emergency kit

  • What’s in a Wildfire Preparedness Kit?

    Wildfires are quick-spreading, uncontrollable events. They often occur in the western part of the United States due to frequent drought conditions. In many other cases, wildfires are frequently started accidentally or intentionally by humans.

    No matter where you live, you should have a wildfire preparedness plan to protect yourself and your property in the event of a wildfire. You should also have an evacuation plan ready to execute in case the fires start creeping too close to home.

    As part of your wildfire preparedness plan, you should have a pre-packed wildfire emergency kit to sustain you through the crisis and to assist you in the event of an evacuation. What you put into your wildlife preparedness kit is important, as including the essentials will increase your chances of survival.



    20 Things to Have in Your Wildfire Preparedness Kit

    To ensure you have everything you need in your wildfire preparedness kit, you need to plan for two possible situations:

    • Staying in your home when a fire is nearby
    • Evacuating your home when a fire is too close to your property

    Not every emergency requires an evacuation, but it’s wise to pack your emergency supplies in sturdy backpacks for convenient travel. Each member of the household should have their own bag to ensure sufficient supplies are available for everyone.

    You can also pack items in plastic storage bins, which can be easily loaded into your vehicle for an evacuation.


    Staying at Home



    If conditions are safe enough to remain on your property, your wildfire preparedness kit should contain:


    Bottled Water

    Have at least one gallon of clean drinking water for each person in your household for at least 5-7 days. Don’t rely on your tap water to be safe during such an emergency, as water sources can be contaminated during a wildfire emergency. Use bottled water for drinking and personal hygiene until you can confirm local water supplies are safe. If the weather is especially hot, more water will be needed for proper hydration.

    Powdered drink mixes and bottled juices can be added to your supply for drink variations. Make sure all drink bottles are plastic and not glass to prevent breakage.



    Have non-perishable food items, including canned foods, MREs, and snacks available for each household member for up to a week. Make sure to consider special dietary needs of household members, including the elderly and infants. Also ensure there is enough food for any household pets and outdoor livestock, who will also add to your water supply needs.


    Dining Supplies

    You’ll need basic utensils for eating, including paper plates, napkins, a can opener, and a selection of sealable containers. You may also want to have a cooler on hand to protect refrigerated items if the power goes out in your home.


    Prescription Medications

    Get any prescriptions filled as soon as you are alerted to the potential for a wildfire emergency. You should also keep a supply of over-the-counter medications, first aid supplies, and vitamins in your emergency supplies.


    Weather Radio

    A weather radio that provides updates on weather and wildfire conditions should be battery-operated and kept with your emergency supplies for easy access. Keep extra batteries updated according to expiration dates.



    Keep several flashlights in your kit so every household member has a light source. Keep batteries updated at regular intervals. Having a selection of different flashlight styles can be helpful, such as battery-operated, lantern-style flashlights which easily replace lamps when the power goes out.



    During a widespread emergency, power problems and business closures can make it hard to get what you need. It is important to have cash as part of your emergency preparedness kit so you can complete transactions and get what you need when credit cards aren’t accepted.


    Power-Free Entertainment

    Have playing cards, board games, and other non-electronic activities to keep busy when the power goes out. During wildfire emergencies, power could be out for several days and staying active can help pass the time.


    Fire Extinguishers

    While you should have several extinguishers around your home for safety, having one or two extras for help during a wildfire is recommended. Never try to fight a wildfire by yourself but if trees near your property catch fire, you may be able to maintain a perimeter around your home to prevent the fire from getting closer to your house or other structures.


    Face Masks

    If you are susceptible to allergies or respiratory issues, you may want to include face masks or respirators in your supply kit. If wildfire smoke starts affecting your property, you can use the mask to protect your breathing.


    Evacuating Your Property



    When a fire gets too close to home or it’s expected to travel close to your property, evacuation may be necessary. There may also be a mandatory evacuation order issued by local authorities. If you are going to leave, you’ll need to bring your entire emergency kit and pack a few extra essentials.


