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Essential Emergency Supplies

Keeping a first aid kit at home and in your car will help you be prepared for just about anything.

Keeping a first aid kit at home and in your car will help you be prepared for just about anything.

A Note About This Article

There a quite a few articles out there that discuss what emergency supplies you should have on hand in the event of a natural disaster. But I have yet to find a comprehensive list of supplies that covers all emergencies.

This article lists emergency supplies that everyone should have in case of ANY emergency. Of course, these supplies will come in handy during a natural disaster as well.

I try to plan for everything. Being in the medical field, I always had to be prepared for an emergency, and after 16 years, it just became a habit.

I now carry emergency supplies with me wherever I go. Of course, I carry way more than the average person needs to, but I like to be completely prepared. I keep emergency supplies everywhere in my home as well as in my:

  • Handbag
  • Car
  • Office (in drawers, cabinets etc.)

I keep medical and other emergency supplies in just about every room in the house as well. Again, I like to be prepared, and you never know what room you’ll be in should an emergency occur.

I picked this up from the job, actually. Each exam room has emergency medical supplies in the same places so that in the event of an emergency, the staff member in the exam room knows exactly where everything is.

This system inevitably carried over into my home life. I have emergency supplies in every room of my home including my:

Some of the items in our portable first aid kit.

Some of the items in our portable first aid kit.

  • Home Office
  • Living Room
  • Kitchen
  • Linen Closets
  • Bathrooms
  • Bedrooms
  • Closets
  • Garage
  • Crafting Area

Obviously, I have quite a few duplicate supplies, but you can never have too many in my opinion.

I have first aid kits (like the one pictured above) all over my home, and in my car, as well as loose supplies in drawers, cabinets, closets and sometimes on bookshelves and tabletops.

Essential Diagnostic Tools

There are several pieces of medical diagnostic equipment that are common place in the medical profession that are indispensable in an emergency. There are three instruments, however, that everyone should have in their homes and learn how to use:

  • Sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure cuff
  • Glucometer for testing blood sugar levels
  • Thermometer

The majority of emergencies involve some sort of cardiovascular event, or hyper/hypoglycemia (high/low blood sugar), so having a blood pressure cuff and a glucometer are a necessity. A thermometer is a necessity in any home, especially with children.

My sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. They have seen better days, but they are still in good working order.

My sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. They have seen better days, but they are still in good working order.

The Sphygmomanometer

Also called a blood pressure cuff, the sphygmomanometer can be either manual or automatic. I prefer to use the manual cuff because it is more accurate.

However, not everyone is trained to use the manual cuff, and in a pinch, the automatic cuff will be able to tell you if an individual’s blood pressure is the cause of the problem.

Both low and high blood pressure can cause a number of symptoms such as:

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  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • slurred speech
  • headaches

Having a blood pressure cuff on hand can help catch low or high blood pressure before it becomes life threatening.

Our glucometer and a tube of glucose gel that I keep on hand, just in case.

Our glucometer and a tube of glucose gel that I keep on hand, just in case.

The Glucometer

A glucometer is used to check blood glucose (sugar) levels. Just like blood pressure, high or low blood sugar can cause serious problems and symptoms.

If anyone in your family is diabetic, it is imperative to have a glucometer. But even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to have one on hand. You never know when someone may develop diabetes or have a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

Make sure you know how to use this device. Most of them are pretty easy to use, but in an emergency, it's easy to get confused quickly. Practice using it until you have the technique perfected.

The Thermometer

If you’re a mom, you probably have a thermometer built into the back of your hand, but even so, these instruments can be indispensable. Let’s face it; the back of your hand just isn’t as sensitive as a thermometer. Many times a temperature can be so subtle that it’s just a single degree off. But that one degree can tell you there is a low grade infection.


Other Essential Emergency Supplies

Many of the things that can be found in first aid kits are essential including:

  • Bandaids
  • Medical tape (adhesive and paper tape)
  • Gauze pads (all different sizes)
  • Anti-itch pads
  • Alcohol pads
  • Eye wash
  • Betadine
  • Scissors
  • Q-tips
  • Tweezers
  • Gloves
  • Ammonia Inhalants
  • Tongue Depressor
  • Cautery

But there are some things that are not included in first aid kits, but really should be. Here are a few supplies I’ve added to my first aid kits.

Other essential supplies you should have on hand

Other essential supplies you should have on hand

Small Penlight

Since I worked in ophthalmology, penlights can be found everywhere in my home.

Most of them have replaceable batteries, and a cobalt filter on them which makes it easy for me to check for foreign bodies in the eye.

Most people won’t have a cobalt blue filter, or fluorescein for that matter (watered down betadine works in a pinch).

But a penlight can still be helpful in finding larger foreign bodies in the eye, checking the throat, making sure an individual’s pupils are reactive to light if they are unconscious and trying to find something imbedded in the skin. They are also cheap and can be found at most medical supply stores.


