Turn on your television and you’ll see reports of natural disasters followed by reports of the threat of war or terror. It’s not a fun thing. It can strike fear in the heart and mind of just about anyone. You have a choice, you can stay up at night worrying about what your family might do in an emergency situation or you can plan and you can prepare.


Just like anything else, when there is a demand or need to be met there are quickly products created and developed to meet the need. It absolutely would be plausible for you to go out to the store today and purchase a large already-put-together kit for any type of emergency you can imagine. It is also very plausible that it would make a disaster of your wallet! How do you not overspend on a disaster kit, but know that you have everything your family should need in the event you have to fend for your lives? I asked Tim MacWelch, author of the survival and preparedness book, Prepare For Anything, his advice for preparing a disaster kit on a budget.


Q: Tim, why is preparing for a disaster important?


Tim: Mother Nature, germs, and our nation’s dependence on electricity seem to be the biggest holes in our collective armor. These are the reasons that my family prepares. Disaster preparedness can seem like a gloomy subject, it’s also a necessary subject to consider in every American household. If you’re thinking “it could never happen here, or happen to me,” just ask someone who lived through a flood, a tornado, Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 if disaster preparedness is important and worthwhile.


Q: Are there different types of disaster kits? For different situations and/or locations?


Tim: Yes. A great place to start is building or buying a disaster kit for your family at home. This would be a backup support system for your family’s basic needs. Once this kit is in place, branch out by putting together a smaller kit for each of your family’s vehicles, and even kits for your workplace. I call these vehicle and workplace kits “Get Home” bags, as they focus on the most basic supplies to support you, as you make your way home in the aftermath of a disaster.


Q: What items absolutely have to be in your disaster kit? What is “non-negotiable”?


Tim: Items for shelter, water and first aid are must-have items for all disaster kits. Warmth giving shelter can be provided by “space” blankets, regular blankets and sleeping bags. Weather protection can be achieved with ponchos or rain gear. You should always have water in your kit and the means to disinfect more water, like disinfection tablets. The first aid gear could be a literal life-saver when dealing with disaster inflicted injuries. Make sure the first aid supplies include larger dressings for trauma, not just Band-aids. Find out more about disaster supplies at


Q: What are the best foods to keep in your kit and why?


Tim: Food should be ready-to-eat and high calorie and have a long shelf life. Granola bars, candy bars, emergency food rations and trail mix are all good choices. Pay attention to expiration dates, and pick the products you know you and your family will eat.


Q: What items do people frequently tend to “forget” to add to their kits?


Tim: People often forget motivational items. Survival supplies aren’t just blankets, water and food, they can also be items that give you the motivation to endure. Another place that people forget to prepare is for their pets.


Q: How often do items in the kit need to be replaced?


Tim: Some items never need to be replaced, such as shelter items. Bottled water should be switched out annually, and foods should be rotated based on their shelf life. All disaster kits should be inspected every 6 months, just to keep tabs on your gear.


Q: Where are some places that you can “cut corners” in building your kit without decreasing its effectiveness?


Tim: While you don’t need the kitchen sink in your kit, you need enough of the right supplies to fulfill your family’s needs. If you did have to cut something out, make it a luxury (not a necessity) such as a stove or kitchen gear for hot meals. Instead have one metal pot as a back-up for water boiling.


About Tim MacWelch
Tim MacWelch has been a survival instructor for the past eighteen years, and has trained members from all branches of US Armed Forces, the State Department, Department of Defense and Department of Justice personnel. He is a frequent public speaker for preparedness groups and events. He is also the author of the survival and preparedness book, Prepare For Anything, and the upcoming Hunting And Gathering Survival

Tim shares daily survival skills and tips on Twitter @timmacwelch.