    Important Documents

    For ease of travel, scan all of your important documents and download them to a thumb drive. You can also print paper copies to travel with and protect the original documents in a waterproof container. Important documents include:

    • Insurance policies
    • Social security cards
    • Mortgage paperwork
    • Medical records
    • Birth certificates
    • Marriage licenses
    • Wills and estate paperwork
    • Financial information


    Pet Travel Items

    If you are evacuating your property, take your pets with you. Never allow pets to fend for themselves during an emergency. Pack a selection of important pet items for travel, including crates, leashes, harnesses, pet bowls, and medications.



    Pack several changes of clothing based on the weather conditions, including outerwear for cold-weather conditions.



    Extra blankets will be important, especially if you have to stay in an emergency shelter. Pillows and other comfort items will be appreciated during an evacuation.



    Keep updated supplies of toiletries including shampoos, moisturizers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, contact lens supplies, toilet paper, feminine products, deodorant, and other hygiene supplies. Wet wipes are good for cleaning hands and faces or cleaning up messes.


    Specialized Medical Equipment

    Elderly and infirm people may need additional medical equipment during an evacuation, including oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, and walkers.


    Baby Gear

    Infants and young toddlers can survive without bouncy chairs and other entertaining gear, but you should bring a portable crib or playpen, stroller, and car seat if you need to stay at a hotel or emergency shelter for several days.



    Pack an extra set of keys for the structures and vehicles left behind on your property and leave a set at home. This ensures you can regain access to your home after the chaos of an evacuation.


    Phone Chargers

    To keep up effective communication with loved ones, pack an extra cell phone charger in your travel bag. Keep both a wall charger and a car charger in the kit to charge phones.



    Pack an extra camera in your emergency supply kit. In the event of an evacuation, you may need to photograph damage to your property upon your return. Phone cameras are useful but if you aren’t able to charge your cell phone during an evacuation due to power outages, you can still rely on the camera for your photographic evidence.


    A Few Reminders



    While having important items on hand when you need them is critical for survival, it’s important to remember your selection of belongings will differ based on current weather conditions, how many people are traveling away from the property, and where you will be staying.

    You may not need to bring along as much gear if you plan to stay at the home of a relative or friend. This can help you travel a little lighter. If you need to evacuate to a shelter, you may need to bring additional supplies to sustain you for several days.

    Some of the products in your wildfire preparedness kit will come with expiration dates. Foods, medications, and batteries should be replaced as needed. Keep a list of those goods which expire and the dates they need to be replaced so you can make the updates without sorting through your supplies.


    When in Doubt, Get Out


    Fire Approaching House (NY Times)


    Wildfires can spread rapidly and without warning. High winds can carry burning embers away from the original fire, igniting nearby wooded areas and structures. If a wildfire is in your area, it is always best to err on the side of caution and make immediate plans to evacuate your property. In especially dry conditions, fires can travel quickly using grass as its fuel, ultimately trapping you and your family inside your home.

    Even if the fire doesn’t burn down your home, the smoke and other hazards can pose a serious threat to your family. First responders may be impeded by closed roads and getting to you for a serious emergency can become impossible.

    Your local area may be crippled by the fires in the days and weeks following the fire. Extended power outages and business closures can make it difficult to resume your normal activities. By being prepared ahead of time and considering the worst-case scenario, you’ll be more prepared to survive such a catastrophe.

    In the event you evacuate your property and it’s destroyed by wildfires, never return to the area until emergency personnel give the okay. Wildfires can reignite even days after the original fire has been contained. Contact your insurance company and find out the protocols for documenting the damage and reporting your loss. This will be the first step to rebuilding your life after a wildfire.



