• Rock Rousseau

HOW TO Prepare for Emergency (Checklists)

Don't wait til the last minute to get prepared for an emergency! Or else you may be faced with aisles of empty grocery shelves. The key in surviving a natural disaster is to be prepared. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, typhoons, severe thunderstorms, strong winds can leave you and your family without electrical power for days, perhaps weeks or months. Build a survival kit that will last you several days after a disaster. Stock your kits with enough food, water, clothes, medicine and other essentials well before a disaster strikes. You might be on your own for a few days, so pack a bag and be ready . Stock up on emergency foods—with a focus on non-perishable food—so that you will have plenty to eat and drink. Before you hit the grocery store, take a look at this survival checklist for the best food items that you can buy for your family.

Sources:,, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Clemson University Cooperative Extension. ASPCA.

Prior to a natural disaster

If you are able to perform the following provisions, do the following:

  • As a storm approaches, conduct an inventory of your pantry. You may already have foods appropriate for an emergency such as bread, crackers and peanut butter. Eat what you've got in the fridge before it goes bad, then dip into the shelf-stable stuff.

  • Fill your coolers and pack the freezer with ice as close as you can before the storm makes landfall. Put drinks in the fridge and move to the cooler when they are cold rather than room temperature to preserve the ice. If the power goes out, you'll have cold drinks, at least for a while.

  • Keep in mind whom you will be feeding when making a list of storm-ready food. Do you have young children, or perhaps a newborn? Is someone a vegetarian? Are there dietary concerns that are about more than losing weight? For instance, diabetics and people allergic to wheat will need special considerations since so many shelf-stable foods are carb- and grain-laden. When it comes to emergency food, one size does not fit all.


Non-perishable foods and items that are shelf-stable and don't need to be refrigerated or cooked should be the first items you throw in your grocery cart. Here's a list of non-perishable items you should stock up for and can enjoy if you are without power for several days.

  • Bottled water. You may lose access to drinking water during a natural disaster or it could be compromised through contamination, or could be cut off completely. The average person needs 1 gallon of water per day, and that can be more depending on your age, physical activity level, and overall health. You'll also need more in hot weather. Stock up on at least a three gallon per day supply, per person in your home. For a family of three, that's nine gallons of water per day. Be sure to fill your bathtub, too: If your water supply is lost during the disaster, you can use the water in your tub to flush your toilet manually by pouring some in the bowl. Your water may not be drinkable after a storm, so purchase bottled water that you can drink and cook with post-disaster.

  • Canned meat and fish. Many canned products can last up to a year on your shelf. What's more, these products are ready to eat—no cooking required. Though, we imagine canned chili tastes better heated. If you haven't tried SPAM, this may be a good time. You will be surprised with how tasty it can be. Canned foods should stay safe during a disaster, but the FDA says you can pack them in plastic bags for added security. Just be sure to check the cans haven't bulged before you open them up. Nutrition experts recommend canned fish packed in water even when there isn't a natural disaster looming. Canned wild-caught salmon is cheaper than fresh, and still provides the same heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines are a great source of calcium.

  • Ready-to-eat canned vegetables. Canned soups and vegetables can be loaded with sodium, so shop smart: look for "low sodium" or "very low sodium" on the label. In addition to being bad for heart health, FEMA recommends avoiding salty foods during a disaster because they can make you thirsty and go through your water supply faster. Just be sure to add a non-electric can opener to your list if you don't have one.

  • Canned Beans. Black beans, pinto beans, or kidney beans, can be eaten on their own or added to pretty much any leftovers you've got in the fridge.

  • Cereal and Trail Mix. Nuts, cereal, granola, and dried fruit are all good snacks to have on hand. Nuts are one of the healthiest pantry foods you can have on hand in case of an emergency. They are high in protein, healthy fats that raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Just be sure to buy unsalted nuts—you won't want to eat any foods that make you very thirsty. You may not be able to make eggs and toast during the storm, so settle for cereal, which is shelf-stable for up to a year and the right ones can supply a bevy of healthy grains to your diet.

