It’s important to make and keep a 72 hour emergency kit for each member of your household. Generally speaking, if you’ve got your basic needs covered for at least three days following a disaster, you’re in pretty good shape.

In the case of severe emergencies, 72 hours can give emergency crews the amount of time they need to find and rescue you. Being prepared comes with other benefits as well. If you are prepared when disaster hits you are better able to deal with the stress of the event and respond appropriately. Building your kit can help to spark the conversation for your family’s individual emergency response plan.

Portable 72 Hour Kits

Each 72 hour kit should fit in a standard backpack and should be easy to grab and carry quickly. There are pre-packaged kits up for sale at any emergency preparedness store and on the internet. These are a convenient way to prepare yourself for an emergency — but they often cost a lot more than building a kit yourself.

Every emergency kit—whether it’s meant to sustain you over 72 hours or 72 day—needs to cover the very basics first. When we’re talking about survival, the most basic needs are food, water, air, and shelter.

Food and Water

There are many compact food storage options for your “homemade” 72 hour kit. Make sure that the food you include is lightweight, doesn’t take up much room, and is dense in vital life-sustaining nutrients like carbohydrates and protein.

A good rule to follow is to make sure that the food in your kit is shelf stable for at least five years. You will also want to make sure that the water you include is able to be stored for that long as well. To keep your kit useful, you will need to rotate out the perishable items as often as their package indicates.

Non-Food Emergency Essentials

In addition to food and water rations for three days, each kit should also include a first aid kit, survival blankets (the shiny silver ones), dust masks (available at any hardware store), rain ponchos (these can be used as shelter in a pinch), flashlight, and AM/FM radio. You will also want to include extra batteries if your devices run on them.

Quite often, you can get radio/flashlights to save on precious backpack space. You can also get manually operated radio/flashlight devices that you can power by cranking a handle if needed.

The most important thing is that you get something Just In Case. Without the basics included in this kit you might be putting your life in danger.