Must-Have Items for Your At-Home Emergency Kit

When emergencies occur suddenly, you’ll want to be prepared. The American Red Cross suggests having two different kits: an on-the-go kit and an at-home kit. Here, we’re going to focus on the at-home kit.

How much water should you have on hand for a crisis? How much money should you set aside just in case? If you want to prepare yourself and your family for an emergency, learn what experts recommend. Here is everything you should stock for a home emergency kit.

Enough Water For At Least Three Days

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), you’ll want to pack enough water for at least three days. Expect every person to drink a gallon of water per day. So if three people live in a house, you’d need nine gallons of water for three days.

A man grabs a gallon of water off the shelf before a big winter storm hits.
Gabe Souza/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Gabe Souza/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

You can buy gallons of water or fill empty gallon containers with tap water. Store the water in a cool, dark location such as a basement. For long-term storage, consider using plastic or glass bottles. You can use stainless steel if you don’t intend to clean the water with chlorine.

A Portable Radio

If the electricity goes out and your phone dies, what will you have for communication? For these types of emergencies, you’ll need a portable radio. The radio should be powered by hand cranking, batteries, or solar power. That way, you’ll be able to connect to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for emergency broadcasts.

A man speaks through a portable radio.
Yelena AfoninaTASS via Getty Images
Yelena AfoninaTASS via Getty Images

If you buy a battery-powered radio, stock up on backup batteries. Consider getting a power bank that will charge the radio through a USP port. Some emergency radios can be charged in all ways: solar, hand cranking, batteries, and power bank.

Face Masks

In case of a fire creating smoke, you’ll want a face mask. Depending on which kind you get, these masks can filter out chemicals, germs, and air pollution. Most are one-time only use, but you can buy some reusable ones that you can wash.

Residents of the Phillippines wear face masks while sitting in chairs.
TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images
TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images

There are three tiers of dust masks. The first is a disposable cloth mask, which doesn’t filter out chemicals. The second, respirators, guard against smoke and pollutants. Finally, full-face reusable respirators are the most protective. Check the prices and decide which type will be the most appropriate for your family and environment.

A Three-Day Supply Of Food

Like water, you’ll want to store at least three days’ worth of nonperishable food. Remember to buy foods that your family will actually eat, and avoid overly-salty meals that will make people thirsty. Dehydrated and canned foods are your best bet.

A woman stacks canned food for a French donation center.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Here are some food examples from Ready, an organization that educates people on emergency preparation: canned soup, dehydrated beans, nonperishable pasteurized milk, canned fish, baby food (if applicable), dried fruits, canned juices, protein bars, and canned meats and vegetables. If any containers look dented or damaged, don’t eat from them.

Spare Cash And Change

You may want to keep cash on hand in case you can’t use your credit or debit cards. In your home emergency kit, keep a stash of cash and change. Store them in a waterproof container. You can include a checkbook, but don’t replace cash with it.

A person counts spare cash.

You may also want to establish an emergency savings account. Chief financial analyst Greg McBride at recommends creating a savings account that accrues interest. Even $500 set aside for emergencies will relieve anxiety and can prepare you for the worst.

Extra Garbage Bags

In your home emergency kit, include an extra pack of garbage bags. They’ll hold food scraps and trash that will keep your space sanitary; you don’t want to get sick during an emergency. Plus, trash bags have many other uses other than garbage.

A pile of garbage bags is seen.

Since garbage bags are waterproof, they can catch rainwater or act as a poncho. You can spread them out as a fly screen or a sunshade. In an extreme situation, you can transform a trash bag into a stretcher or shelter.

Paper Products

Don’t forget to stash paper products for an emergency situation. Any spare paper notebooks, paper towels, tissues, envelopes–can in handy during a crisis. Not only do they allow you to take notes and clean up messes, but they also serve as toilet paper substitutes if absolutely needed.

Paper towel packages are stocked.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Paper can also insulate walls and help to start fires. With a thick notebook and a pen, you can also keep yourself entertained. As simple as survival living seems, people can easily go stir-crazy with little to do.

A First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is different than an emergency kit. The first aid specifically helps people who are sick or wounded. You need one of these for every emergency kit you prepare, whether that be in your home or in your car. You can buy prepackaged ones, but make sure that they contain everything you need.

A close-up shows a paramedic's first aid kit.
Donat SorokinTASS via Getty Images

The American Red Cross recommends several items for your first aid kit. Include bandages, aspirin, prescription medication, ten yards of adhesive cloth tape, gauze pads, nonlatex gloves, a thermometer, a thermal blanket, a cold compress, and cold medicine.

Important Family Documents

If a family member ends up in the hospital, or if you need to withdraw from your savings account, you’ll need identification. Keep copies of your insurance policy, identification, bank records, and car documents in a waterproof container.

A person writes on important documents.

You may want to write down the information of your emergency contacts, too. Remember, you might not have your phone during an emergency. Write down the address, phone number, and email of close friends or relatives whom you can talk to in a crisis. Store those with your identity documents.

A Portable Water Filter

If you run out of water during an emergency situation, you’ll need a backup. That’s why you should pack a portable water filter in your home kit. Never consume unfiltered water, even if it’s natural. It can contain bacteria, viruses, parasites, and microplastics that will make you sick.