  • Dried and canned fruits. Normally you'd want to stick to fresh fruit, but most varieties need to be refrigerated. Your next-best bet: canned or dried fruit with no gels, syrups, added sugar, or artificial sweetener. Read labels carefully.

  • Dry pasta and canned marinara sauce. Dry pasta is shelf-stable almost indefinitely. Pair it with a prepared, canned tomato sauce.

  • Instant coffee. Stressful situations are not the time to forego your usual caffeine fix. Instant packets make things easy, as long as you have some sort of hot water source.

  • Boxed non-dairy milk. If you lose power, you may still need milk—but it won't be safe to drink it from your fridge for very long. Shelf-stable soy or almond milk is ideal when the power goes out – you can eat cereal or granola normally and use it in your instant coffee. You can also buy powdered milk, which can last for up to six months.

  • Juice and enhanced waters. Find these in plastics or boxes, in case you tire of having just water.

  • Instant soup mixes. You can whip up a piping hot meal over your gas stove or BBQ grill with nothing more than an instant soup or noodle pack. For example, ramen noodles and bottled water. The single-serving pouches ensure you won't have to worry about refrigerating leftovers.

  • Peanut butter and crackers. You probably already have peanut butter in your house which will last you long after the storm passes, giving you another source protein that you won't have to cook. Make sure it's not natural peanut butter, which must be refrigerated after opening. Pair crackers with your peanut butter for an instant snack packed with protein. They can last up to six months—but buy the dry, crisp variety to reach that longer shelf life.

  • Apples. While apples will eventually go bad, they're one of the longest-lasting fresh fruits you can buy and doesn't require refrigeration.

  • Boxed instant potatoes. Read the labels and purchase boxed potatoes that use only water or milk to make. They'll last for six months, and make a tasty side dish for your canned meats.

  • Comfort food: You might as well buy the Twinkies, Pop-Tarts, doughnuts, Nutter Butters or Little Debbie's Snack Cakes. You know you're going to crave them.

  • Pet Food. Don't forget to make sure your pets have an adequate supply of dry food and include them in the water equation.


  • Bags of ice and large ice cooler (Enough to keep any perishables that you do have cold for a couple days)

  • Garbage bags and ties

  • Paper towels

  • Baby Wipes

  • Fuel (charcoal, lighter fluid, matches) or a full propane tank for the grill

  • Hand sanitizer that's 60-95% alcohol

  • Manual can opener

  • Large and small Ziplock bags

  • Plastic wrap or storage containers.

  • Paper plates

  • Paper napkins

  • Paper or plastic cups

  • Plastic forks, knives and spoons

  • Serving spoons, forks and knives for food preparation and serving

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert

  • Flashlights

  • First aid kit

  • Extra batteries

  • Whistle to signal for help

  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

  • Cell phone with chargers

  • Portable battery charger. If you lose power and landline phone service, you'll want to be sure you can keep your mobile phone charged.

  • Prescription medications

  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives

  • Glasses and contact lens solution

  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream

  • Pet food and extra water for your pet

  • Cash or traveler's checks

  • Full tank of gas in each automobile

  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container

  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes

  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water

  • Dust mask. FEMA recommends keeping a dust mask in your emergency kit. A mask will protect your lungs in the event that the air around you becomes contaminated with dust, smoke, or other pollutants.

  • Matches in a waterproof container

  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

  • Paper and pencils

  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

If you have a Gas Powered generator, DO NOT USE IT INSIDE THE HOUSE OR GARAGE. Always have the generator operating outdoors to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Most of the deaths and injuries associated with portable generators are from CO poisoning from generators used indoors or in partially enclosed spaces.

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.

  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers.

  • Replace expired items as needed.

  • Re-think your needs every year and replenish your kit as your family’s needs change.

Kit Storage Locations

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.

  • Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.

  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.

  • Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.


Here are some common safety questions about how to handle food and water before and after a disaster:

How long must water be boiled to kill bacteria?

The water should be at a rolling boil for 1 to 3 minutes.

What if I don't have a heat source to boil water?