15 Essential Supplies You Need to Survive a Natural Disaster

If natural disaster strikes, how easily will you survive?

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, but any month is a good time to get prepared. Hopefully, you’ll never experience a real disaster. But given the increasing frequency of extreme weather events like fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, it is smarter to be ready than to think “it will never happen to me.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helps people and communities prepare for disasters and then recover after one strikes. They recommend you pull together the following items into a “basic disaster supplies kit” that can help you make the best of a bad situation if one occurs. I’ve survived a fire and several hurricanes, so I’ve added my own suggestions as well, based on what has made a difference for me and my family.

1) A Plan. Know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it before you’re actually in the middle of a disaster. Who are you going to call if you can? What will you do if you can’t call for help?

2) Water. The recommendation is to store one gallon of water per person for at least three days. If you live in a very warm or hot climate and you have no access to air conditioning, your water needs may increase. If you purchase commercially bottled water, do not open the containers. Store them in a cool, dark place and replace approximately every six months (If I don’t need the bottled water by its expiration date, I use it to water my plants). You should also keep some water purification tablets on hand or a water filter that catches bacteria as well as other inert contaminants. If necessary, you can purify contaminated water by adding 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach to a gallon of water.

3) Non-perishablefood and manual can opener. Canned, boxed and dried food, plus powdered or boxed milk, sugar, ground coffee, tea leaves or tea in bags, and some bottles of vegetable cooking oil, are essential. Make sure you have a manual can opener at the ready. A small pair of scissors is helpful, as well.

4) Portable cookstove and matches, or solar oven. A camping-size cookstove or a tail-gate style propane or charcoal stove comes in handy for heating food and boiling water for coffee or tea. Use the matches to light a small fire if you need to. Keep matches in a waterproof container. Also pull together a set of reusable but non-breakable dishes and cutlery. You can get “mess kits” at an outdoor supply store.

5) Battery, solar, or hand-crank radio, flashlights, and lamps. I keep a set of lamps powered by 9-volt batteries, which cast a nice friendly light when we lose power. I also have solar-powered flashlights on hand and a hand-cranked radio that gets AM and FM stations as well as short-wave. We avoid using candles, unless they are in a wide-mouthed canister with very low risk of tipping over or catching fire.

6) First aid kit that includes a whistle. Every home should have a good first aid kit, whether disaster strikes or not. It should contain antiseptic, antibiotic cream, bandages in several sizes, gauze, a thermometer, ant-diarrhea medication, pain reliever, antacid, sterile gloves and sterile dressings to stop bleeding. You can easilypurchase a complete first aid kit online or at your local drug store. Add a couple of whistles, one for you, and one or two to give to other family members.

7) Cell phone and solar car-adapted chargers. We have lost power in several hurricanes. Our cell phones might still get reception, but we can’t use them unless they’re charged. We now have a couple of solar-powered chargers, though they can take a long time to charge themselves. We got a car adapter that chargesboth Androids and iPhones, though remember to turn the car on when charging, or you’ll deplete your car battery.

8) Small tent or plastic sheeting. If you can’t stay in your home and can’t immediately get to a shelter, a small tent will come in handy. So will sleeping bags and sleeping pads.

9) Medicine, glasses, personal hygiene supplies and infant formula and diapers. In addition to a first aid kit, keep ready access to medicine, especially what you need to take daily. Personal hygiene supplies, like hand sanitizer, soap, face towelettes and toothpaste help, too. If you feed your baby infant formula, you’ll want to have several days supply on hand, along with diapers and other items your baby needs to stay well.

10) Pet food and other pet supplies. Keep extra canned and dried food available so your pet won’t starve. If you give your pet medicine, keep that handy, too.

11) Money. If your community loses power or you can’t get to a bank or ATM, you will need to have cash on hand. Keep it secure in a money belt you can wear hidden inside your clothes.

12) Family documents. Get a waterproof folder that you can zip or clasp closed. Inside, keep a copy of important documents that include identification for every member of your household, insurance policies, bank account records, birth certificates, medical records including blood type, passports, wills, investment records, vehicle registration and other key documents. Ideally, you should have scanned all of these documents and uploaded them into a virtual cloud storage system, just so you don’t need to worry if they get destroyed before you can pack them up and get them out of the house.

13) Backpack with change of clothes.if you have time to prepare, as you do when a hurricane is approaching, each person in your household, except infants, should prepare a backpack that contains a change of clothes, plus a warm jacket and rain jacket and boots, depending on the season. You can also put a book, game, paper and pen and a small favorite item inside, which might be particularly comforting to children.

14) Plain, unscented chlorine bleach. I’m not a big fan of bleach. But it is very useful when you need to disinfect surfaces and water and you don’t have access to hot water or soap. Store a gallon of unscented chlorine bleach that contains no other cleaning agents in it with your other disaster preparedness supplies.

15) Trash bags and ties. Use the bags to contain used food containers and personal hygiene items. They’ll help you keep your personal space somewhat neat, which may provide some small comfort in the aftermath of the disaster you survive.

Disaster Needs in the Disability Community
Prepare Your Pet For a Natural Disaster



Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer2 days ago

You must be kidding!! While everything in the article makes sense I really doubt someone will get all that ready and find a place to store it.

Leanne K
Leanne K2 days ago

Evacuate when told you, is probably the best advice

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 days ago

practise some skills before you need them.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 days ago

When building or buying a house the recommendation is to be able to burn wood as that is one thing you will have to hand after a natural disaster.

Angela K
Angela K4 days ago


S J6 days ago

Thank you for the useful info

Danuta W
Danuta W6 days ago

Thank you for sharing

Debbi -
Debbi -W-8 days ago

Have items in the case of a disaster stored in bins, including freeze dried food packs for at least two weeks. Storing pet food is more difficult since I haven't found a 'freeze dried' kibble pet food.

Ann M
Ann M8 days ago

Thanks, but is this for you sheltering in place? Do you have a list of items and/or brands you can travel with?

Sandra V
Sandra Vito8 days ago