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My Emergency Preparedness storage bin is packed and ready for any disaster. I hope I never have to use it. My go bag will be stored with the storage bin in case we need to leave, quickly. (Image: Rebecca Mongrain/Seattle Refined)

Prepare yourself and build a disaster emergency survival kit

Emergency Preparation seems to be on everyone's mind whenever inclement weather threatens to hit our corner of the United States. I've always been a person who likes to be prepared but I'll be honest, getting an emergency kit together has never been a high priority. I did, however, already have a small pre-packed kit that I purchased over 7 years ago, way before I owned a home or had children, from the American Red Cross.

Big storms, earthquakes and crazy weather give me a good excuse to get our kit updated!

The American Red Cross suggests having enough supplies to last a minimum of three days, but it could be up to two weeks before help arrives - so plan for that.

I decided to focus on building our home emergency supply kit first before worrying about a car and/or work kit. The challenge felt a bit overwhelming in the beginning but after a few clicks on Amazon, a trip to the store, a good dig around our basement pantry and some deep breathing, I had a well-stocked kit in no time.

If disaster strikes, the federal government expects everyone to be self sufficient for a minimum of 3 days. And in catastrophic circumstances, it might take that long for rescue or help to arrive (they now estimate two weeks). Having enough food and water in the house will be key in an emergency. I plan to keep at least a 72 hour supply of emergency ration food in our kit while also supplementing with some other tastier food options, like the big jar of peanut butter I bought at Costco. My plan is to bulk up our emergency food supply over time by grabbing a few cans of extra food during my weekly grocery store runs, to get closer to that two week number.

In the case of a large emergency, there may not be any electricity or gas which means there will be no way to cook or refrigerate your food. Having a large selection of canned, ready-to-eat food will be a huge help. You want to make sure to get canned food that can be eaten directly out of the can and are also calorically dense so items like beans, chili, tuna fish and canned meat are great items.

My tip is to buy an extra can or two of food when they are on sale. Canned food does have an expiration date so you'll want to check your emergency food stash at least once a year and rotate out items that are nearing their expiration date. Donate or eat those items and remember to replenish your supply! I also purchased Emergency Food Rations and Emergency Water from the American Red Cross which each last 5 years before they expire. They are not necessarily tasty items but they do provide your body with dense caloric nutrition while having a long expiration date.

I also updated my Red Cross kit with a hand crank radio that triples as a flashlight and phone charger while adding some emergency blankets, extra clothing and important documents. In the Seattle area, the Official Emergency Station is KIRO 710 AM or KOMO 1000 AM. If you have children in your home, I found a great article on stocking Go Bags for each member of your family from babies to adults.

I was storing my kit in our basement but after some discussion with my husband, we've decided to move it upstairs to an area where we are more likely to be in an emergency. I've separated our items into a storage bin and a Go Bag. The storage bin holds most of our food and water while the Go Bag has important documents, some food and water and first aid supplies. The Go Bag will be important if we need to leave quickly.

Here is what the Red Cross suggests that everybody has in their emergency kit to last at least 72 hours. For those extra prepared people, check out this list from FEMA.

Emergency Kit

Basic Supplies

  • Water: One gallon per person, per day.
  • Food: Non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items
  • Flashlight
  • Extra Batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Medications
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents - birth certificates, social security cards, real estate contracts, insurance contracts, bank records and passports, immunization records and any other important personal documents
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and Emergency Contact Information
  • Extra Cash (Small Bills and Coins)
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Maps of the area
  • Hand-Crank Radio


  • Baby Supplies: formula, diapers, medications
  • Pet Supplies: collar, leash, id, food, carrier and bowl
  • Two-way Radios
  • Manual Can Opener
  • Games and Activities
  • Extra set of car and house keys
  • Whistle
  • Surgical Masks
  • Matches
  • Rain Gear
  • Towels
  • Work Gloves
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Plastic Sheeting
  • Duct Tape
  • Scissors
  • Household Liquid Bleach
  • Entertainment Items
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Tool Kit
  • Trash Bags
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Baby Wipes
  • Family Plan