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Building an Emergency Stockpile

Sometimes local infrastructure fails due to unforeseen causes: extreme weather, unexpected peak usage, or even plain-old negligence. In these cases, power can be out or tap water unsafe to drink for days. In situations that affect entire regions, sometimes grocery stores can run out of stock. It’s a good idea to keep some things on hand for these just-in-case moments. Here are some ideas for putting together an emergency stockpile:

How Long Does It Need to Last?

The first question you should ask yourself is how long you’ll need your stockpile to last. Planning for crises can be difficult because of the inherent uncertainty. You’ll be better off if you settle for the most likely to occur events, instead of trying to plan for every possible emergency. Read up on the kinds of disasters that are most likely to strike in your area and how long you could be without access to various modern amenities like grocery stores or electricity. Do you want your stockpile to last for three days or a couple of weeks? Anything more than that gets into some pretty serious commitments to building a survivalist lifestyle. For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on the practical needs to survive a short-term shortage.


Your stockpile should have food that will last for years in storage. Pasta, whole-grain rice, dried beans, cheese, and canned meats are all good things to keep on hand. Make sure to consider how the food needs to be prepared. For example, pasta will need to be boiled, but cheese and canned meats will not.

If you like, you can keep some canned or jarred items that only last for a certain number of months—just make sure to keep track of the expiration dates so you can eat and replace them before that date arrives. As long as the food is consistently available and unexpired, you can consider it a part of your short-term emergency stockpile.


The CDC recommends keeping a gallon of water per person/animal, per day for emergency situations. The most reliable way to store water is in commercial packaging, but don’t keep the same water sitting around forever. You should replace your stockpile of commercially bottled water every six months. Additionally, the CDC recommends keeping some unscented bleach on hand just in case you need to sanitize your water. It only takes 1/8 of one teaspoon (.75ml) of bleach per gallon to sanitize water. For more information on safely storing or sanitizing an emergency water supply, visit the following page:


Lots of households have a handyman who keeps a full set of tools around. If your home isn’t well-equipped, set up a kit now instead of heading to the hardware store when things might be in a frenzy. Keep a variety of tools, such as Philips and flathead screwdrivers, pliers, a hammer, a wrench set, a crank-flashlight, a utility knife, and string. You may also consider a portable propane stove so you can boil water for cooking purposes.

First-aid Supplies

First-aid kits vary greatly in the completeness of their contents. Check this page for the American Red Cross list of suggested items your kit should have:

Your emergency supplies are like insurance. They cost a little bit of money to maintain, but if you ever need them, you’ll be more than glad you spent it.

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