During disasters, whether natural or social, infrastructure systems may fail. Power outages mean no television, no lights, no refrigeration. It may also hinder cooking, water supplies and heating (your oil furnace may have an electric fan or your gas company may use electric pumping stations). It's even possible that phone service could be disrupted (both cell and landlines). Problems may last only a few hours, but could continue for days, weeks or even months. Shopping may become difficult, so supplying yourself well beforehand is a good idea. Here are some things to consider stocking up on. Modify them to fit your climate and individual needs.
Asterisks (*) denote supplies for long term situations.
For short term disruptions stock ready-to-eat foods that don't need refrigeration and require little or no cooking. Preparation of the long term foods may require lots of water and the use of fuel for cooking/baking.
HOT COCOA MIX
GRANOLA & BREAKFAST BARS
CANNED SOUPS AND STEWS
CANNED MEATS & FISH
G.I. MEALS, READY-TO-EAT (MRE) or freeze dried camping meals
INFANT FORMULA (and diapers)
PET FOOD for your non-human companions
*FLOUR- one pound per person per day
*POWDERED MILK- 1/3 pound per person per day
*SUGAR- 1/3 pound per person per day
*SALT- one half pound per person per month
*COFFEE- ground or bean
*TEA- leaf or bag
*SPICES / FLAVORINGS
MATCHES - strike anywhere wood matches, stored within tin cans inside heavy duty ziplock bags, double bagged.
LIGHTERS - disposable-type, get a bunch
STERNO in cans with folding stove. Cheap, safe and easy, for warming instant foods and drinks.
PAPER PLATES, BOWLS AND CUPS, wash water may be limited
COOKING/HEATING SOURCE (all must have adequate ventilation): wood stove with wood, cutting and splitting tools (mauls, extra handles, wedges, crosscut or bow saws)...or kerosene heater with fuel and extra wicks...or propane heater and/or propane stove with fuel tanks. Note: kerosene and propane must be handled with care & knowledge, so read all safety instructions. Whatever you decide, have lots of fuel on hand.
*SOLAR OVEN requires only sunlight to work, homemade or commercially manufactured
The first ones that come to mind may not be the best - gas or oil lanterns can be unsafe, same for candles. Large-battery lanterns have fairly short run times. The current top choice are the extremely efficient LED lights. Handy, small, safe and bright. Additionally, having no filament or wick, they never burn out. Best models run over a hundred hours on a single 25 cent AA battery.
LED FLASHLIGHTS are readily available at any hardware or sporting goods shop. “AA” and “AAA” battery models preferred because their batteries are easiest to find or even scrounged from TV remotes, CD players, electric toothbrushes, etc.
CANDLES - nice back-up, if care is taken in use. They store easily and forever. Stick candles give the best light, but you must mount them is a fire-proof holder. Figure on a minimum of one per day per person. “50-hour” emergency canned candles are available and although safer, they aren't as bright as regular stick candles, so get both.
Boiling is the most certain way of killing all microorganisms. in the time it takes water to reach a rapid boiling point of 212° F (100° C), all pathogens will be killed. Water temperatures above 160° F (70° C) kill all pathogens within 30 minutes and above 185° F (85° C) within a few minutes.
BOTTLED WATER commercially packaged for easy handling and storage, one gallon per person per day.
5 GALLON PLASTIC DRINKING CONTAINERS filled with tap water and a storage treatment added (ie: Micropur by Katadyn), store in darkness, for emergency backup. Stored water should be rotated every few months to insure safety and freshness.
MECHANICAL WATER PURIFIER filtering system with extra filters
IODINE TABLETS, TINCTURE OF IODINE 2%, or IODINE CRYSTAL SYSTEM (ie: Polar Pure brand): small, lite and easy, leaves taste in water which can be removed by adding vitamin C pills/powder after water is ready to use. (for 2% Tincture: 5 drops/qt on warm clear water then wait 30 minutes, or 10 drop/qt if water is cold or dirty, wait one hour)
*HAND-PUMP AND WELL IN BACKYARD with extra pump seals
*BLEACH a last resort for sterilizing water if no other system is available (2 drops per quart for clean water, 4 drops per quart if water is cloudy, and then let stand for at least 30 minutes before drinking)
Get full medical check-ups (physical, dental, eye...) and correct any potential problems now. Get all available shots (vaccinations, inoculations, tetanus, flu...)
FIRST AID KIT
FIRST AID BOOK
PRESCRIPTION DRUGS get an extra supply of anything necessary (minimum: 2 month supply)
TOILET PAPER, figure one roll per person per week. Stores indefinitely so get lots and lots of extra!
PRESCRIPTION EYEGLASSES, heavy duty, unbreakable. Get at least two extra pair.
RUBBER GLOVES, useful against disease transmissions. Buy a couple dozen pairs.
SOAP, DISH WASHING
TEMPORARY DENTAL KIT W/ OIL OF CLOVES
INSECT/SNAKEBITE KIT: Sawyer's "extractor" may be the very best, available at sporting good stores and big-box stores like walmart, under $15
TINCTURE OF IODINE 2%: for wounds and water purification
WATERLESS HAND LIQUID
LATEX-TYPE GLOVES (for helping the injured or sick)
RESPIRATORY FACE MASKS useful against disease transmissions and air particles (dust, fallout...), get a quality grade of N95 or better, preferably with passive exhaust valves to decrease moisture build up (don't just get cheap gauze covers).
PERSONAL Rx: if possible, stock up on anything you personally require
SLEEPING BAG: four season design suggested using an artificial filler, forget down filler which doesn't work when wet. If heat and electricity go out, it may be your only warmth.
