Buy a Ready-Made Disaster Kit vs. Make One from Scratch

Disasters can strike at any time, arriving in the form of unannounced earthquakes, forecasted yet still destructive hurricanes and tornadoes, other acts of God and even man-made chemical spills or power plant meltdowns.  When disaster strikes, are you prepared? What does being prepared mean?  The makers of one such disaster kit breaks it down like this: Food, water, shelter, first aid, alert, and “other items”.  The first three should look familiar to you as the traditional items on an immediate “basic needs” list, while first aid deals with injury inflicted during the disaster.  Alert items help EMT or search and rescue find you sooner.  “Other items”, such as a dust mask and work gloves, help reduce further injury.

A disaster kit addresses the basic needs of food, water, and shelter for you and your family. Should you buy a ready-made kit or create one from scratch?Why do I recommend buying a ready-made disaster kit? While these kits come with everything you will need, creating a disaster kit from scratch and buying everything that comes with it takes a lot of time and effort.  The 58-item disaster kit comes with 21 unique items.  Would you like to run around a sporting goods store or department store seeking out these items?  Furthermore, you may need to make a trip to a specialty store if you can’t find some of the items.  In any event, purchasing a ready-made disaster kit will cost between $40-90.  Creating one from scratch will cost around $80 if you purchase the items in bulk, but you will be left with lots of leftovers, enough to make multiple kits.

Here are the contents of the ready-made disaster kit with all the items you need to get by until the city or state restores basic services and utilities and businesses reopen.  All the items come in a bright, safety orange backpack:

6 Emergency Drinking Pouches
1 2400-Calorie Bar
1 Flashlight w/batteries
2 Light Sticks
1 Whistle
1 Rain Poncho
1 Emergency Blanket
4 Hand Warmers
15 ¾” x 3″ Adhesive Bandages
5 ⅜” x 1 ½” Adhesive Bandages
1 Antibiotic Ointment Packet
3 Antiseptic Wipes
3 Alcohol Prep Pads
1 First Aid Guide
2 Acetaminophen Tablets (e.g. Tylenol)
2 Ibuprofen Tablets (e.g. Advil)
2 Antacid Tablets
1 Pair of Work Gloves
1 Dust Mask
1 Biohazard Bag w/tie
4 Hand Sanitizer Packets

If you feel compelled to create your own disaster kit for, say, your family of four, buying the items in bulk will save you a lot of money.  Below, I will also list the number of items purchased in bulk in parentheses.  Even if you assemble four complete kits and stuff them in a single orange backpack, you will still find yourself with a lot of leftover items, as the numbers will show.

24 Emergency Drinking Pouches (pack of 60)
4 2400-Calorie Bars (pack of 24)
4 Flashlights w/batteries (each)
8 Light Sticks (pack of 10)
4 Whistles (each)
4 Rain Ponchos (pack of 4)
4 Emergency Blankets (pack of 4)
16 Hand Warmers (pack of 40)
60 ¾” x 3″ Adhesive Bandages (pack of 100)
20 ⅜” x 1 ½” Adhesive Bandages (pack of 100)
4 Antibiotic Ointment Packets (pack of 100)
12 Antiseptic Wipes (pack of 100)
12 Alcohol Prep Pads (pack of 200)
4 First Aid Guides (each)
8 Acetaminophen Tablets (pack of 50)
8 Ibuprofen Tablets (pack of 50)
8 Antacid Tablets (pack of 125)
4 Pairs of Work Gloves (each)
4 Dust Masks (pack of 30)
4 Bio-hazard Bags w/tie (pack of 25)
16 Hand Sanitizer Packets (pack of 200)
1 Orange Backpack

As you can see, just four items (flashlight with batteries, whistle, First Aid guide, and work gloves) were not purchased in bulk.  In any case, unless you ran a doctor’s office, were compiling a disaster kit that complied with OSHA, or had accident-prone children, the chances of requiring so many first aid items, hand warmers, and packets of hand sanitizer are slim.

You may save a lot of money by assembling your own disaster kit but you will waste a lot of time doing so and you will have a lot of items leftover.  It is never too soon to purchase a disaster kit so that you and your family can have some peace of mind when the unexpected takes place.  Disaster kits address the most basic of human needs.  Do not wait until a disaster already takes place to think about the needs of you or your family.

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Francis M. Unson


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4 Responses to “Buy a Ready-Made Disaster Kit vs. Make One from Scratch”

  1. Megan K. Says:

    As someone who teaches emergency preparedness as part of my job (in fact I’m giving a community presentation on it next week) I have to say there are pros and cons to both assembling your own kit and buying a pre-made one.

    Assembling your own
    Pros: ability to customize
    Can make it as big or small as is convenient and necessary for you and your family
    Often times cheaper

    Cons: can take time
    Easy to forget semi-essential items
    Shelf-life of food/water can be shorter

    Pre-made kits
    Pros: all the essentials are included
    Come in different sizes for various family sizes
    Convenience of getting it all at once and being “done”
    Food/water typically have longer shelf lives

    Cons: can’t customize (if strictly buying pre-made)
    Often only are designed to last 3 days – a good kit should last 7-14 days
    Food is designed for toddlers and up – no formula for babies
    Does not include supplies for pets (pet-specific kits may be available)
    Can be more expensive

    I say do what works for your situation; so long as you have (at bare minimum) 3 days worth of water, food, and basic first aid for each member of your family – including any pets – then you have met the very basic essentials. If you live in a more rural area or in a high-density (population-wise) area, you should be prepared to spend as much as a week or two on your own without help from emergency personnel. A well-assembled kit will work for ANY disaster – earthquake, flash flood, extended power outage, terrorist attack, etc.

    The biggest thing to keep in mind – CHECK YOUR KIT every 6 months and replace any items that have expired or are close to expiring. If you ever use any items from your kit, make sure to replace them right away.

    Our website has a guideline for what a good disaster kit should include, whether per-made or self-assembled ( We also have information on many other facets of disaster preparedness – a kit alone is not enough in many cases, particularly for a regional disaster such as an earthquake.

  2. Disaster Preparedness « Flower Blossoms' Blog Says:

    […] Organize a safety kit including band aids, non-perishable food, water, disinfectant, an extra pair of clothing, an extra set of keys, and other necessary toiletries. […]

  3. Three Storms: The Perfect Storm? « Flower Blossoms' Blog Says:

    […] throughout the state.  The best thing you can do to prepare for these natural disasters is to have safety kits in your house and an emergency plan.  Don’t forget to set aside food and water that will last […]

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