Survival Guide: Emergency Planning: Response Supplies and Preparedness

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An evacuation kit is a collection of portable materials you can take with you should you suddenly have to evacuate your home. Shelter-in-place materials are basic supplies that should be readily available in the event of a worst-case scenario where you are avoiding contaminants in the air and/or are required to be self-sufficient for several days. This section will cover these as well as home supplies and home medical treatments to prepare yourself for the biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological emergencies discussed in this guide.


• Store supplies in a place easy to get to and that the whole family is aware of.

• Keep items in sealed, plastic bags.

• Change most food and water supplies every 6 months.

• Canned food and unopened bottled water can be replaced once a year.

• Replace battery stores every 6 months.

• Replace stored prescription medicine as needed.


Evacuation-kit supplies can also serve as shelter-in-place supplies; however, evacuation supplies should be kept together in a portable container, such as a covered plastic trash bin, a camping backpack, or a duffel bag. The American Red Cross, in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), recommends the following items be included in an evacuation kit:

Personal Items and Supplies

  • Emergency preparedness manual
  • 3-day supply of food and water
  • Bedding
  • Extra clothing (full-body coverage)
  • Sturdy boots or shoes
  • First-aid kit and manual
  • Essential items for people with special needs (e.g., infants, elderly, disabled)
  • Essential medications you are currently taking (e.g., insulin, heart medication)
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Household liquid bleach to treat drinking water
  • Mess kits or paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils
  • Manual can opener
  • Utility knife
  • Toilet paper, towelettes
  • Sealable plastic bags
  • Soap, liquid detergent
  • Cash or traveler’s checks, change, and credit cards
  • Important family documents in a waterproof container


  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries, or hand-crank radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Shovel and other useful tools (e.g., screwdrivers, pliers)
  • Maps (regional for evacuation and local for finding public evacuation shelters)
  • Shovel
  • Tire repair kit and pump
  • Booster cables
  • Flares
  • Short rubber hose for siphoning


  • Bottled water and nonperishable, high-energy foods
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Extra clothes and sturdy shoes or boots
  • First-aid kit and manual
  • Essential medications you are currently taking (e.g., insulin, heart medication)
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries, or hand-crank radio Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Maps
  • Shovel
  • Tire-repair kit and pump Booster cables
  • Flares


There are seven basics that the American Red Cross and FEMA recommend you should stock for your home: water, food, sanitation provisions, first-aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and essential personal items. While the amount of supplies necessary to stock depends upon the event (it could be a few hours to a couple of weeks), we would recommend having enough supplies for at least 3 days, and ideally for 2 weeks or more.


— Keep a 2-week supply of water for each person in your household, which would be about 1 gallon per person per day (2 quarts for drinking, 2 quarts for food preparation and sanitation).

— Children, nursing mothers, and the elderly will require more water than others. Hot environments and physical activity could as much as double the amount required.

— Storing unopened bottled water is recommended to ensure sanitary water. Replace once a year.

— Replace home-bottled water at least every 6 months.

— If water is not pure, you can treat it with one of the following methods:

1. Boil for 3—5 minutes.

2. Disinfect with 16 drops of household liquid bleach per gallon water, let stand for 15—30 minutes.

— Note that for some emergencies, water supplies may not be contaminated immediately but may become contaminated later; for this reason, you may want to fill up your bathtubs with water in case you’ll need it.


— Store enough nonperishable, high-energy foods to last for 2 weeks per household member.

— Select foods that require no refrigeration, no preparation or cooking, and little or no water.

— If you must have heated food, include Sterno (canned heat cooking fuel).

— Don’t stock salty foods, as they will make you thirsty.

— Replace expired food. Even canned goods should be replaced after 1 year.

— The following goods can be stored indefinitely: wheat, vegetable oils, dried corn, baking powder, soybeans, salt, noncarbonated soft drinks, white rice, bouillon products, dry pasta, powdered milk (in nitrogen- packed cans), and instant coffee, tea, and cocoa.

— You may want to include the following:

  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables
  • Canned juices and prepackaged beverages
  • Staples (salt, sugar, pepper, spices, etc.)
  • High-energy foods such as compressed protein bars, granola bars, raisins and other dried foods, trail mix, and peanut butter
  • Comfort foods
  • Vitamins


  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels, moist towelettes
  • Soap, liquid detergent
  • Personal hygiene items (including feminine hygiene supplies)
  • Plastic garbage bags and ties (for personal sanitation use)
  • Plastic bucket with tight lid
  • Disinfectant

First-Aid Kit and Manual

First-aid kits should include sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes, assorted sizes of safety pins, cleansing soap, latex gloves, sunscreen, sterile gauze pads, triangular bandages, sterile roller bandages, scissors, tweezers, a needle, moistened towelettes, antiseptic, thermometer, tongue blades, petroleum jelly or other lubricant


  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries, or hand-crank radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Manual can opener
  • Utility knife
  • Fire extinguisher (5 lb., A—B—C type)
  • Shutoff wrench to turn off household gas or water
  • Pliers, screwdrivers, hammer, nails, and other useful tools
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Plastic storage containers
  • Aluminum foil
  • Medicine dropper
  • Needle and thread
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • You may want to include a portable heater if in a cold climate
  • You may want to include a portable generator with gasoline supply; note that you must vent the poisoning exhaust outside to prevent carbon monoxide

