New Data Reveals How Prepared Americans Are for an Emergency at Home and on the Road

Knowing what to keep handy can be difficult when preparing for an emergency situation, so FinanceBuzz surveyed Americans about the items they keep at home and in the car.
Last updated Aug. 25, 2022 | By Maya Siman | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
Cars driving in a snowstorm

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According to the United Nations, severe weather events are becoming more frequent. Between 2000 and 2019, there were 7,348 major weather events recorded. Compared to the 4,212 events recorded from 1980 to 1999, this is a staggering change. Major floods have more than doubled, the number of severe storms has risen 40%, and there have been significant increases in droughts, wildfires, and heatwaves.

The likelihood of getting caught in an emergency weather event is growing. However, bad weather doesn’t call ahead to make sure you’re home before striking. As anyone who was recently stranded on I-95 for 24 hours can attest, having emergency supplies in your car is as important as home-based prep in the event of extreme weather.

FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults to find out how prepared they are in the face of an emergency both at home and in their vehicles as well as to see which items people consider essential for emergency kits.

Key findings

  • 58% of people have some emergency supplies in their cars, but only 30% are confident that what they have is sufficient should bad weather strike.
  • More than two-thirds of men (67%) have emergency supplies in their car, but less than half of women (49%) said the same.
  • The five items respondents said are the most important to have in the car in an emergency: bottled water, a blanket, nonperishable food, warm clothing, and a first-aid kit.
  • 50% of people have emergency “to-go” kits in their homes, but 23% of people feel their kit might not be sufficient.
  • 61% of men and 40% of women are prepared for an emergency with “to-go” kits at home.

Are drivers prepared if bad weather strikes on the road?

Pie chart showing how many drivers have emergency kits in their cars


Sometimes it's impossible to avoid bad weather when you're on the road. Forecasts aren't always correct and Mother Nature can be unpredictable. One way you can prepare for the unexpected is to keep "just in case" emergency supplies in your car.

Survey results reveal that nearly 60% of Americans keep some kind of emergency supplies in their cars — 31% of people are fully prepared, and 27% have some emergency items but are worried their supplies are insufficient. Only 10% of people feel it’s unnecessary to keep supplies in their car.

For those who feel it’s unnecessary to keep supplies in their car, Atlanta’s Snowpacolypse shows that extreme weather emergencies can strike at the most unexpected times. Mother Nature will not wait for you to finish your commute.

Graphic showing the percentage of men and women that have emergency kits in their cars


Men are more likely than women to have emergency supplies in their car — 38% of men and 23% of women consider themselves fully prepared for being stranded in bad weather.

Over 40% of women do not have emergency supplies in their car but think they should. This was the top response among women.

Nearly equal numbers of men and women believe having emergency supplies in the car is unnecessary.

Most essential emergency supplies to have in the car

Graphic showing the items that are most essential to have in an emergency car kit


For those who do keep an emergency kit in their cars, it's important for it to be stocked with the right items. Survey respondents said that bottled water is one of the top items to keep in the car in case of an emergency. Bottled water also tends to be one of the first items to get cleared off store shelves when an upcoming storm is announced, so being proactive about stocking any kit could be smart.

A blanket and food tied with bottled water for the most important items in your emergency kit. With these top three items in your car, you're increasing your chances of staying warm, fed, and hydrated if you get stranded in bad weather.

Graphic showing the items that are most essential to have in an emergency car kit according to men and women


While the top ten essentials are the same for both men and women, the order of importance differs slightly in the top five. Men’s top three items are bottled water, warm clothing, and a blanket. The top three items for women are food, a blanket, and bottled water. Food was significantly more important for women than men — men ranked food fifth on their list.

How many people are prepared if disaster strikes at home?

Pie chart showing how many people have emergency to-go kits at home


The car isn't the only place you need to be prepared for emergencies. Having a "to-go" kit at home is essential if you need to quickly evacuate or hunker down because of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, or wildfire.

Keeping essential supplies at the ready is a smart first step. To really solidify your emergency prep, take note of the typical high seasons. While bad weather doesn’t have an explicit schedule, there are typically seasons where you are more likely to encounter certain weather events. When approaching a high season, make sure your emergency supplies are stocked.

Likewise, make sure you have a way to receive important updates in real time through local news and weather. Lastly, be aware of available evacuation routes. You’ll want to be efficient with your time and know exactly where to go in the event of an evacuation.

Thankfully, 50% of people already have some sort of “to-go” kit ready at home in the event of an emergency. However, only 28% think the kit they've prepared is sufficient. Men are more likely than women to report they've got a fully stocked kit — 37% of men report they are ready for anything versus 19% of women who said the same.

Graphic showing how many people have emergency to-go kits at home by gender


If you're one of the 38% who doesn't have a "to-go" kit yet but think you should, there are simple solutions. You can purchase a pre-made kit that contains all the essentials. Prices on these kits generally start around $100 and vary depending on the size of your family and the contents of the kit.

If you'd rather put the kit together yourself, here are some of the items the American Red Cross recommends you gather:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day)
  • Nonperishable food
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Well stocked first-aid kit
  • Copies of personal documents such as insurance cards, personal identification cards, and financial statements
  • Extra cash

In addition, you'll want to think about the specific needs of everyone in your family (including pets) and include items such as medications, pet food, and diapers.

How to prepare for an emergency

Extreme weather can come out of nowhere and turn lives and homes upside down. Recovering can become a financial emergency in a hurry. Here are a few tips for how to protect your family and your finances from extreme weather:

  • Be prepared. The best way to avoid total disaster is to plan for it. From emergency kits to insurance coverage to emergency funds, there are plenty of ways to approach natural disaster prep to protect yourself and your money.
  • Make sure you have the right insurance. While most people have insurance coverage on their homes, they might not know exactly what home insurance does and does not cover. Check your policy and look into additional coverage to make sure you have adequate coverage on all your valuables.
  • Have an emergency fund ready. Even for people with all the insurance coverage they need, there may be costs that can’t wait for an insurance check. Building an emergency fund is a smart way to ensure you have much-needed money should a disaster strike.

Methodology

FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 or older, who comprise a nationally representative sample, on January 12, 2022.

Author Details

Maya Siman Maya Siman is a digital PR professional with a passion for story telling. Her own personal finance journey has inspired her to create engaging content with the rest of the FinanceBuzz team to help others build their own money knowledge. When she’s away from her desk, you can catch her at one of Atlanta’s many live music venues.