Preparing for an emergency

Check through the information on this page and work towards being ready if a disaster happens.

Storing water for an emergency

If water supplies are affected 

Household water supplies, including drinking water, could be affected. You need to store water for an emergency.

  • Keep a supply of drinking water prepared. 
  • Make sure you have a supply of plain household bleach on hand. It is important to check the bottle to make sure it contains no perfumes, colourants, or detergents.
  • Clean your toilet cistern occasionally, and avoid putting chemical cleaners in it.
  • Check your hot water cylinder and header tank (if you have one). Make sure they are braced and tied with metal straps so they cannot fall over. 

You need about 1 litre of water for:

  • washing food and cooking for each meal 
  • washing dishes after a meal 
  • washing yourself — 1 litre each day for each person. 

Drinking water

You need about 3 litres of drinking water for each person each day. 

To store enough drinking water for 5 days, prepare 8 large, plastic soft drink bottles of water for each person, including tamariki (children). Add some extra for pets. Do not use empty milk bottles. 

  • Wash bottles and lids thoroughly in hot water.
  • Fill each bottle with tap water until it overflows. Add 5 drops of plain, unperfurmed household bleach per litre of water. Store in a dark, cool place. Do not drink for at least 30 minutes after disinfecting. 
  • Make sure there are no air gaps. Place lids on tightly. 
  • Label each bottle with dates showing when the bottles were filled, and when they need to be refilled. 
  • Check the bottles every 6 months. If the water is not clear, throw it out and refill clean bottles with clean water and bleach. 
  • Store bottles in 2 separate places that are not likely to be flooded. 
  • You can also thoroughly wash and fill plastic ice cream containers with water. Cover, label and keep them in the freezer. These can help keep food cool if the power is off, and be used for drinking. 
  • Keep a supply of ice cubes and fruit juices. 

Cooking, dishes, and washing yourself

You can use water for cooking, dishes, and washing yourself from your:

  • hot water cylinder and header tank (if you have one) 
  • toilet cistern — this water is only safe to use if no chemical toilet cleaner is present.

Keep supplies of safe food for an emergency

Power failure will affect refrigerators, cold stores and food processing plants. It may be difficult to get safe supplies of food. Food in your fridge and freezer will go bad, and eating it could make you ill. Keep on hand:

  • unperfumed household bleach with no added colouring or detergents
  • a supply of water 
  • tinned food for at least 3 days — write the purchase date on the can 
  • milk powder and UHT milk
  • dried and non-perishable food, for example rice and pasta
  • foodstuffs that do not require cooking, for example, breakfast cereals and dried fruit 
  • non-perishable food that does not need water to be added, for example, nuts, spreads, crackers, biscuits and muesli bars
  • tinned and dried food for pets. 

Replace stored food at least every 12 months, or before the use by date. 

Waste management preparation for an emergency

Getting rid of rubbish 

Rubbish collection services are likely to be disrupted during an emergency. A build up of rubbish can be a health hazard because it will attract flies, rats and mice that may spread disease. 

Keep a supply of heavy duty plastic bags, ties, and a box of matches. 

Disposing of sewerage

Toilet systems are likely to be affected by a disaster through:

  • broken pipes
  • flooding of the sewerage system 
  • breakdown of pumping machinery.

Human waste can spread disease. 

Have a sturdy, large rubbish bin with a lid, some plastic leak proof bin liners, a toilet seat and toilet rolls. 

During an emergency — making a temporary toilet or a long drop

Getting ready for an emergency

Keeping clean and warm 

A major emergency can create risks to health through contaminated materials and exposure. Keeping yourself clean, warm and protected from harsh weather conditions is essential.

Make sure you know where these items are in case of an emergency:

  • first aid kit
  • prescription medicines, for example, heart tablets and asthma inhalers
  • disinfectant and soap
  • rubber gloves
  • insect repellant
  • warm clothing, blankets, sleeping bags
  • wet weather clothing
  • torch and spare batteries
  • up to date immunisation records, for example, tetanus.

See the Get Ready website for more information on supplies you might need. 

Work out what supplies you need — Get Ready (external link)


If your house becomes unsafe, you may have to move to temporary accommodation or make your own shelter. 

Make sure you know where to find camping equipment and materials to make shelters. This can include tarpaulins, heavy plastic or PVC sheets, or waterproof trailer covers.

Get Ready

Information about hazards in Aotearoa New Zealand and advice about how to get prepared for an emergency.


Download resource which covers what to do before, during and after a civil emergency, and what to include in your emergency survival kit.

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