SLEEPING PAD: of closed cell foam, full size, in case you leave home or have extra guests.
BIVI SAC water resistant bag, to protect sleeping bag from rain & dirt, increases warmth.
BACKPACK, LARGE: in case you must travel anywhere on foot. Pick a dull, dark color to avoid attention. Prefit and adjust to each person prior to needing it.
TARPS: in dull colors, for use as shelter repair, camouflaging, and as a stand-alone shelter if necessary
NYLON CORD: heavy duty parachute cord in 100' rolls for repairs, clothes line, securing tarps, etc
DUCT TAPE: large rolls of gray tape for all sorts of repairs
SPRAY PAINT for leaving messages on walls for family/friends/police should you move somewhere else
PLASTIC SHEETING, CLEAR for emergency repairs or insulating windows, etc
*PLASTIC SHEETING, BLACK for repairs or camouflaging
*4 x 8 PLYWOOD SHEETS in ½ inch, for window & door covering, or as a makeshift shelter
*2 x 4" STUDS for repairs, etc
*HAMMER AND 16d NAILS for repair and construction
*WIRE, in rolls, for general repairs
Choose heavy duty, warm, functional garments in dark, dull earth tones (because in emergency situations you may wish to avoid attracting attention, but do have a couple of Day-Glo items that can be used to signal rescue if needed). Cotton, wool or canvas may be the preferred choice because polyester, nylon and fleece are highly flammable, though cotton too can be a problem in wet environments.
JACKET warm and tough (not down/feather, because it becomes useless when wet)
BOOTS, HEAVY DUTY HIKING
BOOTS, SNOWPACS w/ extra liners, for hiking in cold/wet conditions & for sitting around an unheated shelter
ICE CLEATS: worn on boots have studs to grip on sheet ice
HAT for rain and sun protection
RAIN PONCHO, or pants & jacket, large enough to fit over other coats, etc
BELT, heavy duty
BELT POUCHES for carrying flashlight, multi-tool, knife, first aid kit, defense gear...
MULTI-TOOL: pocket tool kits, the all-in-one tool. consider the top of the line models like the Swiss army knife model "Swiss Champ" or Leatherman model "Wave". also purchase a matching belt pouch.
KNIFE: quality single-blade locking-folder for everyday cutting chores and defense with 3-4” blade
FLASHLIGHTS: purchase two minimum for each person - small LED (not filament bulb) in "AA" or “AAA” that have both high-level beam & long-runtime low-level beam
BATTERIES in all sizes for flashlights, radios, smoke detectors, warning systems, CD players, etc. Lithium batteries are preferred and don't leak when left in equipment.
RADIO: to hear what's happening around you and for entertainment. Best choice may be a wind-up handcrank am/fm model with built-in solar cell to power it on sunny days. Highly rated are the "Freeplay " which all cost as little as $25. At the very least, get a small portable that runs on "AA" batteries. Shortwave bands are a handy addition if local stations are off line. Also good idea to get one that gives NOAA Weather updates including tone alert.
PLASTIC BAGS, ZIPLOCK: heavy duty freezer type in quart and gallon sizes
PLASTIC BAGS, large and small garbage styles, have numerous uses, “contractor” quality if possible.
PET SUPPLIES: pet food, treats, vet supplies, collars, leashes, even toys to reduce stress during hard times. Get vaccinations now.
SAFETY GLASSES, polycarbonite, to protect your eyes, under $6.
EAR PLUGS to protect hearing, foam style cost under 50 cents a pair.
MAPS, in case you must travel through unfamiliar areas (laminate all maps in clear sticky-backed contact-paper)
INTRUDER WARNING SYSTEM: either battery powered, or best of all, a canine companion
SELF DEFENSE - non-firearm options include: pepper spray, pneumatic bean bag launchers, air-taser or other electronic stun instruments. Impact devices such as collapsible baton, fixed baton, heavy flashlight, 4' wooden staff, baseball bat or a section of metal pipe. Sonic devices made of powerful handheld air horns. High decibel (110 dB or above) whistles like those by Fox brand. Edged or pointed tools like a pocket knife, kitchen knife, machete or even a six foot wood staff with a sharpened tip. Visual disruptors, like the extremely high intensity flashlights and tacital strobe models, are so bright they're used by the police/military as blinding devices. Many of these things have dual uses, like the heavy six C-cell flashlight as both a light and an impact weapon.
SEWING KIT for repairs of clothes and gear. Purchase heavy duty "button" thread and large needles.
ENTERTAINMENT: novels, games, puzzles, cards, art & hobby supplies, paper & pencils (think non-electric)
GENERATORS: an expensive idea best suited to very short term use in preserving refrigerated and frozen goods. Test unit before buying, as many are too underpowered to run your refrigerator's compressor, let alone additional freezer or appliances. They are noisy and tend to attract unwanted attention. Require lots of fuel! Previously mentioned items are better solutions for lighting, radio, etc.
GASOLINE in 5 gallon plastic cans with spouts, with stabilizer added. For topping off your vehicle's tank if driving becomes necessary or for running that damn generator. Store safely hidden outside, not in house. Even with stabilizer added, it needs to be replace at least every year.
VICES: Disasters are poor times to deal with the stress of withdrawal from cigarettes, caffein or liquor, so stock up now.
*TRADE ITEMS: buy extras of above items that you personally use. In any emergency situation, items like tarps, bottle of whiskey, stash of chocolate, jar of peanut butter, toilet paper, soap, or gasoline may be better barter than having cash. Buy don't forget to have cash on hand too ($20 bills are a good size to have. Anything larger is harder to break & its unlikely you'll barter for anything worth less than that during a crises).
For a PDF version: Disaster-Survival-List-2011