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Preparing for an Emergency: Make a Family Emergency Kit


VCE-486NP (VCE-1021NP)

Authors as Published

Michael Martin, Extension Specialist, VCE Emergency Response and Preparedness, 4-H General and Administration, Virginia Tech, Reviewed by Daniel L. Goerlich, Associate Director Economy, Community, and Food, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech

Why Prepare?

If you think about it, you take precautions every day, not just when an emergency occurs. For instance, you wear a seat belt in the car just to protect you in case of an accident. You make your children wear helmets when they ride their bicycles. You double check your iron to make sure it is unplugged.

Preparing for emergencies is not new. Your grandparents probably have extra supplies, such as: soap and shampoo in the bathroom closets, onions and potatoes stored in the basement, and canned goods on pantry shelves in their home. They understood the value of having a little extra on hand in case of emergencies.

All states and counties have experienced disasters. Virginian’s have experienced ice storms, thunder storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and power outages. It is wise to be prepared for the unexpected.

What is in This Brochure?

This brochure describes how to cope with an emergency situation and protect your family.

Assemble Your Emergency Kit

Making a kit is easier than you think. In fact, you can start with the basics and add to it over time. The checklist below ideas on what might go into an emergency kit. Select items to place in the grab bag that best meet your own needs.

Grab Bag

Items for the grab bag may include the following:

  • One day’s clothing and shoes for each family member
  • Personal care products (for example toothbrush, feminine hygiene products, diapers)
  • Towel and washcloth for family members
  • Blanket(s) or sleeping bag(s)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Granola bars/trail mix
  • Extra set of car keys
  • Copies of important documents: medical, prescriptions, passport, birth certificate, driver license, insurance and bank information.
  • Cash

If you have to leave your home quickly, don’t forget your prescription medications, eyeglasses and/or hearing aids.

Your Car

If you have a car, keep its gas tank at least half-full because in an emergency you may not be able to get fuel.

Items to have in your car include:

  • Bottled water
  • Food (granola/energy bars)
  • First aid kit
  • White distress flag
  • Flashlight & extra batteries
  • Flares/light sticks
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Emergency reflective blanket
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire jack and spare tire
  • Fix-a-flat
  • Shovel
  • Maps

Consider keeping your grab bag in your car trunk. This will allow you to leave the disaster area quickly with the things you need.

Your Home

In an emergency, having the following items in your home is highly recommended to keep your family safe.

  • Water: at least one gallon/person/day
  • Can opener, non-electric
  • Battery powered radio
  • ABC-type fire extinguisher
  • Smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide detector
  • Prescription medications
  • Wired telephone (not cordless)
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight & battery powered lantern
  • Extra batteries
  • 5-7 day supply of canned or dried food
  • 5-7 day supply of baby food and formula







Power Outage

If there is a power outage, eat the food in your refrigerator first. Without power, food in a refrigerator will only be good for about four hours. If the power is out longer than that, use your emergency food supply.

Your In-Home Kit

To be MORE prepared, add supplies to last 7-10 days. How can you build your 7-10 day supply? Buy a few extra supplies each month until you have enough to last for at least 7 extra days. Buy foods that need no refrigeration and little or no cooking. TRY:

  • Water: at least one gallon/person/day
  • Canned or dried fruits, vegetables and soups
  • Canned or dried meat and seafood
  • Beverages: instant coffee, canned juice
  • Rice, pasta, cereal, cracker
  • Powdered or canned milk
  • Baby food and formula if needed
  • Comfort foods; snacks and sweets
  • Other foods peanut butter, cooking oil, salt, nuts

Other Items Needed:


  • Personal care products (for example: feminine hygiene products, diapers)


Pet Needs:

  • Food, water, leashes, kitty litter, litter box, food/ water bowls and medications, etc
  • Store supplies in a dry, cool place. Use supplies before they expire and replace what you use.

Extra Supplies to Have at Home: In order to be MOST prepared, keep these things at home.

  • Outdoor grill and fuel
  • Fire escape ladder
  • Rope and duct tape
  • Extra batteries

Never use items such as grills, camp stoves, or generators indoors. They produce carbon monoxide, that is deadly and non-detectable.

For more information about Emergency Preparedness, visit the following websites:

Special Thanks to:

Brunswick County Local Emergency Planning Committee Brochure Team

Greensville County, A Citizens Guide to Disasters

VA Department of Emergency Management

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

May 22, 2020