Functional Friday: 10 Things to Keep in Your Emergency Supply

Not long ago, we highlighted 10 food items to keep in your pantry for an emergency. This installment of “10 Things” is gear you might need for an emergency. These are basic items to help you and your family cope if everyday routines are interrupted. No light or heat (storm power outage), no water (water main break), backed up plumbing (flooding), no cooking gas (earthquake). It’s certainly not going to return life to normal, but having these items can help out.

1.) Flashlight. A must for your nightstand, put an extra in your emergency bag. Keep new batteries with it (not in it!) and select something that has the potential to run for long periods of time, like an LED bulb light. I have a little flashlight in my purse that I keep by my bed at night. I also have a flashlight at each entrance to our house. Flashlights aren't that expensive.  Consider the number and style of batteries required when you buy them.  For $20, you can get a couple of LED style that take AA batteries.  You'll need extra batteries!  Get the required number, then catch a bonus pack on sale.  Be sure to dispose of them properly (Take them to a battery store - not in the trash, a landfill or incinerator).

2.) First-Aid Kit. I don’t believe you need to stockpile antibiotics, but having bandages, antibacterial wash and cream, and analgesics is important. Furthermore, if you take prescription medications, buy a month ahead and keep a stash in your first aid. Tweezers for splinters are good. Children’s medication is another consideration. Salves or balms. There are lots of resources out on the web for what to keep in a first aid kit. You can buy a prepackaged one fairly cheaply, or build your own with stuff you already have.  Routinely check the expiration dates and follow them.  It's true that some drug products can degrade into nasty things after a few years. (,,

3.) Fire. Well, maybe that means two items – a firestarter and fuel. It doesn’t make sense to start a fire, unless you can keep it going. Matches, a lighter, a 9-volt battery and steel wool, and/or, a magnesium firestarter are options. (I don’t recommend relying on finding a flint stone sitting around, or being able to rub two sticks together. Besides, in an emergency, lighting a fire caveman-style is energy you don’t want to expend if there are other tasks at hand.) Also stash away something to keep it going – some charcoal in the garage, a newspaper, snuggle wood. And I have little smokey joe grill that I like to burn in. We tend to throw medium sticks from our yard into a bin and let them “season” over the winter. In the spring, sometimes we’ll have a weenie roast with them. If we lost the ability to cook in our house, this would be a great option to use.  The lighter is cheap, and the fuel might be cheap as well, but it might take some thinking for storage.  It takes up some room, but it's worth it.  Make sure you practice starting and cooking on these fires before you count on it in an emergency.

4.) Blankets and tarps. You might not need to huddle under a blanket for warmth in the heat of July in Texas, but a blanket or tarp can also be a bed, shade, rain shelter, improvised stretcher, or ripped up and used for something else – a splint for an injured leg, perhaps?

5.) Disposable Tableware. I’m not normally an advocate for disposable paper plates and plastic forks, but an emergency is one situation where you’ll want to save your water for drinking and cooking. Disposable plates and bowls, paper napkins, disposable cutlery, and some aluminum cooking dishes (pie tins, roasting pans) will be useful. Some plain old aluminum foil is a good item to have, too.  All this can be found on sale, especially around holidays and at the beginning of picnic season (now!).

6.) Sanitation Supplies. If the plumbing isn’t working correctly, you still need a place to go to the bathroom. There are lots of ideas out there: trash bags, 5-gallon buckets with toilet seats, a shovel. Whatever your toilet is made from, don’t forget some toilet paper, baby wipes, feminine supplies, diapers, etc. Also don’t forget some hand sanitizer and extra water for washing.

7.) Tools – a multitool with pliers, screwdrivers, simple stuff and a nice, medium length fixed blade knife. You’ll need these to improvise for your individual needs, and you won’t want to skimp on them.  Also a wrench for turning off your natural gas.  In the event of a tornado or earthquake, you may need to turn it off.

8.) Rope, or cordage, as the survivalists call it.  Tent support, clothesline, fastener, leash, whatever you need it for, you'll have some.  The die hards out there call for Paracord, which seems to be extremely versatile.  I just have about 10 feet of plastic rope from the dollar store.  I can upgrade later.

9.) Overnight stuff - full change of clothes and basic, basic toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste & soap).  If you're at home, this may not be a big deal, but having this at work or in the car is a must.  Consider some work gloves and a hoodie.

10.) Entertainment. Deck of cards, book, game, coloring pencils. Keep something that will bring a little joy to the situation at hand. Remember that DVDs and CD’s are not going to work in a power outage situation and your iPod will eventually die.  Time to teach the kids how to play something that doesn't require a game controller!

Extra Credit: A simple tent.  In the event of compromised home (backed up sewer, earthquake, gas leak, tornado damage) and you don't have a hotel to run to, a tent can do the job.  You can always sleep in your car, but camping is fun.

Related Posts
What disaster should I plan for?
Go Bag: Part I - The Need
Practice an Evening Without Electricity
Your Emergency Framework

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