This stuff will hold anything together, including skin. Since most people can’t stitch up lacerations, krazyglue can come in really handy. It’s even used in ER’s and some eye surgeries.

There is a medical version of this, but if krazyglue is all you have, it will work just as well.


Eyewash/Artificial Tears

For some reason, these things are not available in the smaller first aid kits, but they really should be.

Foreign bodies are probably the most common eye injuries, and many times can be alleviated simply by flushing the eye with artificial tears or eyewash.

It is also imperative to have eyewash (not just artificial tears) in case someone gets a chemical of some kind in their eye.

If this does occur, the eye needs to be flushed for a minimum of 15 minutes, and a small bottle of artificial tears just won't last that long, or provide a steady stream.


Surprisingly, most first aid kits don’t come with tourniquets unless they are the really expensive ones. This is most likely due to the fact that you can use just about anything to make one.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t take into account that one day you may not be wearing shoes with laces, a tie, or a belt. Of course, you could rip your shirt, but if it’s freezing outside and you don’t have a jacket… well you can see where I’m going with this.

It’s best to have something in your emergency kit that can be used as a tourniquet. Personally, I have 2 rubber tourniquets (the kind they use to draw blood) in each kit, as well as two shoe laces.

Feminine Products

This includes both tampons and pads for obvious reasons.

But, pads can also be used as bandages in a pinch and are excellent for keeping medication on a wound. They’re also very absorbent.

Tampons are made of cotton, which can also be used as a bandage and because it’s somewhat firm it can be used as a pressure patch.

Plus, they won’t stick to a wound as easily as some gauze patches will. Although pads and tampons aren’t completely sterile, as long as they are kept in the wrapper, they’re less likely to cause an infection then wrapping a wound in a t-shirt.

I bet you didn’t think feminine products were so versatile, did you?

Packaged Food and Bottled Water

Think about what will keep you alive in case food is scarce for several weeks.

You’ll want to put food that will keep for long periods of time and that are high in protein and nutritional value, not empty calories. So, don’t pack cookies or the last of your Twinkies.

Bottled water seems obvious, but it’s so important that it bears repeating. Also, I highly recommend you pack fluids high in electrolytes such as Pedialyte.

Dehydration can set in very quickly if someone gets injured, even if they’re drinking plenty of water. It’s best to have something that is highly concentrated in electrolytes just in case water won’t cut it.

Just in case you don’t know what an electrolyte is, it’s a drink that contains sodium and potassium salts which help to rehydrate the body quickly.

Hydrocortisone, Diphenhydramine, and EpiPens

Both hydrocortisone and diphenhydramine (better known as Benadryl) stop itching. Benadryl is available in pill and ointment form, and I carry both.

Hydrocortisone comes in an ointment and is more potent than Benadryl when it comes to inflammation. However, it may not work as well for itching on some people due to their histamine levels.

EpiPens are a necessity because they are the antidote for anaphylactic shock. If you’re extremely allergic to bee stings like I am, you’ll want one of these in your pocket at all times. But they treat any anaphylaxis. Make sure you know how to use these properly before you need it.



If you take medications like I do, you’ll want to keep a stash somewhere in your home just in case you ever run out and can’t get any more right away.

Medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure pills, diabetic medications, and even pain killers should all be kept on hand just in case.

You’ll also want to keep a few over the counter medications in each first aid kit, such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, Tylenol, and aspirin.

I would also recommend keeping a large supply of vitamin C handy. It can be used as an antiviral, antibiotic and an antifungal among other things.

Where to Keep Your Emergency Supplies

As I said earlier, I keep all of my emergency supplies just about everywhere.

My car is filled with supplies. In fact, you could use my car as an ambulance if need be. It’s the one place I have absolutely everything and mainly because I’m always in it.

I highly recommend you keep a large first aid kit in your car, especially if you have a long drive to and from work, or you travel quite a bit. You may also want to have a car emergency kit.


A Word About CPR

I highly recommend everyone have some training in CPR. It saves lives. Many people are too afraid to get the training because they think it means they will HAVE to help in the event of an emergency, and this is simply not the case.

Just because you know how to perform CPR doesn’t mean you have to do so. However, if the emergency involves a loved one, you may want to get involved. So it makes sense to get the training even if you don’t think you’ll ever use it. Better safe than sorry.

I also keep a first aid kit in my handbag. My husband calls it my “magic bag” because I always have everything.

The only thing I don’t have in my handbag is a bottle of electrolytes, mainly because it just won’t fit, and it’s already in my car. Otherwise, everything on this list can be found in my handbag/purse.

I tend to keep bandaids, penlights, alcohol and betadine pads and artificial tears stashed in drawers around the house, like the junk drawer in the kitchen and the drawer of my desk in my home office.

In an emergency you need your supplies quickly, and because I keep supplies stashed everywhere, they are easily accessible.

When it comes to which emergency supplies to have and where to put them, it’s really a matter of personal preference.

You don’t have to have everything on this list, and you shouldn’t if you don’t know how to use the supplies correctly. But even having some of these supplies could mean the difference between being able to wait for the ambulance, or not.

