How to make a home emergency kit
Make a home emergency kit to survive when essential services are cut off.
After a disaster such as a major earthquake, you might be without power and running tap water for several days – perhaps a week or more. It might not be possible to drive on roads. Supermarkets and general supplies stores could be closed too. That’s why everyone should have a home emergency kit and plan.
Your kit should have the essentials you and your family need for three days or more. Our test of emergency grab bags (used for evacuations) taught us that building your own kit is always best. That way, you’ll know it’s complete, good quality and tailored to your needs.
A complete home emergency kit will cost about $250 to $300 for one or two people, or about $450 for a family of four. But you likely already have supplies you won’t need to buy.
You don’t need to double up if you’ve got some of what you need in grab bags or elsewhere at home. And you don’t have to get everything else at once. Add a couple of items to your regular shopping list until your kit is complete.
Here you can see two different households making their home emergency kits and emergency plans.
What’s in our home emergency kit (one person, 3 days)
If you’re building your own kit based on ours, don’t worry about brands. Get whatever is available near you. You might find that it’s easiest and saves time to order some supplies online, either for home delivery or click and collect.
Drinking water: Tongariro Natural Spring Water 15L ($9.49, Pak’nSave)
Store at least 9L (ideally 20L or more) per person. You can clean and fill old drink bottles with tap water. Avoid using bottles that have held milk or other dairy products as residue can remain even after cleaning, contaminating the water. Visit getready.govt.nz to see how to store water.
Water purification: Aquatabs 50-pack ($8.49, Chemist Warehouse)
One tablet treats 1L of unchlorinated water, making it safe to drink. Get more if you’re storing more than 50L water. If using another brand or type of water treatment, check how many tablets or drops are required per litre of water.
Food: Campbell's 505g canned meals x 9 ($25.11, Pak’nSave)
Store enough food for each person for at least three days (nine meals per person). Take account of any special dietary needs. Pre-cooked canned meals are a good choice – they’re cheap, don’t require heating or water to rehydrate, usually have a long shelf life, and don’t need refrigerating.
Can opener: Pams Wing Can Opener ($2.69, Pak’nSave)
Radio (battery powered): Anko Pocket AM/FM Radio ($9, Kmart)
Battery-powered radios and torches typically perform much better than wind-up ‘dynamo’ models. Wind-up types often have NiMH rechargeable batteries that stop working well when unused for long periods of time.
Torch (battery powered): Energizer Compact Metal Light ($7.94, Bunnings)
A second torch may be handy if you have four or more people at home. Headlamps are a good choice so you can keep your hands free. Don’t use candles – they’re a fire hazard, particularly during earthquakes and aftershocks.
Batteries (two full sets): Maxlife AAA Alkaline Batteries 4-pack x 4 ($11.94, Mitre 10)
Alkaline and lithium disposable batteries last much longer than carbon zinc models, both in use and in storage. Check what size you need for your torch and radio, and find the expiry date printed on batteries to make sure they have a long shelf life.
Masks (P2 or N95 rated): 3M Builders P2 Respirator 3-pack ($10, Bunnings)
Masks rated P2 or N95 filter our more particles than P1 or unrated masks, offering better protection from toxic dust, ash, fumes and viruses. We recommend your kit includes at least three masks per person.
First aid kit: Protec The Solution General Purpose First Aid Kit ($19.99, Pak’nSave)
You’ll want a kit with a range of wound dressings and some strong bandages. Some kits claim a high piece count but lack those items, often making up the numbers with dozens of basic plasters and the like. This Protec kit is comprehensive and good value. Add a second kit if you have more than a couple of people at home.
Painkillers: Ethics Paracetamol 500mg tablets 100-pack ($3.99, Chemist Warehouse)
Earplugs: Esko Vortex Class 5 Earplugs 6-pair-pack ($5.96, Mitre 10)
Class 5 earplugs provide the greatest noise reduction. They’re useful to reduce the volume of ongoing alarms and sirens, and may help you sleep.
Work gloves (heavy duty): Firm Grip Leather Palm Gloves ($4.99, Mitre 10)
These will help protect your hands, like when moving earthquake rubble and glass.
Duct tape: Paint Partner 48mm x 30 Silver PVC Duct Tape ($3.98, Bunnings)
Duct tape can provide a temporary fix for all manner of things, holding together damaged objects and creating a waterproof seal on torn plastics and some fabrics.