  • Road Tripping to Test a Family Emergency Kit

    by Melissa Rivera


    Recently, my family moved from Utah to Virginia. To test our preparedness, we tried to live out of our family emergency kit during the week-long cross-country drive. My family’s emergency kit helped us through flash flooding, power outage, boredom, stultifying heat, and far too many picnics. (None of us wanted to look at peanut butter or granola bars after day five.) Yet we still needed almost-daily shopping trips to replenish supplies or buy things we hadn’t included.

    We learned so much about what food to not include that it became the subject of its own blog post. The first day, my kids scarfed down peanut butter on crackers, granola bars and pudding, and my husband dove into the Vienna sausages. By the fourth day, my children were grumbling about pudding and my husband wouldn’t eat. I hate most vegetables, and I was craving them. We learned that in an emergency, we’d probably get sick of the food.

    Motel entrance at night Family Emergency KitThe second night of our trip we tried to get a campsite, but everyone within flying distance of Omaha, Neb., was booked. We ended up in a motel. That proved to be a blessing in disguise. A huge storm developed so fast that by the time the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the town we were in, the storm had already blasted through, knocked out power and flooded the area. From our hotel window we saw cars get stuck trying to drive through waist-deep water.

    After we lost power, my son and I waded to our car—the water was only inches deep in the parking lot—to get emergency lights. (We had battery-powered nightlights instead of flashlights. I’d recommend them.) We almost got stuck outside. The hotel’s room key card system was knocked out, as were its powered front doors. Fortunately, the back door’s key lock was already broken, so we were able to get back in the building. But hotel managers had to turn away another group of travelers because they wouldn’t be able to get into their rooms.

    When you make emergency shelter plans, make backup plans, too. Port Arthur, Texas residents who fled their homes ahead of Hurricane Harvey had to move again after their emergency shelter flooded. You might have to travel to find a shelter that takes pets or can accommodate your health care needs.

    We also couldn’t recharge our devices because our brand-new, solar-powered charger picked that night to conk out. Test your devices before you need them.

    By the next morning, the water had receded and we were able to continue our trip. We refilled our gas tank just as we left. This proved fortuitous because a car accident in front of us closed the freeway. We had to travel at least an hour out of our way on back roads to get around the wreck. After we grumbled, we used the extra time to take turns recharging our devices in the car’s outlets.

    This detour reminded us to keep the gas tank at least half full. It proved fortuitous the next day. Near Saint Louis, Mo., we followed a “shortcut” on our GPS. As we drove down a two-track dirt road in the middle of a cornfield, we realized that perhaps GPS led us astray.

    Arch Family Emergency Kit The St. Louis Arch

    When we visited the St. Louis Arch, we parked downtown and walked to the arch. My husband’s GPS gave the travel time as a 12-minute walk. Most of our water was buried in the bottom of our supplies. So I only took two small water bottles for all of us despite the 95-degree temperature. GPS took on a 45-minute detour that included walking directly away from the arch and onto a bridge that crossed the Mississippi River. It was like that scene in the movie “Cars” where the “husband” minivan refused to stop following GPS even when he was obviously lost.

    By the time we arrived at the arch, we were out of water, hot and blistered. And we had the walk back to look forward to. It was the low point of the trip. Remember to carry plenty of water even if you don’t think you’ll need it.

    I decided to ensure we’d never be short on water, so I moved all our water bottles into the suitcase with the rest of the food. I was rolling the suitcase along when one of my children pointed out that water was pouring out. One of the bottles leaked.

    Fortunately, our snack food came wrapped in plastic inside the cardboard containers. We only lost the cardboard.

    Protect your emergency kit supplies by wrapping them in plastic grocery bags. Then, as supplies run out, use the bags for trash. You’ll need them. We went through so many plastic grocery bags on this trip.


    Melissa Rivera is a jack-of-all-trades who is master of none. She has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years.


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  • Using a Family Emergency Kit While Traveling Cross Country

    By Melissa Rivera


    family emergency kit


    I thought I’d built my family a pretty comprehensive family emergency kit. I pictured us after a disaster, waving off offers of additional assistance and, in fact, sharing with others less prepared. (Admit it: you’ve imagined the same thing.) Then I tested it. My family tried to live from our 72-hour emergency kit while we moved from Utah to Virginia.