Other Essentials

  • Emergency preparedness manual
  • Essential items for people with special needs (e.g., infants, elderly, disabled)
  • Essential medications you are currently taking (e.g., insulin, heart medication)
  • Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses and cleaning supplies
  • Bedding
  • Clothing for warm, cold, and rainy weather; include at least one outfit of full-body coverage for each member of the household
  • Towels
  • Household liquid bleach to treat drinking water
  • Mess kits or paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils (disposable to
  • conserve water)
  • Sealable plastic bags
  • Signal flare
  • Telephone or cell phone
  • Entertainment

Baby Needs

  • Formula
  • Baby food
  • Diapers
  • Medicines
  • Bottles
  • Powdered milk


See our section on Animal Care


  • Household liquid chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite, 5%) without other ingredients
  • Germicide soap
  • Disinfectant for furniture and other surfaces
  • Duct tape
  • Garbage bags or plastic sheeting (for sealing shelter)
  • Goggles (such as swim goggles) for eye protection for each household member

HEPA (high-efficiency particle arresting) filters for ventilation systems HEPA filters were developed by the U.S. government to protect scientists from radioactive airborne particles. They remove 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns and smaller, which includes dust, mold spores, dust mites, pet dander, allergens, and many biological agents such as anthrax spores. Note that HEPA filters do not purify the air of most chemical agents.

  • HEPA filters for vacuum cleaners
  • Insect repellent
  • Latex gloves

Respiratory Masks

— All masks for respiratory protection should be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and will say so on their boxes.

— Note that, in general, facial hair greatly reduces the fit and thus the effectiveness of respiratory masks.

— Disposable surgical respiratory masks (nonfiltered fiber masks) are only effective for protecting against relatively large particles, such as dust.

— N95 disposable respiratory masks cost about $1 each (recommended).

— N 100 disposable respiratory masks are 5% more effective than N95s and cost about $5 each.

— N100 elastomeric masks are even better than N95 and N- or P100 masks to protect against biological agents; they can be purchased at hardware stores for about $20 and have filters that cost about $5 each.

— The only types of respiratory masks that are effective for chemical agents are gas masks. Military-type gas masks that protect against chemicals are not rated by NIOSH for use because they physically restrict breathing and could harm the untrained user. Professional hazardous-materials personnel usually wear highly sophisticated “supplied-air respirators,” which involve a tank that supplies clean air.


  • Activated charcoal
  • Antacid for stomach upset
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Aspirin and non-aspirin pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen)
  • Betadine (povodine iodine) as a topical antiseptic for skin and for blister agent treatment
  • Laxative
  • Oral rehydration solutions (e.g., Pedialyte, Gatorade)
  • Potassium iodide
  • Saline wash for eyes
  • Syrup of ipecac (to induce vomiting if instructed to do so by your doctor)


Do not begin drug treatment until you have been instructed to do so by an authorized medical professional. It is extremely important to keep in mind the following precautions:

• Unnecessary and frequent use of antibiotics could kill the weakest bacteria and leave the strongest to keep reproducing and infecting others. In this way, we could build antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or bacteria that cannot be killed by common (or possibly any) antibiotics.

• Sophisticated laboratories could develop bacteria that are resistant to certain antibiotics that would normally kill them, hence you need specific medical direction on a case-by-case basis.

• Allergic reactions to antibiotics are not uncommon and can even be life-threatening.

• Many antibiotics have special precautions for children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions.

• Antibiotics may cross-react with other medications you are taking. For these reasons, we do not recommend that you self-administer antibiotics; consult your physician beforehand.

In the biological-weapons sections, antibiotics are listed as the primary treatment for all of the bacterial diseases. It is important to note that often the first-choice treatment in the event of an outbreak for patients with established infection and significant symptoms is for antibiotics to be given directly into a vein (intravenously, IV) or into the muscle (intramuscularly, IM)—the sort of drug therapy dispersed from a hospital. If there is a bioterrorist attack of great magnitude, the healthcare system may be too overwhelmed to administer drugs by IV or TM. In this case, oral antibiotics (by mouth) would be recommended. In cases of an outbreak where protective antibiotic dosages are given to a population (called prophylaxis), the antibiotics would also be oral dosages.


In conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns consumers against fraudsters that offer prescription medications online, preying on consumers’ fears and vulnerabilities. They offer the following advice:

• Talk to your healthcare professional before you use any medications. Confirming an infection requires a doctor’s examination and diagnosis.

• Know that some websites may sell ineffective drugs. Some sites may claim to sell FDA-approved drugs, like ciprofloxacin (“cipro”), made to meet U.S. standards. In fact, the drugs could be counterfeit or even adulterated with dangerous contaminants.

• Know whom you are buying from. Online, anyone can pretend to be anyone. To ensure that the site is reputable and licensed to sell drugs in the United States, the FDA recommends that you check with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy at, or at phone number 847-698-6227, to determine whether a website is a licensed pharmacy in good standing.

• In addition, the FTC and FDA caution:

- Don’t buy prescription drugs from sites that offer to prescribe them without a physical exam, sell drugs without a prescription, or sell drugs unapproved by the FDA.

- Don’t do business with websites that don’t give you access to pharmacists to answer questions.

- Avoid sites that don’t provide their name, physical business address, and phone number.

- Don’t purchase from foreign websites. It is generally illegal to import drugs that are sold by these sites; the risks are greater, and there is very little the U.S. government can do if you are taken advantage of.

- If you buy drugs online, pay by credit or charge card.

For more information from the federal government about treatments for anthrax and other diseases, visit For more information from the FDA, call toll-free 1-800-INFO-FDA or visit Information on bioterrorism and public-health preparedness from the CDC is available at and also by telephone at 1-800-311-3435. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, call the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP, or use the complaint form at

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