The idea of a home emergency kit had been floating around in the back of my mind for years, but it was the December 2013 ice storm and subsequent power outage in Toronto that really got my wheels turning. Several of my friends and relatives were stuck at home without power over the holidays — some for close to a week.

I know creating a home emergency kit can sound a little paranoid, but I also know I didn't want to be the person who thinks, "D'oh! I was totally meaning to buy one of those emergency radios!" when an actual emergency strikes.

So with the fresh start of a new year, I decided to put together Lisa’s Own DIY Basic Home Emergency Kit. I collected some useful items from around the house and ordered a few things online. This is my basic, starter kit:

  • A zipper bag of important documents. I once lived in a condo in Toronto where the top seven floors were flooded by a burst pipe in an empty unit. My husband and I had to evacuate the building as water came rushing down the hallway. Like total panicked idiots, we grabbed our laptops, smart phones, wallets and wedding rings, but forgot our passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, insurance policies. You know, the actually important stuff. After that, I started storing all my important documents in a giant plastic zipper bag, so I can grab them all at once if anything were to happen again. Any piece of paper that might be a pain to replace goes in here. Think also about making copies of your important documents and storing them online.
  • A combination solar-hand crank radio with charger. I have always wanted one of these magical devices and was able to find an emergency solar radio with a hand crank and cell phone charger online for only $40. The radio function is great for getting information and I like that it has a built-in flashlight, which is one fewer thing to worry about. You can charge your devices via the hand crank, in the sun or with a USB, if you have access to power somewhere else such as in your car.
  • Bottled water. I haven't done this yet, but the next time I go big-box shopping, I will buy a couple of cases of water to store in my garage. You should store two litres per person, per day for up to three days in case you need to really hunker down. Make sure to drink up and replace the water before its expiry date. (Yes, bottled water does have an expiry date.)
  • Plastic bin of supplies. I got myself a medium-sized plastic storage bin and either bought or collected from around my house the following things to put into it:
    • Flashlight with extra batteries (replace the batteries once a year)
    • Glow sticks (lasting 12 hours or longer)
    • First-aid kit
    • Power and protein bars (replace once a year)
    • A loud whistle for signaling for help
    • Dust or medical masks in case the air is contaminated
    • Moist hand wipes and garbage bags
    • Emergency phone numbers (in case your phone is damaged and the memory is lost)
    • A manual radio

See, that wasn't too difficult, was it? After all the power outage issues and extreme cold weather in Toronto this winter (and the flooding last summer), I'm glad I finally did it.

This is just a guideline that I'm using for myself, so do check out what the professionals have to say before you run out to the store or go online. I recommend at least getting the basics I’ve outlined above, and viewing the Canadian Government Emergency Checklist to further build out your kit. 

Lisa Ng is editor-in-chief of This Beautiful Day, a lifestyle blog for smart women. Follow her online @helloLisaNg.