To calculate how much water, food, and other necessities you will need, multiply the daily amount required per person by the number of days that you are preparing for. Then multiply that number by the number of people likely to be at that location when the emergency hits. (For example, 1200 calories x 3 days x 4 people.) Do not forget to consider your pets in your calculations.
Because food, water, medicines, batteries, and other supplies don’t last forever, you will need to check, replace, or replenish your emergency supplies at least once a year. To improve the odds that you won’t be caught with foul water or rotten food, stock up with supplies that have the longest shelf life possible. There is water and food that is specially packed so that it can be stored for five years or longer.
Many medicines do not have a long shelf life. It is important to make sure that you always have an unexpired supply of the medicines you use.
A person cannot survive for more than a few days without water. This makes water the most important item in your disaster survival kit, particularly since your normal water source is highly likely to be cut off following a disaster.
The American Red Cross recommends storing one gallon of water per person per day. Half of that is for drinking, and half for cooking and sanitation. Store more than that if you live in a warm climate. A two-week supply in your home and a three-day supply in your car is optimal.
The simplest and most reliable method is to use specially packed emergency water that has a five-year shelf life. You can also use regular bottled water, but it will need to be replaced about once a year. Although most experts agree that bottled water doesn’t actually go “bad,” it does pick up flavors from its packaging and can develop a musty taste.
Learn where to find other sources of water in or near your home. A hot water tank, if you have one, is one of the best sources. There is also water in canned foods, in fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and in your pipes. To get to water in your pipes after the faucets have run dry, turn on and leave open the highest faucet in your house. Then turn on the lowest faucet in your house, and more water should come out.
There is water in your toilet, but it must be purified for human consumption. Also consider rainwater, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, or natural springs. Avoid water with floating material, an odor, or a dark color. Before drinking water from any of these sources, purify it by boiling it, distilling it, or adding chlorine or water purification tablets designed for purifying drinking water. (Faucet-mounted or pitcher-style water filters are not sufficient for purifying water from these sources. To learn more about purifying water, click here.) Camping equipment and sporting goods stores often sell water purification kits for backpackers. Saltwater can only be used if it is first distilled, and you should never drink flood water.
Daily food intake varies from person to person, but plan on stocking at least 1200 calories per person per day, and more than that for anyone who is pregnant or nursing. Store some foods that you eat regularly and are accustomed to, as well as some high-calorie “survival” foods such as food bars and freeze-dried meals. If you regularly use juice to treat hypoglycemia, make sure to include some in your emergency stock.
Foods that do not require refrigeration, preparation, or cooking are best. Canned goods are ideal, and foods with a long shelf life, such as granola bars, are good, too. Put any boxed foods in waterproof storage bags, and keep cooking and eating utensils, a manual can opener, and waterproof matches in your emergency kit, too. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to do some cooking on a propane or charcoal grill, on a camping stove, or with Sterno.