Thinking about a potential future emergency can be anxiety-inducing. It’s not a fun or lighthearted topic. Many people avoid thinking about it entirely. This is completely understandable. However, while living in fear of the future isn’t healthy, taking a few simple steps to prepare for a worst-case scenario is a good idea. While this doesn’t mean you need to build a bunker or spend thousands of dollars on doomsday products,  it does mean that you should consider keeping a personalized emergency kit on hand.

How to get started

The first question to answer is how long the emergency kit should be supplied for. The official minimum recommendation is three days. Most people plan for a full week. A few staple categories every emergency kit should include are water, food, first aid supplies, important documentation, and tools for communication and protection. Water can refer to water bottles, larger water storage systems, or a proper filtration system. The official recommendation is one gallon per day per person including pets. This is to be used for both drinking and hygiene.  Food should be something long-lasting, easy to store and prepare, with at least moderate nutritional content. One popular choice is granola bars.

What you include in a first aid kit will depend on additional factors, but you should have one with at least some basic supplies. This means things like bandaids, anti-septic, over-the-counter pain killers, and an ace bandage at least. In addition, plan to keep an extra supply of any prescription medications.

Keeping original documentation safe can be important for putting your life back together after the fact. These documents include things like birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, and insurance information. Often a quality fireproof safe will work.

Communication can refer to either a radio or a way to keep your cell phones running, such as a solar charger. You will need protection from things like the elements. So make sure to keep a few extra blankets or similar items on hand. Additional things recommended by the US government include a flashlight, a whistle to call for help, and a wrench to turn off utilities.

Making sure to have these things on hand is a great way to start building an emergency kit at home. To take it one step further requires just a little bit of thought. One of the biggest factors to influence what should be in your emergency kit is your location.

Consider where you live

If you live in the country you will likely shelter in place. There are very few circumstances that would require you to leave your home or land entirely. Building a kit designed for longer-term sheltering in place is most likely your best strategy. Because you’re not in a city, it will likely take longer for officials to get things running again. Plan for up to two weeks off the grid. Specific items for your emergency kits might include a larger water storage system, plastic sheeting, and duct tape, extra toilet paper, and some basic camping supplies in case you’re unable to stay inside the house itself.

If you live in the city or suburbs, you will probably want two different emergency kits. Depending on the emergency,  you may need to stay put and wait for emergency workers. Alternatively, you may need to leave the area and go to a safer location. Since either scenario is likely, it’s best to be prepared for both. Your stay-in-place kit should include the same kind of items as for those who live in the country. In addition, your kit should include some dust masks.

For your second emergency kit keep everything lightweight. It should be easy to transport on your person and under 15 pounds. Include a couple of water bottles, and a personal water filtration system. Food should be light and easy to carry. Avoid heavy things like canned food for this kit. Include a copy of your most important documents. Consider your transportation plan. In a disaster situation, you likely won’t be able to drive your SUV through the streets. Investing in either a motorbike or bicycle can help ensure you maintain your mobility when streets are out of commission.

Learn what kind of disaster you might face

Find out what type of disaster is likely in your area. Some places are prone to earthquakes or floods. Others might have fires or tornados. The first step is to find out what the likely disasters are for your area. Think about what challenges you might face and include items in your kits to help you overcome them. In a place that is likely to flood, you might include lifejackets in your kit. In places often dealing with fires, consider investing in a gas mask.

Get some training

No kit is complete without training. At least one person in your family should plan to become first aid and CPR certified. Make sure you can turn off your utilities. Simple training can make the difference in a bad situation.

If you have kids, you should help them practice what to do in an emergency situation. Run drills for whatever disasters you might face. This helps them remain calm and safe in an actual disaster event. In addition, it is a good idea to set a meeting place. Decide beforehand where you will meet if you are separated.

Having a complete emergency kit on hand can really put your mind at ease. Luckily, it doesn’t take too much to create one. If it feels too overwhelming, there are professional services which create them for you. Using the guide above, you can take simple steps to prepare for the future and stop worrying.