendations from various disaster preparedness agencies, here are the seven items we should all have stocked and ready.

home emergency kit - pantry

Stock your pantry with the essentials. Image: Switlana Symonenko/Shutterstock

Food & water

While facing disaster meant evacuating for us, it can also mean you need to batten down the hatches. If you get trapped at home and need to quite literally wait out the storm, you’ll need food and water. It’s recommended that you have enough water for three days of survival, and experts say “enough” means one gallon per person per day.

Keep plenty of nonperishables stocked that you can prepare without a heat source, too. And if you rely on an electric can opener, tuck a manual into your emergency prep area. Generally, you should have enough food stocked in your pantry to last you a week and should put three day’s worth in your go bag (more on that below).


If you lose electricity, light will be key. Give yourself a few different options in your home emergency kit. While flashlights are easier if you need to head outside, lanterns can make it less of a chore to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Plus, they’re handy if you need to perform any task with both of your hands.

It’s a good idea to have a mix of solar and battery operated lights and plenty of extra batteries. Throw some candles in the mix, too. They can add a nice sense of calm during an emergency and can save you from having to fumble around for batteries in the dark.

home emergency kit - bag

Have a bag packed and ready to go. Keeping a carry on ready makes it easier to get out the door. Image: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

A go bag

The one thing I wish I’d had ready to grab was a go bag. This can save you a ton of stress when you need to hurry out the door. In addition to the few days’ supply of food, add a few changes of clothes and personal hygiene essentials. Then add medication (a seven day supply), cash and important personal documents.

These should include birth certificates, the deed to your house, proofs of insurance, passports and social security cards. If you have a filing system where you keep these documents normally, keep them all in one folder. Then, put a visual reminder (like a big yellow tag that reads “DOCUMENTS”) on your go bag so you remember to grab it.

Cell phone chargers

During an emergency, being able to keep in touch with loved ones can take an absolutely huge amount of stress off you. Make sure you have cell phone chargers ready in your home emergency kit. Just like the lights, you want to mix up your power sources. Batteries come in handy at night, but solar power is an essentially infinite power source if you can find sunlight.

Since your phone will be an essential tool during a disaster, prep it. It’s smart to store a note in your phone with important emergency contact numbers, like the number for your local fire and police departments. Also, download some local maps so you can access them even if your cell service goes down.

home emergency kit - first aid

Your first aid kit doesn’t need to be this conspicuous, but it does need to be stocked. Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

First aid kit

When a disaster comes your way, you can’t predict what it will bring. You should have a stocked first aid kit at the ready in your home emergency kit. It’s a good idea to put a smaller version in your car, as well.

Hand-crank radio

Nothing is quite as stressful as having a disaster coming your way – and not knowing what’s coming next. A hand-crank radio can keep you in the know. An NOAA weather radio is a reliable option and you can grab it on Amazon for just $40. That’s a small price to pay for information when that information can help bring you peace of mind.

N95 mask

In California, we’ve learned the importance of N95 masks for keeping smoke out and keeping lungs healthy. But in the few days after the Thomas Fire, every store in our area was completely sold out of these masks. Have a box on hand so you’re ready.

These aren’t just applicable for fires, either. Disasters can stir up airborne debris or cause gas or fumes to be released into the air. Having a mask handy can help you avoid respiratory problems.

Do you keep a home emergency kit ready? Let us know in the comments!

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