A man filters water from a river with a portable water filter.
Cub Scouts Pack 372/Pinterest
Cub Scouts Pack 372/Pinterest

Water filters are designed to remove these toxins so that you can fetch water from a local lake, stream, well, or even your water heater. There are several varieties, from straws to gravity bags, and some only cost around $20.

Heavy-Duty Duct Tape

Duct tape has multiple uses in emergency cases. It can repair leaks in the ceiling, water bottles, and tents. A strip can hold a wound closed or restrain a broken arm if needed. You can even use duct tape to make spears, bug catchers, and shelter.

Pieces of silver heavy-duty duct tape stick to a surface.

In your home emergency kit, pack a few rolls of heavy-duty duct tape. Refrain from using these rolls unless you need to; if you frequently use duct tape, buy another roll for everyday use. In a survival situation, this tool is invaluable.

Thermal Blankets

In an emergency kit, regular blankets won’t do. Remember, you may not have heating in your home, so you’ll want thermal blankets. These blankets are designed to keep you warm in chilly weather, and many of them are waterproof as well.

A child wrapped in a thermal blanket stands on the coast of Lesbos, Greece.
NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images
NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

You can buy lightweight thermal blankets on Amazon and several other websites. Get one for each person, and buy a few extras in case one of them gets torn. Many emergency blankets are packaged in small containers so that they won’t take up too much space in your kit.

A Flashlight And Candles

In an emergency situation, you may not have electricity. Prepare for that when you pack a flashlight. You can use battery-powered flashlights if you keep extra batteries on hand. To be extra prepared, consider buying a hand-cranked flashlight.

A woman searches a museum tunnel for bats with a flashlight.
Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images
Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images

Although most emergency kits recommend flashlights, you may also want to pack some tealight or tower candles. Buy unscented ones–you don’t want the smell to overpower you if the lights go out. Include plenty of matches and a lighter, as it’s convenient to have both on hand.


You don’t want to go without medication in an emergency. If you take prescription medication, ask for a spare bottle that you can keep on hand in case you run out unexpectedly. Other drugs, such as anti-acids, laxatives, painkillers, and anti-diarrhea drugs, may come in handy.

A cup is pictured next to pills, thermometers, and throat sprays.
Maksym Polishchuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Maksym Polishchuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Some of these medications come inside first aid kits. Check what your kit has before adding to it. A regular pill bottle should have enough. Remember, you only need about three days’ to two weeks’ worth of supplies for an emergency situation.

A Map Of The Local Area

We know–who uses a map anymore? But when your phone dies and you can’t charge it, you’ll want a physical map. For your emergency kit, pack a detailed map of your local area. Mark down important sites–such as hospitals, grocery stores, and train stations–before a crisis occurs.

A person points to a map of the US.
Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images

You may also want a map of the state. If you ever have to leave your home, you’ll know where to drive. If you’re worried about walking somewhere, get a topography map. These will show you the local environment if major roads are closed.

Personal Hygiene Products

When emergencies occur, any kind of hygiene product is a luxury. Store extra hygiene products in advance so that you can bathe and feel comfortable. Soap, toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, and feminine products may become lifesavers during a time of crisis.

A consumer picks a bath soap from a grocery store shelf.
Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images
Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Also, consider investing in an emergency toilet. If you get a five-gallon container and line it with a trashcan, you’ll have a makeshift toilet. Sure, it’s not luxurious, but it’s better than nothing. It will keep you and your area clean if the water shuts off.

A Basic Tool Kit

In an emergency situation, you may need to turn off or adjust the utilities in your home. That’s why every crisis stash requires a tool kit. A hammer, screw, and nails could be invaluable for patching up damaged areas of your home or building a shelter.

Multiple tools lay out on a table.

Don’t rely on power tools, because you may not have electricity in an emergency situation. Opt for handheld tools such as a hammer, wrench, screwdriver, and utility blade. Don’t forget nails and screws, and pack safety equipment such as eye masks.

Pet And Baby Supplies

Do you have a baby or a pet in the house? If so, they need emergency supplies. Keep extra cases of pet food or baby food in your home emergency kit. Extra diapers, a pet bed, and baggies for waste should also be included–everything that you need to live with your pet or child for at least three days.

Two dogs peer out of a doghouse outside.

If you have young kids, consider keeping some games on hand. Stash word searches, coloring books, or board games in your emergency kit. You never know how long you’ll be stuck in a crisis situation.

Something To Alert Others Around You

In a crisis situation, you may need to call out to others near you for help. If rescuers scour the area, make sure they can find you. You don’t need something as advanced as a flare gun, but keep a whistle, bright light, or even a megaphone on hand for emergency situations.

A person holds an antique whistle.

A whistle may be your best (and cheapest) bet. It’s portable, and you can use it to find others if you get lost. It also doesn’t require batteries or electricity–remember, you may not have those commodities during a crisis.

A Multi-Purpose Army Knife

One of the most invaluable tools for an emergency is a multi-purpose army knife. A knife can cut off sticks for a fire, carve an escape route, and open packages. Some versions come with can openers that will allow you to eat.

A pile of folded swiss army knives are seen.

Keep your knife clean and sharp. Although multi-purpose knives are useful, check your state laws before carrying one on you all the time. Some states don’t allow people to carry knives, so instead, keep at least one in your emergency home kit.