You've read the news about hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies which can strike at anytime. One of the first disaster preparedness steps is to build a 72-hour emergency kit.
A 72-hour emergency kit contains everything you need to survive the immediate aftereffects of a disaster.
Here we’ll talk about why the 72 hour kit is so important, give you a checklist, and some options for getting started.
Why is it so important to be prepared for the first 72 hours?
Having 72 hours' worth of supplies is NOT enough to get you through a major disaster. The most advanced preppers have supplies of food going 25+ years into the future. This is not something that you build up overnight.
Having enough supplies for 72 hours will greatly increase your chances of surviving an emergency.
Here are just some of the reasons a 72 hour kit is so important:
- Utilities go down during disasters: You’ve probably already experienced this during storms. If a small blizzard or storm can take out the power for days, imagine what will happen during a major disaster! For example, 8.1 million homes went without power after Hurricane Sandy, some of them for an entire month.
- Supplies run out: The majority of people are unprepared, as is evident from the masses of people who rush to the supermarket and hardware storm the day before a storm hits. If the disaster takes out roadways or traffic is restricted, then supply trucks won’t be able to restock supplies.
- The government won’t help: We won’t get into a political discussion about FEMA here, but more than half of Americans do think that the government will come to their rescue after a disaster. What they don’t know is that it takes an average of 72 hours for state and federal governments to respond. Their response is to assist in the worst cases, like people trapped under rubble, and to distribute MREs to the masses pushing in line.
- Injuries lead to death after 72 hours: Injuries which seem minor can turn deadly within 72 hours if proper first aid isn’t administered.
72 Hour Emergency Kit Checklist
Food and Water
- Non-perishable food – See our guide to food preservation
- 6 gallons of water per person (2 gallons per day) – See our guide to storing and treating water
- Can opener (non-electric)
- Camp cooking stove and fuel
- Pots/pans, utensils
First Aid, Hygiene, and Safety
- First aid kit
- Unscented bleach (about 5.25% chlorine, for purifying water)
- Baby wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Heavy-duty plastic bags
- Emergency toilet (two bucket system recommended)
- Disposable plastic gloves
- Dust mask – (Guide to facemasks)
- Supply of prescription medications – (Guide to fish antibiotics)
- Fire extinguisher
- Window barricade (hammer, nails, wood planks) – See our guide to home defense
- Wrench or pliers (for turning off utilities)
- Heavy-duty gloves
- Bolt cutters
- Broom and dustpan
For Sheltering in Place
- 6 large tarps or plastic sheeting; 2ml minimum
- Duct tape
- 50 feet of nylon rope
- Flashlights or other off-grid lighting (candles and open flames should not be used after an earthquake because of risk of gas leak!)
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- Sleeping bags or wool blankets
- Change of clothes and footwear for each person
- Rain jackets or ponchos
- Extra batteries, preferably rechargeable with an off-grid charging method
- Solar-powered phone charger
- Waterproof matches
- Whistle or signaling method
- Emergency manuals (water purification, first aid, sheltering in place instructions)
- Copies of vital documents, put in a waterproof binder
- Comfort items (games, books, toys for children, etc.)
- Cash in small bills
- Pet supplies
- Extra keys for car and house
How to Store Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit
You probably already have many of the items in the 72 hour emergency kit checklist. For example, you probably have a rain jacket in your closet. The problem is:
How will you access your supplies in an emergency?
If your supplies are scattered all around the home (jackets in the closets, sleeping bags in storage, can opener in the kitchen…), you won’t have time to gather them all together when disaster strikes.
You must keep all your emergency supplies in one place!
Of course, where you keep your emergency kit will vary depending on the type of disaster you are prepping for. In a hurricane area, you wouldn’t want your disaster supplies in the basement (which will flood).
In an earthquake zone, you don’t want your disaster supplies in a room with shelving that could collapse.
Preferably, you keep your 72 hour kit in the same place where you will be sheltering, such as your basement, storm shelter, or safe room.
Even better, make more than one 72 hour kit and keep it in various locations. These are in addition to the emergency kits for your car and workplace!
This way, you’ll be able to access your 72 hour kit regardless of where you are when disaster strikes.
Make sure that the supplies are protected against the elements – particularly water.
I like to:
- Put my core supplies in a sealed plastic bag, which I put…
- Inside a 5 gallon bucket
Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to fit all your supplies in the bucket, but make sure the ones susceptible to water damage are protected.
At Primal Survivor, we sell a lot of emergency survival kits.
Note that no pre-bought emergency kit is going to be perfect: each family has different needs and different disaster risks. However, these emergency kits are a great off point to get you prepared quickly and easily.
Tips for Building Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit
A 72 hour emergency kit is the absolute MINIMUM that you should have. Ideally, every home will have supplies for 30 days and a goal to stockpile a year’s worth of supplies.
If you are just now getting started with emergency preparedness, the idea of building a year’s worth of disaster supplies can seem overwhelming.
- Get the items in the 72 hour emergency kit checklist ASAP.
- Set a budget and use it each week to buy some extra supplies.
- Instead of tossing plastic bottles, clean them and fill them with water.
- Start reading guides on disaster preparedness and survival.
- Soon, you will be ready for whatever disaster may strike!
How many of the items on the checklist do you have? Do you feel ready for a disaster?