What to Include in a Home Emergency Kit

Canadians are regularly reminded that we are fortunate to live in a country of relative stability. Despite this, it’s important for homeowners to prepare for the worst by compiling a home emergency kit that can be utilized if necessary. The potential for extreme weather events, fire, or social unrest to upend business as usual cannot be discounted. For those of us on the West Coast, earthquakes are an additional threat. While your home may be the most expensive purchase you’ve ever made, it doesn’t compare to the value of your safety and wellbeing, so think ahead and ensure that you’ve collected the following crucial items. 

The Kit Itself First things first, you’ll want a backpack or other bag that is easy to grab. Some emergencies remove us from our homes, while others confine us to them, so ensure that every member of your household knows where the kit is. Some households prepare kits for each individual, while others prefer one for everybody. 

Food and Water Non perishable food such as canned food, dried food, or energy bars will be great in an emergency. To access your canned goods you’ll need a can opener. Utensils and plates will also be valuable. Remember to replace your stored foods on an annual basis. 

The Government of Canada recommends storing 2 liters of water per person per day, so it’s best to have enough supply to last for a few days. 

Medication and Special Needs Items In an emergency you may not have the time or ability to replace medications, particularly ones requiring prescriptions. Ensure that these are stored with your emergency preparedness kit and are easily accessible. Baby needs and an extra pair of glasses are other examples of items you’ll sorely miss if they’re not included in your kit. Don’t forget about your pets either! Their food and medication should be in good supply and ready to go. 

Personal Hygiene Products Everyday items may be difficult to access during a period of chaos, so ensure that hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other toiletries are prepared. Keep in mind that earthquakes or other natural disasters may leave you without running water. 

Important Documents In a grab and go scenario, you won’t want to leave behind your important documents. These could include your birth or marriage certificate, passport, driver’s license, land deed, will, or insurance documents. 

Flashlight and Radio In the absence of electricity, hand-crank or battery operated devices are optimal. Such items are not often considered in our high-tech world, but become instantly necessary during extreme circumstances. 

First Aid Kit A well-stocked first aid kit should be a household staple. Include sterile gauze pads, adhesive tape, bandages, scissors, tweezers, pins, ice packs, gloves, antiseptic, and other items. These can be assembled yourself or conveniently purchased as a whole. Be sure to restock any items as used to keep the kit full at all times.

Seasonal Clothes and Footwear A change of clothes or footwear may provide comfort in an emergency situation. Canadians live in a seasonal climate and temperatures can be prone to substantial swings within short periods of time, so layers are recommended. 

A Cell Phone with an Extra Charger or Battery Pack We often take communications for granted, but in an emergency we’ll want to contact loved ones and, without planning ahead, may find ourselves unable to. 

Tools and Other Items Everyday items like scissors, pocket knives, or duct tape may prove valuable in an emergency. A whistle may help attract attention. A multipurpose tool or wrench will be important if it becomes necessary to turn off water or gas. If you live in a multi-family building, familiarize yourself with the unit and/or building  shut-off locations. Candles, lighters, and matches should be stored in a waterproof bag. A sleeping bag or pillow could be important for obvious reasons. In a disaster, a household will often want to display a sign in the window that alternately reads ‘help’ or ‘OK’. A pen and pad can suddenly become a valuable means of communication. 

A Vehicle Emergency Kit It’s best to be prepared while in your vehicle as well. Jumper cables and a spare tire are must-have items, as are food and water. If you break down near the highway you’ll want to have some bright orange cones to create some space. Sand or kitty litter can also come in handy if you’re stuck on ice and need to gain traction. 

Emergency Plan While the aforementioned items are critical to your emergency response, so too is a solid plan. Members of the household should know the whereabouts of the emergency preparedness kit, as well as their individual roles in case of emergency. Establish both emergency exits and meeting places both near the home and outside of your immediate neighborhood. An emergency contact list will also prove valuable. 

Being prepared for an emergency will not only provide practical advantages during a time of crisis, but will also help members of the household stay calm. Children in particular will benefit from having a strong, composed adult to rely upon during an emergency. While we all hope to avoid such situations, we will thank ourselves for being prepared should they arise. 

The following sites offer considerable information about what to do in case a calamitous event ever occasions the need for your emergency kit: