12 Emergency Items to Keep at Home

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When it comes to emergency situations, it never hurts to be over-prepared. (And with another snowstorm predicted to hit the Northeast this weekend, now seems as good a time as ever to stock up.) You may already know to keep a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher at home in case of emergencies, but these less obvious items can be just as useful when the worst occurs. Here are 12 items you’ll hopefully never need but never want to be stuck without. 


If you don’t have access to a fire escape from your bedroom, an escape ladder is essential to own. Your window is your only exit if there’s ever a fire blocking the door, which can spell disaster if you live on the second floor or higher. This emergency fire ladder easily hooks onto your window sill and provides a quick escape route from a height of up to three stories. And it neatly folds up into a compact package, which means you can store all 25 feet of it in your closet in preparation for the worst.


This item may have been a no-brainer 20 years ago, but today it’s easy to forget that Google Maps isn’t terribly useful during a power outage. Keep some paper maps of your city or town on hand in case you ever need to navigate your way around when picking up supplies or meeting up with loved ones. Be forewarned: You’ll have to figure out your own location without the help of satellites—that little blue dot doesn't follow you around on paper.


If you could only add one, cheap item to your at-home emergency kit, you’d be wise to choose duct tape. One roll of this versatile product can come in handy in pretty much any disaster situation imaginable. Just a few of its many potential applications include sealing up windows in a storm, making emergency repairs to your car, patching up camping gear, and acting as a sling, bandage, or wrap for sprained ankles. Bonus use: Duct tape also works as an effective fire starter.


Should you find yourself without a working phone, computer, or television during an emergency, there are still ways to connect with the outside world. A battery-powered radio allows you to stay up-to-date on the latest news and weather reports in case the power goes out (it can also provide a bit of entertainment when you’re cooped up inside). Better yet—buy a hand-crank radio so you don’t have to dip into your limited battery supply during an emergency.


Getting by without light and Internet access is one thing, but if you lose heat during a severe winter storm the situation could quickly escalate from inconvenient to dangerous. Space blankets were developed from NASA technology to reflect a wearer’s body heat back to them and prevent as much heat loss as possible. They’re good to have in scenarios when you need to keep warm, and they’re also cheap, lightweight, and can fold up to the size of a deck of cards. If you live in an area prone to snowstorms, there’s no good reason not to add one to your emergency kit.


A flashlight ranks high on any emergency checklist, but it isn’t very useful in situations where you need to have both hands free. A headlamp allows you to fix a fuse, start a fire, or cook a meal in pitch blackness without having to struggle to hold a flashlight at the same time.


An emergency situation is one of the few opportunities you'll have to use paper dishes without feeling guilty about it (outside of your Super Bowl party). If you find yourself without the power to run your dishwasher, or without the water to wash dishes by hand, you’ll be grateful to have disposable plates, cups, and utensils as a backup.


In extreme worst-case scenarios, alerting others to your location may become a top priority. Fires, storms, and emergency sirens can all contribute to drowning out your calls for help. A proper emergency whistle is capable of cutting above the chaos, with some models reaching volumes above 101 decibels. And with quality whistles available online for just a few bucks, it's an investment worth making.


Most people today keep their address books on their phones, eliminating the need to have any phone numbers other than their own memorized. If you don’t already have the numbers and addresses of your emergency contacts written down somewhere, consider starting a physical record and keeping it someplace safe. Not only could this come in handy when you don’t have a way to charge your phone, but it’s also good to have in case you lose your phone completely.


Decades before the first cell phone was invented, people were remotely communicating via two-way radios. During a disaster, cell phone providers have been known to become overwhelmed by the sudden influx of callers attempting to contact their loved ones. If you find yourself in a situation with a dead phone or a bogged down cellular network, having a pair of walkie talkies will allow you to split off from your party without losing contact completely.


Freeze-dried meals and protein bars get old fast when you find yourself unable to use your stove or microwave. As long as you have an emergency camp stove at home, you’ll always have access to a warm meal, no matter the circumstances. Just make sure you also have a can opener handy.


By keeping a fully-charged external battery at your disposal, you’ll be able to keep your phone running far longer than you would have otherwise. That extra battery life could allow you to make an important phone call in a desperate situation—or just afford you a few extra hours of Flappy Bird when the power’s out.