List of Essentials

What do you think is essential to being prepared? Everyone will probably have differences in their lists, but there are some basics each family will need. It may be unreasonable to expect you to have everything at once, so consider this list a goal and let it evolve to fit the needs of you and your family.


Water is the most important thing you need to survive. Right now, you can store gallon jugs or individual bottles of water. You should also think about what you have to store water in if the need arises. For example, if there is a hurricane headed your way, think of what you can fill with water to help get you through until the local water supply is safe to use. Consider keeping a supply of water storage container on hand, just in case.

You should also have ways to purify water. Have a supply of plain bleach (not with fragrance or extra additives), purification tablets, and a water purification system, whether that be a large system like a Berkey or a smaller, personal system like a water bottle with a purifier cartridge (or both, better yet!).

First Aid

Work on acquiring a First Aid Kit. You can do this by gradually accumulating the supplies you need, or you can buy a ready-made kit and use that as a foundation to build on. Include a first aid book so you know how to handle various injuries and situations. But don’t just get a kit and throw it in a closet. Familiarize yourself with it’s contents so you aren’t trying to figure everything out in the middle of an emergency.

Consider taking some classes through the American Red Cross and learn life-saving skills to help someone in need.

A first aid kit should have:

  • First aid book
  • A variety of adhesive bandages
  • Sterile gauze pads/tape
  • Disposable gloves
  • Tweezers
  • Thermometer
  • Triple-antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • OTC meds such as ibuprofen, antihistamines, antidiarrheal medications, etc.
  • Face masks

This is a minimum! Add additional items as you think of them and keep everything up to date.


Food is important, whether you keep freeze-dried foods, canned goods or maintain your own garden. In fact, the best food storage plan incorporates all of these things. The types of food you have depends on your families preferences. If no one likes pinto beans, a 25 pound bag of them is a waste of resources and space. Remember to store what you’ll eat and eat what you store.


These can range from basic hand tools, garden tools, knives, camping supplies like portable cook stoves or ready fuel and more. Power tools and gas-powered tools are useful as well, but be sure to have tools that require no fuel or electricity, just in case your situation requires it.

Consider a way to produce electricity if the power is out for an extended period of time. A generator or solar kit is a wise investment. Don’t forget an emergency radio so you can stay on top of what’s going on.

Other essential tools can include blankets and sleeping bags and/or an emergency blanket, waterproof matches and a multi-tool. Practice building fires using various methods so you can be assured of having one no matter what situation arises. Fire, in itself, is an important tool.

Be Self-Sufficient

Remember, you are responsible for you and your family. Often emergency agencies struggle to keep up with the need when a disaster takes place. If you rely on them to take care of you, things may not turn out the way you hope.

The key to surviving any situation is to learn to be self-sufficient. Learn skills that could be useful in a variety of situations. Know how to build a fire or a shelter. Learn to grow and preserve your own food. Take classes in first aid and CPR. The more you know, the less you will have to rely on others.

Network as well! Talk to your neighbors and find out their strengths. You can’t learn to do everything, so having friends close by to help out will make it easier on everyone. With the right planning, when the emergency crews show up to help you, you can tell them, “It’s okay, we’re just fine.”

Image credit: Zadi Diaz

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