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Here’s What You Need in Your 72 Hour Disaster Preparedness Kit

72 hour disaster kit

The first 72 hours after a disaster hits are the most critical. The decisions you make during this time can determine whether you survive or not, and also how comfortable you will be while waiting out the worst. Since local authorities are often overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, expect to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours. To learn more about why the first 72 hours are so critical, read this article. If you are ready to take your safety and survival into your own hands, then you will need to build a 72 hour disaster preparedness kit. Here is what you need.


Water is one of the most fundamental components of life, and you can only go 3 days without water before dying. Don’t count on your plumbing to work after a major disaster. You will need to have at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day stockpiled. This is the minimum amount of water needed for drinking, cooking, and basic hygiene. If you have a family of four, then you will need a minimum of 12 gallons of water (3 gallons per person).

Note: Even if your plumbing is working, it doesn’t mean that it is safe to drink the water coming out of the tap! The CDC warns that water sanitation facilities might not work when the power goes out. Play it safe and drink boiled water or purify your water. Also pay attention for boil alerts.

Emergency Toilet

Many of us take indoor plumbing for granted, so an emergency toilet is not something that most people think about until it is too late. Rescue workers during disasters tell stories of entering homes where the toilet hasn’t been flushed for days. You can imagine what a hygienic (and smelly) disaster that can be!

Most toilets work on a gravity system. So, even if you don’t have running water, you will still be able to flush the toilet by dumping a lot of water into the bowl (manual flush). For this reason, you will want to have even more emergency water stockpiled.  It takes about 1 gallon of water to flush the toilet manually.  So you will want to stockpile an extra 1-3 gallons of water per person, per day.

It isn’t always a good idea to gravity flush your toilet during an emergency – particularly flash flooding or hurricanes. The ground can become saturated, which causes sewer systems to overflow. The CDC recommends limiting the amount of plumbing you use (washing clothes, showering, flushing the toilet, etc.). Otherwise, you might have a serious (and unhygienic) problem of waste water backing up into your home through low-level drains!

Be prepared by including an emergency toilet in your 72 hour disaster preparedness kit. Here is how to make an emergency toilet.

Survival Food

You can go up to 30 days without food, but would you really want to??? You will withstand the aftermath of a major disaster much better – both physically and mentally – if you have food to sustain yourself.

Canned foods are the most obvious survival foods because they last for a really long time, are easy to store, and can even withstand flooding. But bear in mind that survival food should also be easy to prepare. I really like freeze-dried food pouches because you just need to add water and they are ready to go. Plus, freeze-dried food tastes a lot better than canned food. Bear in mind that there are different kinds of survival food (such as survival foods for at home vs. evacuation). Learn about survival food here.

Cook-in-Pouch survival food by Wise

Cook-in-Pouch survival food by Wise

Emergency Warmth

What are you going to do for warmth if the grid goes down in the middle of winter? You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to burn your furniture to stay warm. Be prepared by having some sort of emergency heater and fuel for it (seriously, don’t forget about the fuel!).

You will also want to have wool blankets in your home. Why wool blankets? Because they will still keep you warm even when they are wet. A wet cotton blanket will just make you colder.

Flashlights and Emergency Lighting

It is good to have more than one type of emergency lighting on hand, such as flashlights as well as candles. This is because some disasters (like EMP) could fry electronics like flashlights. Flashlights can also malfunction when they get wet in flooding.   Don’t forget about extra batteries for your flashlights! I personally prefer to keep a headlamp flashlight in my 72 hour kit. It is a lot easier to do things while wearing a headlamp than holding a flashlight in one hand!

Sanitation and Hygiene Items

Prepping isn’t all about food and water. You also want to make sure that you’ve got enough toilet paper (which would give a whole new meaning to SHTF!) and other essential hygiene items. Here are some that you should have stockpiled:

  • Toilet paper
  • Baby wipes (can be used to clean body when you can’t shower)
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel
  • Soap
  • Feminine products (my wife uses a menstrual cup, so we don’t have to stockpile feminine products)
  • Diapers
  • Trash bags

Emergency Radio

A radio is absolutely essential for your 72 hour kit. How else are you supposed to know if there are evacuation orders in place, whether more bad weather is on the way, or other critical news?

An emergency radio must be waterproof and have a reliable power source. A hand-crank radio is probably the best option. Many emergency radios have other features like built-in flashlights too.

emergency radio

Board-Up, Cleanup and Repair Supplies

Some of the most likely disasters include earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. During these disasters, serious damage can occur to your home – such as broken windows and roofs being blown off. If you are stuck in your home in the aftermath of the disaster, how are you going to keep rain from coming through the broken roof? How are you going to clean up all that broken glass? It is essential that you keep some basic board-up, cleanup, and repair supplies in your 72 hour emergency kit. These include:

  • Plywood boards
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Duct tape
  • Heavy-duty trash bags
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Broom and dust pan

Evacuation Kit

Finally, don’t forget to pack an evacuation kit which includes all of the essential gear you will need in case you have to flee your home. Unfortunately, too many people rely on wishful thinking and don’t bother to pack an evacuation kit (aka Bug Out Bag). Then, when forced to flee, they have to run out with literally nothing except what last-minute items they can grab.   In your evacuation kit, you will need:

  • Evacuation documents
  • Water + filter
  • Survival food (MREs)
  • Emergency shelter
  • Sleeping bag
  • Change of clothes
  • First aid kit
  • Medications

Read more about what to pack in your Bug Out Bag here.

Do you have a 72 hour emergency kit packed?  What else are you packing in yours? Let us know in the comments below or join the discussion on Facebook.