Toilet and hygiene
Toilet buckets: Portable Toilet Boom Bucket with lid seat x 2 ($69.98, Supercheap Auto)
To minimise odour, use one bucket for poos and toilet paper, and another for wees. Make sure both have lids. Visit getprepared.nz to find out how to make bucket toilets.
Permanent marker: Anko 4-pack ($1.80, Kmart)
Label the toilet buckets – one ‘poos’ and one ‘wees’.
Sawdust (or similar): 50L bag ($9.99, California Garden Centre)
Use sawdust (or other dry mulch such as dry leaves, dry soil or shredded newspaper) to cover poos each time the bucket is used. It’ll minimise odour.
Disposable gloves: Protec Disposable Vinyl Gloves 20-pack ($4.49, Pak’nSave)
Hygiene is particularly important during an emergency. Protect yourself with gloves when cleaning the toilet buckets and throw them away when you’re done.
Thick plastic bags: 4U Rubbish Bags 615mm x 900mm 5-pack ($1.79, Pak’nSave)
Use as a lining for your poo bucket, and empty (remove the entire bag) every few days. Add extra plastic bags if you’ve got more than a couple of people at home.
Storage container: 60L Storage Tub with lid ($10, Kmart)
Store bags of poo in a large container with a lid. Keep them separate from regular household waste until the emergency is over and rubbish collection services resume.
Extra water: Pure NZ Spring Water 1.5L bottle x 4 ($3.56, Pak’nSave)
In addition to drinking water, you’ll need extra water to dilute urine before emptying into the garden. Fill old drink bottles with tap water.
Disinfectant: Clor-O-Gene The Wonder Fluid ($2.29, Pak’nSave)
Toilet paper: Value White 2ply Toilet Tissue 12-pack ($2.99, Pak’nSave)
Soap: Protex Antibacterial Long Lasting Freshness Bar Soap (99¢, Pak’nSave)
Hand sanitiser: Essence 500ml Hand Sanitiser ($3, Bunnings)
Disinfectant wipes: Mr Clean Antibacterial Disinfectant Wipes 50-pack ($3.49, Bunnings)
Disposable wipes are a good choice in an emergency when water is scarce.
Optional extras we included
Power bank: Xiaomi Redmi 20000mAh 18W Fast Charge ($59)
A 20000mAh power bank will recharge a typical mobile phone about four times. Your best choice is a model with a high capacity (mAh) lithium polymer (rather than lithium ion) battery, made by a reputable brand (likely to use quality materials).
You’ll significantly extend the life of your power bank’s battery if you charge it fully when it’s new, use and recharge it frequently, and avoid fully depleting the battery or leaving it sitting at 100% charge for long periods. So, rather than stowing it away with your emergency supplies, keep it with you and use it regularly.
Lantern (battery powered): Energizer 360 Area Lantern ($43.98 Mitre 10)
Lantern batteries: Maxlife AA Alkaline Batteries 4-pack ($4.18, Mitre 10)
Gas stove: Gascraft Butane Cooker ($32)
Alternatively, you can use a barbecue if you have one. If you don’t have a cooker of any kind, you might be able to use a neighbour’s in an emergency.
Gas for stove: Gascraft Butane 220g Gas Canisters 4-pack ($7, The Warehouse)
Lighter for stove: Bic Maxi Lighter 2-pack ($4.49, Pak’nSave)
Water (to cook and wash up): Pure NZ Spring Water 1.5L bottle x 3 ($2.67, Pak’nSave)
Other essentials to be added
Tools for turning off water, power and gas, plus instructions for how.
Spare toiletries and sanitary items you need.
Personal items you need, such as spare hearing aid batteries, contact lenses and fluid.
Essential medications and copies of prescriptions.
Special medical equipment you need, including a back-up power source if required.
Supplies for babies and toddlers, pets and other animals, including their food and water.
Cash in small denominations, plus spare fuel for your vehicle if you live far from shops.
ATMs and eftpos services could be offline, and petrol pumps may not be working.
A list of items in your kit and how to use them, and a note of where other supplies are kept at home – for example, in grab bags.
You don’t have to keep all your supplies in one place, as long as you know where they are and they’re easy to access in an emergency. It’s wise to keep a torch handy in case you need to find supplies in the dark.
A kit list will make it easy to check anything that’s missing during annual checks.
Check your supplies every year
Drinking water, food, batteries and some first aid items expire, and situations can change. You’ll need to replace anything that’s expired and get more supplies if extra people or animals join your home, or if their needs change.