15 Emergency Items You Should Always Have in Your Home

You know what the Boy Scouts say: Always be prepared.

No, you don’t have to line your basement with canned beans or build an underground bomb shelter in the backyard. But when it comes to emergency preparedness, there are a few basics you should have covered just in case something happens.

The zombie apocalypse probably won’t happen this year — but hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and mass power outages could make you seriously uncomfortable. With a couple of quick and easy steps, you can be ready for anything.

1. Backup chargers

Power bank portable charger

Power bank portable charger | Grandiflora/iStock/Getty Images

You probably already know that having portable chargers on hand for traveling can be a real lifesaver. But keeping a few charged up can have great benefits in the event of a power outage. Cell phone communication can be so important during a storm or other emergency event. Keeping your battery charged is easy when you have a power bank.

Next: Always buy this one thing way before you need it.

2. Generator

Portable generator

Portable generator | N-sky/iStock/Getty Images

Backup generators range from a few hundred dollars to thousands. You don’t necessarily need to spring for the biggest one, but having a generator capable of powering the lights, refrigerator, and any necessary medical equipment is vital.

Don’t wait until a storm to purchase your generator — that’s when they’re most likely to sell out. It’s smart to purchase yours well in advance of needing one.

Next: You can buy one of these or make your own.

3 First aid kit

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit | jovanjaric/iStock/Getty Images

It’s not even like you need to make your own emergency first aid kit — you can take the easy road and order one on Amazon. But no matter how you assemble it, having a first aid kit is critical. The Red Cross advises that you should stock yours with bandages, an ice pack, antiseptic wipe, scissors, and a few other basic items.

Next: It’s easier to pack this than you think.

4. A go bag

Two backpacks

Two backpacks | Brett Holmes Photography/iStock/Getty Images

There are times when you’ll need to leave in a hurry. It’s smart to keep a “bug out bag” packed for each member of your family in case of an evacuation or other emergency situation. Your bag can contain a multitude of different items, but basic necessities include food, water, shelter, and clothing. The bag should contain provisions for at least 72 hours.

Next: This can be the only way to communicate.

5. Cordless radio

ham radio

Ham radio | akwitps/iStock/Getty Images

Let’s say the power is out and cell phone communication isn’t working. In those situations, a cordless radio might be the best option.

This seems like an antiquated form of communication, but battery-powered or hand-cranked radios are the best way to receive information during an emergency event. Staying informed about what’s going on will help you plan your next steps and inform your neighbors, too.

Next: Keep this stocked just in case.

6. Medication

medication on a table

Medication | DedMityay/iStock/Getty Images

It’s never a good idea to run low on your medications. In the event of a natural disaster, it can become difficult or impossible to refill prescriptions that you need. Always keep plenty of your daily medication on hand, especially if there’s a big storm in the forecast.

Next: This works way better than candles.

7. Lantern


Lantern | Wittybear/iStock/Getty Images

Sure, those scented candles will make your home smell lovely, but when the power goes out you’re going to want something a little more practical to illuminate the room. Keep a camping lantern in an accessible spot just in case the power goes out.

Next: Keep stock in these for emergencies and everyday use.

8. Batteries

close up of batteries

Having batteries on hand is a no brainer. | Jarin13/iStock/Getty Images

Long power outages will have you going through batteries faster than usual. Always keep stock of all sizes of batteries so you can keep your necessities, like lanterns and radios, powered up when you need them. Bonus: buying batteries in bulk is usually cheaper.

Next: You don’t have to buy the weird versions of this.

9. Non-perishable food

Food pantry

| Warren_Price/istock/Getty Images

The American Red Cross recommends that you keep at least two weeks’ worth of non-perishable food in your home in case of emergency. However, that doesn’t mean you need to buy astronaut ice cream and canned beets if that’s not your typical fare. Stock up on regular, high protein foods you’ll like to eat such as peanut butter, tortilla shells, nuts, beef jerky, and trail mix.

Next: People typically forget to stock up on this.

10. Pet food

Dry Dog Food in a Stainless Steel Bowl on Ceramic Tile Floor

| herreid/iStock/Getty Images

Got pets at home? Don’t forget that they’ll need to eat too. Keep extra bags of dog or cat food stocked in your pantry in case of an emergency situation. Also, count your pets into the equation when you’re stocking up on water for your family.

Next: You’ll be way more comfortable if you remember to get this thing.

11. Propane

Propane tank

Propane gas cylinder | Maudib/GettyImages

Surviving a power outage can feel a lot like camping. If you keep an extra tank of propane on hand, you can use it to power your grill or camp stove. That way you’re not stuck eating cold soup and wishing you could use the stove. Noboody likes cold soup from a can.

Next: This is one of the most important things to buy.

12. Water

Gallons of Water on Grocery Shelf

Water | 805promo/iStock/Getty Images

When disasters happen, water becomes so important. It’s crucial to always keep a few extra cases stocked in storage so you have clean drinking water when you need it most. Experts recommend that you should have enough water in the house so each person can drink one gallon each day for a period of two weeks.

Know a storm is on its way? Fill up the bathtub so you have water for tasks such as flushing the toilet and washing dishes, too.

Next: It never hurts to keep this on hand.

13. Cash


Cash | Paolofur/iStock/Getty Images

Inevitably you’ll run out of something in a storm and even if the gas station down the road is open, they’ll probably be “cash only” while the power is out. Always keep emergency cash stashed in a safe or other secret hiding spots for emergency situations.

Next: Here’s something you’ll need in an emergency.

14. Basic tool kit

Variety of tools on wood planks

Variety of tools | iStock.com/Okea

You don’t need a full arsenal of specialty tools, but keeping basics such as a hammer, wrench, and screwdrivers in an accessible spot can be beneficial during an emergency event. “It gives you a lot of latitude to be able to adapt and fix things and be somewhere independent if no help is available,” Steven J. Jensen, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and advisor of emergency management at California State University at Long Beach, told Reader’s Digest.

Next: Grab these before you evacuate.

15. Important documents

Important documents

Important documents | BackyardProduction/iStock/Getty Images

You never know when you’ll need items such as your passport, will, birth certificate, and other important documents. Keep all this information together in a safe spot and be sure to grab it if you do need to evacuate. If you can laminate your documents, do it.

Read more: The 15 Worst States for Emergency Preparedness

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