Are You Prepared for a Flood? Here's What to Put in an Emergency Kit

Posted Jun 2, 2016

Wal-Mart won for price; first-aid kits and gallons of water were particularly inexpensive.

Red Cross survival emergency preparedness kits await buyers at a Vons market in Pasadena, Calif., Friday, June 17, 2005. Four significant earthquakes have jolted California in less than a week, and residents across the state are a bit shaken. After several years of relative seismic calm, the quakes are more a not-so-gentle reminder that the ground is never as solid as it seems here. And that is sending some residents to the store for survival kits and canned goods, while others are thinking about new insurance coverage and how to safely evacuate. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian) AP/Kevork Djansezian

Central Texas will most likely see heavy rain and flooding this week, and FEMA recommends having an emergency kit in your house or car with at least some basic supplies.

In case you’re scrambling to refresh or build your kit, we compared prices at three Austin-area stores — Wal-Mart, Target and H-E-B — to help you figure out the cheapest and easiest way to gather supplies.

Altogether, Wal-Mart won for price; first-aid kits and gallons of water were particularly inexpensive. Things were easiest to find in H-E-B, where I also spent the least amount of time looking for supplies, even though I went to the always-crowded South Congress-West Oltorf store. H-E-B also came in a solid second on pricing, tying with Wal-Mart for a number of items.

I based my shopping on FEMA’s basic list and excluded the items that most households would already have, like a can opener, a wrench and a flashlight. I did shop for batteries and found that an Energizer AA eight-pack is cheapest at Wal-Mart, at $5.97.
In your kit, FEMA says you should have:

One gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days:

Drinking water has been a topic of conversation during recent floods — last week, untreated wastewater was released into the Colorado River, Marble Creek and Onion Creek, and people in the area were asked to boil their water for at least a minute before using it. So even if you don’t think a flood could reach your house, you might want to be prepared and buy some water. The best deals are at Wal-Mart, where it’s 67 cents a gallon, and at H-E-B, where you can buy a pack of six gallons for $3.99.

At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food:

FEMA’s advice is to choose food your family will eat and even to consider what will be comforting in a stressful time. Also think about food that does not require cooking (I went for baked beans instead of chicken noodle soup, because that seemed less weird when eaten cold). In addition to canned goods, FEMA suggests protein bars, peanut butter, dried fruit and vitamins. Most of the groceries I looked for were cheapest at Wal-Mart, although H-E-B’s canned light tuna won at 68 cents.

A battery-powered or hand crank radio — ideally a NOAA weather radio with tone alert — and batteries:

This was by far the hardest part of my shopping trips. I had to ask for help at Wal-Mart before finding a weather alert radio, approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on a bottom shelf for $29.88. At Target, I found a normal AM/FM radio for $19.99 and walkie-talkies with weather alerts for $39 — neither of which was exactly what I wanted. There are a few weather radios on Target’s website, but they’re either not sold in stores or out of stock all over the Austin area.

I didn’t really expect H-E-B to stock weather radios — it’s a grocery store, after all — but when I talked to a saleswoman, she told me the store actually has had radios in the past, although they didn’t have any when I visited Wednesday.

A first aid kit:

The Texas Department of State Health Services has a detailed list of what should be in your first aid kit, but I went for the basic kit at all three stores. Wal-Mart sold an Equate kit for the winning price of $7.97.

Moist towelettes and garbage bags for personal hygiene:

Again, consider what you’ll need for hygiene if you lose access to clean water. Wal-Mart and H-E-B tied for disinfectant wipes at $1.83 and H-E-B had the least expensive black trash bags, at $2.79.

Here’s the rest of FEMA’s list:

Flashlight and extra batteries

Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place


Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Can opener for food

Local maps

If you have a baby or a pet, consider what they need in an emergency, too. There’s an elaborate list on — available here — if you’re building a more elaborate kit.

The last recommendation that stood out to me, from both state and federal agencies, was to keep copies of all your important documents in a waterproof container. The state list provides examples of what those items are, including photos of family members and pets in case you get separated and utility bills to prove where you live.

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