    I was oh, so wrong.

    My original plan was to wait to open the emergency kit until we were on the road, to simulate a disaster. That was a fail the minute we tried to pack the minivan. The kit didn’t fit. I’d designed my emergency kit around surviving an earthquake and the fact that we could just jump our back fence to get to an evacuation point. The kit’s three huge buckets and two plastic totes filled the trunk even before we added camping gear and clothes.

    We dragged everything back into the house and dumped it out, trashing the place right before some friends came over to help clean the house. We had a lot of junk we didn’t need. For some reason, we had boxes of votive candles. Nothing to place them in, mind you. But, hey, if some church came a-calling, we’d be so ready.

    For lighting, we had a lantern with the wrong size batteries and two broken flashlights. For cooking we had three can openers, but no scissors or utility knife, two stoves and a box of Sterno cans that stank up the whole room.

    My third child jammed her finger. As the digit swelled, I grabbed the first-aid kit for medical tape. The kit contained an ankle wrap, a piece of an asthma inhaler and three foil blankets. Fortunately, we still had masking tape around.

    My children saw the food. My 14-year- old’s reaction was universal.  “I don’t want to eat food that’s over a year old,” he grumbled.

    To be fair, the raisin granola bars were really nasty after they turned stale. The chocolate chip ones weren’t bad, though.

    They vetoed most of the food, including almost anything that required cooking. However, by the next morning they’d already downed most of the kit’s three-day supply of crackers and dumped out half the breakfast cereal.

    Moving family emergecny kit

    We had just three hours’ notice for a moving truck’s arrival. In the mad scramble that followed, we accidentally packed every pair of my eldest daughter’s shoes. Hey, no problem, she had a pair of tennis shoes in her emergency kit backpack. Well, ok, it would have been no problem if they still fit her.

    It wasn’t all bad. When we accidentally threw away my daughter’s toothbrush, we replaced it from the emergency kit. And the kids loved the bubbles, toys, and games I’d packed in the kit. If you want to keep young kids happy, bring lots of bubbles.

    But one day before we left for our great cross-country adventure, one in which we were supposed to live out of our emergency kit, I had to start over.

    I learned an emergency kit is not something you just throw together. My kit contained Halloween plates and napkins because I’d tossed them in, thinking they could be useful. But I forgot I already had a few weeks’ supply of disposable dishes. The Halloween dishes were just taking up space. Plan exactly what you’re going to put in your kit, and buy what you need as you plan. Keep track of where supplies are located and how old they are.

    I learned to consult my children about our food. The kit contained two hot meals per day for the whole family. I didn’t want to cook, and my kids didn’t want to eat the food anyway. We ended up keeping only one of the hot meals and buying picnic-style food my children would eat.

    I should have updated the emergency kit annually. None of my children’s emergency shoes fit.

    I learned a well-stocked first aid kit is vital. After my daughter’s finger adventure, I rebuilt my first-aid kit with what I thought was plenty of everything, including all our prescription medicines. Well, a few days later a spider bit my thumb, and I had nothing for the abominable itching and swelling.

    I learned you never want to buy a solar charger on Amazon. It lasted one day. The thing charged only one device on one day then it wouldn't recharge itself whether we plugged it in or put it in the sun. We had to buy a new battery-powered charger en route.

    During our week-long trip, my family’s emergency kit helped us through flash flooding, power outage, boredom, stultifying heat and far too many picnics. (None of us wanted to look at peanut butter or granola bars after day five.) Yet we still needed almost-daily shopping trips. So it wasn’t successful. Hopefully I’ll remember this experiment as I begin building a new emergency kit in a new home – and hopefully I won’t need it for Hurricane Irma.


    Melissa Rivera is a jack-of-all-trades who is master of none. She has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years.


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