Disaster Preparedness Checklists for Dummies

Preparing for any disaster or emergency can become an overwhelming task. There are countless possibilities and no shortage of factors to consider and remember. Even …

Preparing for any disaster or emergency can become an overwhelming task. There are countless possibilities and no shortage of factors to consider and remember. Even worse is having to react at the moment. By definition, an emergency is likely to be a very stressful situation. What do you need to do to keep yourself safe? What should you do first? What equipment do you need? Tackling these challenges is almost impossible without the proper help and guidance. You shouldn’t have to remember everything when the stakes are high. You need a disaster preparedness checklist.

The Situation Matters

The specifics of a preparedness checklist will depend greatly on what disaster you are reacting to, and where. The considerations for staying safe at home are starkly different than those in your car or on a trail. In the interest of thoroughly covering a specific need, this guide will focus on an emergency preparedness checklist for home. While you should absolutely have a checklist for other contexts, those will be found elsewhere.

What do you need to make sure you are prepared for the worst? There are several key factors.


No true survival guide is complete without stressing the importance of water. You can live for quite some time without food, shelter, or warmth. That simply isn’t true with water. Even a full day without hydration can lead to serious illness or even death. Thus, having an ample supply of water is absolutely critical when creating a family emergency plan checklist.

When preparing your home for a disaster, remember that water isn’t just used for drinking. Rather, clean water is key in staying hydrated, maintaining hygiene, and preparing food. Experts typically recommend storing at least one gallon per person per day. However, more is always a benefit.

There are many ways that you can effectively store water. For a simple solution, there is nothing wrong with purchasing 1-gallon jugs from your local superstore. However, this can become an expensive and impractical solution on a large scale. There are many commercially available options for storing emergency water, including stackable containers and even membrane tanks that fit into your bathtub. However you store it, care should be taken to preserve the quality of the water. Keep your water supply out of direct light, and consider looking into preservation chemicals if you intend to keep the water for years rather than days.

Emergency Food

Beyond water, food is a critical supply to have on your checklist. Thankfully, most homes have enough space to store large quantities of shelf-stable food, making long-term survival very possible.

There are plenty of pre-made solutions for emergency food, such as the “40-day survival buckets” available from a multitude of sources. However, there is nothing that stops you from assembling your own arsenal of supplies. After all, home preparedness can come in many forms. Many of the foods you probably already eat are excellent for emergency storage, such as tuna, rice, canned vegetables, and much more. There is nothing wrong with freeze-dried options or MREs, but you should not feel limited to these traditional sources.

As we’ve discussed, you never know when disaster will strike. Thus, having food stay around for longer than necessary isn’t ideal. For this reason, many preppers incorporate their survival food into their normal rotation. By using your “stash” day to day and simply replenishing it as needed, you will maintain a supply of food that is both regularly replaced but large enough to sustain you when the need arises.

Finally, don’t forget the comforts of home. Although rice and beans are an excellent source of protein, eating a monotonous diet can take a toll on one’s mental health, especially in a stressful situation. It’s okay to have a few boxes of cookies or a box of your favorite cereal. Sometimes these reminders of normalcy can go a long way in a trying time.

First Aid

No emergency preparedness checklist is complete without a first-aid kit. Whether the disaster you’re facing is a storm or an economic collapse, your chances of injury increase. Further, access to medical care is not always a given. For this reason, the best preppers put significant emphasis on their medical supplies. This is an area where pre-assembled solutions can work well. Look for large kits that include plenty of gauzes, bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, tourniquets, and more.

Unfortunately, simply having the equipment isn’t necessarily enough. You also need to know how to use it. Buy a guide on first-aid treatment and take some time to familiarize yourself with the basics. Of course you can always reference the book if needed, but being able to act quickly from memory is a valuable asset in a dangerous moment.

Supplies and Tools

If you have food, water, and medicine, you are well on your way to self-sustainability. However, there are a few items that can make your life much more pleasant and productive. The specific supplies you need will vary, but many preparedness experts believe that keeping a basic complement of hand tools and other DIY items can be a valuable addition to your kit. Sure, you probably aren’t going to be adding a sunroom to the back of your house in an emergency, but being able to do basic carpentry and repairs is a valuable commodity.

Beyond tools, make sure you have plenty of batteries, flashlights, candles, and other emergency-related supplies. Power is often the first thing to go in an emergency, so having a backup source to keep your devices charged is a great idea. Lastly, keeping things clean and dry can go a long way towards maintaining your sanity. Trashbags, paper towels, aluminum foil, and zip ties are all inexpensive items that become extremely useful in the right context.

Clothing, Bedding, and Personal Items

Although fashion isn’t a priority in an emergency, your comfort should be. Always make sure you have enough clean and dry clothing and bedding to maintain your comfort during a catastrophic event. Many preppers keep additional socks and undergarments in waterproof bags along with the rest of their provisions. It’s a small detail, but it can greatly improve your quality of life.

Make sure you have enough personal items to survive for at least a month. Medicine, spare contacts or glasses, feminine hygiene products, diapers, and baby formula are all great items to have on hand when the going gets rough. It is easy to forget about these normal items of daily life, but you will definitely miss them in their absence.

Finally, don’t forget to account for your entertainment. While they won’t be the difference between life and death, having a deck of cards or a few board games are a cheap addition to a preparedness list that can go a long way towards keeping you and your family happy and focused.


Disaster preparedness checklists are very personal pursuits and will vary for each person. However, the basics typically remain the same. Taking some time to create and refine your disaster preparedness checklists before the need arises will make sure that you are prepared when the time comes. Whether you’re making a fire preparedness checklist, a storm list, or any other preparedness planning, always make sure you cover the basics and don’t forget to account for your happiness as well. A little planning can make a huge difference when the time comes.