If you want to prepare for an emergency but don't know which supplies you need, download our printable checklist PDF to help you assemble a 72-hour emergency kit.
Emergency supplies to pack in a 72-hour “go bag”
With the frequency and severity of natural disasters increasing every year, emergency preparedness is more important than ever.
In an emergency, the federal government's readiness website ready.gov recommends being prepared with a disaster kit (also called a “go bag” or “bug-out bag”). The kit should contain enough food, water and emergency supplies to survive for at least 72 hours after a disaster.
10 basic survival kit supplies
- Water (1 gallon per person per day)
- Food (3-day supply per person)
- First aid kit (bandages, ointments, gauze pads, cold/hot packs, tweezers, scissors, hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol wipes)
- Medications (prescription medications plus over-the-counter pain relievers, allergy medicines, antacids, anti-diarrhea medications, laxatives)
- Flashlight or headlamp and batteries, plus light sticks
- Pocket knife and multi-tool
- NOAA weather radio (battery-powered or hand-crank), plus extra batteries
- Waterproof matches or lighter in a waterproof container
- Cellphone, backup battery and extra charger (solar charger, if possible)
- Cash (small bills), credit cards, prepaid phone card
Some emergencies, such as imminent snowstorms or hurricanes, create circumstances in which supplies are difficult to secure even days beforehand. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us just how difficult it can be to get certain supplies during severe outbreaks of illness.
Other emergencies, such as ice storms that wipe out power lines or earthquakes that block roads, make it impossible to get supplies. Power outages may close stores (or they may work on a cash-only basis). Wildfires, floods and tornadoes sometimes require quick evacuations with minutes' notice.
It may be days or longer before help arrives, roadways are cleared or you get clearance from safety officials to return home. Assembling a bug-out bag containing the items listed in our 72-hour kit can help you prepare for most types of emergencies.
Additional personal supplies
Personal supplies are essential for security and comfort in compromised conditions, whether you're in populated or isolated places. For instance, if you evacuate to a shelter, supplies may be limited or bedding inaccessible. In an isolated area, you might need tools to open cans of food or build a DIY shelter against the elements.
Keep in mind that you may lose electricity or cell service in an emergency. GPS may be unreliable, or you might lose your phone contacts. Have “old-fashioned” backups written on paper so you can reach people or know where you need to travel.
Carrying copies of important documents also can make it easier to prove your identity, access assistance, and stabilize finances after a disaster. Besides ID documents, consider packing copies of your marriage certificate, tax return, insurance policies, deeds, wills and medical records.
A lot depends upon the crisis you're preparing for, but careful and proactive planning will cover the basics for most scenarios.
Bedding and clothing
- Change of clothing
- Sturdy shoes or boots
- Raincoat or poncho
- Sleeping bag or blankets
Tools and equipment
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Fire extinguisher
- Manual can opener
- Collapsible shovel
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
Documents and paperwork
- Emergency phone numbers for family members
- Local maps
- ID documents (driver's licenses, passports, birth certificates)
- Legal documents (power of attorney, wills, trusts)
- Financial documents (tax returns, deeds, insurance policies)
- Medical info (medications, chronic conditions, immunizations, allergies, surgeries)
Personal hygiene and sanitation
- Dust mask
- Plastic cutlery
- Toiletries (soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, feminine hygiene items)
- Plasticware for food storage
- Prescription glasses, contact lenses, saline solution
- Plastic bags
- Alcohol or bleach
- Garbage bags and twist-ties
- Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer
- Paper towels and toilet paper
- Note pads, markers, pens, pencils, crayons
- Books, games, puzzles for small children
- Bottles, formula, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream for infants
- Assistive equipment for elders
- Pet food and extra water, medication and leashes or crates for pets
Download and print our 72-hour kit checklist PDF
Download and print this 72-hour kit checklist PDF to keep handy during preparation. Once you've built your kits, store a copy with each one for easy refilling and repacking.
Customize your kits as needed, with different supplies for different emergencies. If you're sheltering in place, for example, you might need plastic sheeting and duct tape. For evacuating from your home, sleeping bags and pillows would be more important.
Also, different areas experience different disasters, requiring different items in emergency kits. Specific weather emergencies require corresponding supplies.
Hurricane preparedness kit
In hurricane-prone regions, an emergency kit is vital. You may have to evacuate several days in advance and be stuck in traffic. Or, after the hurricane passes, it could be days or weeks before you can return home.
So create two plans: one for evacuation, the other for sheltering in place. Print and laminate each, if you can.
There's a chance you'll be evacuating or sheltering for a long time, depending upon regional damage. Plan to include rain gear (raincoat or poncho, waterproof boots), extra changes of clothing and waterproof matches or lighters. Also, seal your important documents — including cash — in a waterproof plastic bag.
Additional hurricane kit items can include water purification tablets, towels, duct tape, scissors and work gloves. Once an impending hurricane is announced, people often panic, making it difficult to gain access to even the most basic supplies.
Earthquakes often happen without any notice at all. You may need tools to quickly shut off utilities. Also, consider a fire extinguisher in case falling debris severs gas or electrical lines.
Extra dust masks can protect you against breathing in dust from falling debris. You might also need other tools, such as a shovel, ax, broom and rope.
If you live in a building with upper floors, have a rope ladder handy for a quick escape. Pack each person a pair of sturdy shoes with thick soles to protect feet from broken glass, wood splinters, nails and other debris.
72-hour kit tips
Store your emergency kit supplies in duffel bags, rolling bins (including coolers or suitcases) or other easy-to-grab containers. Watertight is best.
Be sure household members will be able to lift any emergency containers. The idea is to “grab and go” with the most essentials you can carry, in case evacuation is necessary.
Keep your kit in a dry area of your home. Refresh the contents every year. Make sure foods aren't expired, clothing still fits and medications haven't reached their expiration dates. Routinely refill and replace medication and food as needed.