Being disaster-prepared might seem overwhelming and expensive, but having the essentials can be quick, easy and cheap.

To be ready for an emergency, you need to have at least three days of supplies at the ready.

The three most important areas to focus on are:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Hygiene


New Zealand Civil Defence recommends you have nine litres of drinking water prepared for each person in your household - that’s three litres a day per person for three days.

Don’t forget your animals! They’ll need water too, and often drink more than usual when stressed.

Best way to prepare:

If you can afford it, it’s a good idea to get a large water container from a hardware store or pack of water bottles from the supermarket and store it somewhere accessible in your house.

You can buy 20L water containers from hardware stores for around $20 each.

Quick and cheap way:

You’ve likely already got lots of loose water bottles and containers around the house. So just filling these and storing them somewhere will also do the trick.

Civil Defence advises against using milk and juice containers for water storage as even when cleaned out they contain residues that will degrade the water quality.

Civil Defence recommends storing water in two different places in your house, in case you can’t access one area.

In the event of an emergency, or warning of one, fill the bathtub or sinks with water. An emergency like an earthquake might impact your water supply however, so don’t rely on this as your water source.

In a pinch, your hot water cylinder and the back of your toilet also store water that can be used.


New Zealand Civil Defence recommends you have at least a three day supply of non-perishable food for each person stored at home.

Best way to prepare:

It’s best not to rely on food you’ll have to cook or heat, so they suggest a range of foods that have long shelf lives and can be easily opened (if you have cans, get an extra can opener to store with your emergency food).

Instant noodles might seem like a good idea, but remember you need to be able to boil water to make them - and if the power goes out that will be hard. 

They suggest things like:

  • Ready-to-eat canned meat, fruit, and vegetables.
  • Canned juice, long-life or powdered milk, and soup.
  • High-energy foods like peanut butter, jam, crackers and energy bars.
  • Meal bars (like One Square Meal)

Get foods you like and will want to eat. You’re going to be dealing with enough without having to force down a can of lima beans.

Again, make sure you remember your animals and have three days of non-perishable food stored away for them.

Quick and cheap way to prepare:

If you don’t have time or money right now to buy three days of canned food, then at least start with something - put one tin into a dry, easily accessible place. 

Then build it up over time: each week when you do your grocery shopping, if you can afford it, buy one extra tin and add it to your supplies.


Your toilet may not be functional after some emergencies, but you’ll still need to poo!

Civil Defence recommends having a bucket or bin with your supplies to act as your toilet.

There are a few ways to make this less disgusting:

  • Line the bin with a rubbish bag
  • Sprinkle some household disinfectant in after each use
  • Or, sprinkle in some dirt, leaves or shredded newspaper 
  • Put the lid on between uses

Make sure you wash your hands. Water may be in short supply, so have some hand disinfectant in your kit.

It’s a good idea in general to have a stocked first aid kit in your house with plasters, bandages, and wound disinfectant like iodine. If you keep it with your emergency supplies it can be used in both everyday and emergency situations. Make sure you restock anything you use.

Keep an extra supply of medications with your emergency supplies, but make sure they are still within their use-by date.

Build it up from there:

Making sure you have those three boxes ticked can be done easily and cheaply and will put you  in a good position to deal with the aftermath of an emergency.

There is also a chance you may have to evacuate your house. So make sure you keep a go-bag with your kit in which you can quickly put some of these supplies.

Your go-bag should also have:

  • A torch and batteries
  • Some clothes
  • Good shoes

Once you’ve got that done, there are a bunch of other items and preparations you can make to deal with a range of situations.

These include:

  • A torch and some batteries (Civil Defence suggests not using candles because of fire risk)
  • Face masks
  • A camping stove
  • A fire extinguisher
  • Power banks (for charging your phone)

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