© Copyright 2012 - 2015 by Melissa "Daughter of Maat" Flagg ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on December 08, 2012:

@DzyMsLizzy, thank you for stopping by. My husband has the same problem with needles although he has a tendency to pass out, it's not just an aversion! lol The quote about the tourniquet is quite right, and I think I might add that into that section!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 02, 2012:

I have no medical training--I am merely more well-read on the subject than many other lay people.

That said, I've no idea how to use a manual sphygmomanometer--we have an automatic one, because my husband is a heart patient and at the moment, we're supposed to record his BP twice daily--the reading decides whether or not we hold a couple of his pills.

Epi pens? Neither of us is deathly allergic to anything; Glucometer? Neither of us is diabetic, and we are 'empty-nesters.' One of the main reasons I did not enter the medical field is, I don't have it in me to stab anyone with a needle. LOL I hate needles; I don't like being 'stuck,' so I can't do it to anyone else.

The 'krazy glue' is a good idea, but, if it has been opened, people need to be aware that its shelf-life is not that good. I do have a small stash of butterfly bandages.

I took a CPR class back when my kids were in scouts, and I was a troop leader. My certificate expired over 30 years ago! And, I understand there are new developments in the methods, so I probably should go get re-trained in that. And for other first aid-- one main thing that stuck in my head from first aid class is this statement about tourniquets: "You don't apply a tourniquet because you're tired of holding pressure. The decision to apply a tourniquet is essentially the decision to sacrifice that limb due to the severity of the wound."

Great article--voted up, interesting, useful and shared.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on December 02, 2012:

@effer I know exactly what you mean!! My daughter is 6, and that has really prompted me to keep up with replenishing my supplies. I'm always using betadine and bandaids. Although, my hubby seems to need the kit more than I do! lol

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on December 02, 2012:

@Phoenix Thank you! I actually check my blood sugar levels regularly as well since type II runs rampant in my family and I had gestational diabetes. Even though I've lost weight which significantly lowered my risk, I like to keep an eye on it!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on December 02, 2012:

@tebo Glad I could help! It's always good to be as prepared as possible. Most people forget something, so I hope this list provides a sort of checklist for those who want to create their own kit.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on December 02, 2012:

@Deborah-Diane that's a good point. If you house collapses it won't matter where in the house you stashed the supplies!

Suzie from Carson City on December 02, 2012:

DoM Really important stuff here! I am a big believer in having a good supply of emergency/medical items available at all times. I've gone so far as to prepare kits for my sons and their families....just so that I can have the peace of mind, that they're all set.

In younger days, when raising children, this is the best time to "discover" how vital it can be to be prepared!

Voted UP +++

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on December 01, 2012:

Wow, great job DOM.

We have a basic first aid kit in the kitchen. My husband test his sugar levels regularly since his older brother was diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

Voted up, useful, awesome and shared.

tebo from New Zealand on November 30, 2012:

A good reminder for me to get myself organised. You have a comprehensive list of medical needs should one need them. I realize now that I don't have a good supply. Thanks for the reminder.

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on November 30, 2012:

It is so important for everyone to have a First Aid Kit. I live in "earthquake country" (Southern California), and I have actually heard that people should keep a box of emergency supplies in their backyard where they could get to it, even if their house has partially collapsed. It is something to think about.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 30, 2012:

@billybuc lol everyone always wants to take my car too cuz they know if anything happens I can patch them up! lol I'm one of those people I just have to be prepared for anything. I hate when someone asks for something and I don't have it. Of course if that ever happens, it gets added right away. lol But it shocks me as well how many people don't carry even bandaids, let along anything else!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 30, 2012:

@cclitgirl You and me both!! I can spell it just fine, but pronounce it, ya right. Who thought to name it that anyway? That guy had to be laughing to himself the whole time!

My husband doesn't like the sight of blood, in fact he'll pass out if he sees his own. I love all the gory stuff. I can handle blood, I can watch surgeries all day long, but if I see an autopsy, I'll loose my lunch. Can't handle the corpse aspect. But blood is no problem lol

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 30, 2012:

@RTalloni Thank you! Ya, I really don't like boxes... :D

I was actually thinking of putting together a first aid kit for a few family members as gifts. I have a few diabetics in my family, so they could really use them!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 30, 2012:

You can go hiking with me any old day! Talk about prepared! I'm always amazed by the number of people I run into on the trails who have no emergency items with them at all....and in truth, every home should have these supplies. Well done my friend.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on November 30, 2012:

I love trying to say "sphygmomanometer." LOL. These are great tips for preparing for an emergency. I took an EMT class once...but then decided I just couldn't handle blood. But, well, it still pays to be prepared. Awesome hub!

RTalloni on November 30, 2012:

Such an important post here. You think outside the box in more ways than one. :)

Getting these supplies in order could be a real gift to self/family, and should certainly be put on the top of a New Year's To Do list!

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