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    How to Prepare a Gluten-Free Disaster/ Emergency Kit

    Joanne Bradley

    Celiac.com 06/17/2008 - Water, water, everywhere! That is what I woke up to one day in August of 2007. It seems a big storm had lodged over a certain area of the Midwest – and I was in it. Wow, was I in it! A flash flood had raised the water level of a nearby lake to the point where it was in my town house–almost 3 feet of it. It happened overnight and we had to leave immediately. I was able to grab only a couple of things.

    Eating out being gluten intolerant is quite difficult. Eating emergency food rations at a Red Cross Evacuation station is quite another. Fortunately, the local college food service took over the meals for the evacuees and I was able to eat gluten-free at that point. I learned a lot in those few days that I would like to share with anyone who has food intolerances.

    It is very important to have a food emergency kit that you can grab quickly on your way out the door. Natural disasters can happen anywhere–wouldn’t it be nice if you were prepared? This food may be a great source of comfort if you ever experience evacuation from that fine place you call home.

    Please keep in mind that in a disaster you may not have personal transportation. You may also lack monetary resources or not be able to return to your home for days or weeks. Once allowed back into your home, you will be cleaning up in an unsanitary environment. The electricity may be off, or you may lack running water. The free meals dropped off at disaster sites usually have gluten in them. I relied on gluten-free meal replacement liquid in cans and gluten-free energy bars because of the sanitation issue.

    Here is a list of ideas you may want to consider:

    1. Create a food emergency kit and store it up HIGH in a temperate place, like the upper shelf of a coat closet near your most used door.
    2. The kit should be small enough, and light enough, that with food you are able to carry it a good distance. A knapsack or small, light rolling duffle are some ideas.
    3. I use an inexpensive plastic pencil box (new, not used) to store plastic utensils, a paring knife, and a can opener. A box of disinfectant wipes or hand cleaner is essential. As are some sort of paper wipes in a plastic bag. Remember that everything in this kit may get wet at some point in an actual emergency, so pack items in airtight waterproof bags.
    4. Canned goods are heavy so limit them to items like gluten-free canned chicken, tuna, or meal replacement drinks. Dried gluten-free meats in airtight bags are very good.
    5. Stock a variety of gluten-free energy bars.
    6. Add dry mixes for soups, broth, etc. A plastic bag of dry milk replacement might be something you would like.
    7. An assortment of dried fruits and rollups; dried nuts (if tolerant).
    8. A small bag of first aid supplies.
    9. Essential vitamins and medications.
    10. And, if you think you have room, a small 3-cup rice cooker and rice. You can cook anything in a rice cooker - I practically lived off mine in temporary housing.
    11. Don’t forget, every 3-4 months change out everything in the kit. Refill your kit with fresh products. (Eat anything that is not expired.)  In an actual emergency, you will want good quality food to eat.
    Until gluten-free dining becomes more commonplace, you do need to plan for unusual occurrences. Even with planning, there is no guarantee that you will be able to grab your food kit. If you can, it will be a great comfort in many different situations. It is my most sincere wish that you never have to use your emergency kit. Be well and happy in your gluten-free lifestyle.


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    Guest Susie


    Bravo! This is a must read article. I have been saying that I need to make an emergency kit but haven't 'gotten around to it'.

    This article has some very good suggestions and considering what is going on in the middle of our country and the wildfires in the west, something everyone, but especially anyone with celiac disease should have by their emergency exit. Thank you for the kick! I needed it as I'm sure others do too!

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    Guest Carolyn


    I kept my emergency rations in the basement, hadn't thought about not being able to get them on the way out!

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    Guest Melody


    I have an emergency kit for home and car. I didn't even think about putting a gluten-free one for my granddaughter.


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    Guest Theresa Brandon


    Your comments have very good intentions, but, just going through the worse flooding our city has ever experienced and still is, most of your grab and go bag is worthless, as I found out. I lived on sardines and packaged tuna for days. There was no water to drink or mix with other things, until FEMA and the National Guards could get them to us.

    No electricity--some are still without going on 3 weeks now. Could be 6 months before they see electric and gas. So forget the rice cooker.

    As for the soups and dry mixes, forget that, nothing to mix them with or cook them on. Forget the snacks also, as the packaging absorbs the moisture so fast, everything is ruined; even the things in plastic bags. And there is no ice to be found to keep anything cold, because the water is contaminated and we can not use it to make more ice or does anyone have electricity to do so if they could. Of course most of the time you do not want to eat as the stink from the city turns off the appetite.

    Everything is contaminated from the flood waters; you can not believe how fast the mold and mildew can grow up the walls and into things you think are safe.

    Sorry to be so negative, just stating the facts.


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    Guest Lori


    I see Theresa's point, and in her case, probably a can opener and crates of gluten-free liquid food replacement would be it--as it would be if we had a sudden tsunami here in HI, where we live on the low, flat plains next to the ocean. However, if we 'just' had another bad wind knock out the power for a while by toppling twenty or thirty poles, I could get by on bottled water and using the grill to cook items recommended in the article, so I found it useful. I also commend the idea of putting things where they are easily grabbed, if evacuation time permits--we are told that there are sirens to warn one of impending tsunami, and that we'd have time to get to high and dry ground with our supplies if we hurried (or in case of impending hurricane, etc). House would still be flooded, but we'd be above it...my big concern has been that in addition to gluten-free, I am sugar-free and meat-free--and I suspect the Red Cross wouldn't have a clue, nor would I expect them to--so I have to be prepared. I usually have to take a my own food to every faculty luncheon, so why should a disaster be different?

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    Guest Sandi Bowman


    It might be better to have a couple of different containers of emergency supplies/foods just in case one gets away from you into the floodwater or crevasse or? At least you wouldn't be totally without supplies if that happened.


    Consider having some kind of straps to attach it to you or? You often need at least one hand free to balance, grab an assist into a vehicle or boat, or grab a guide rope. A box requires two hands, generally.

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    Guest Rob Brewer


    An emergency kit is very personal. It will vary greatly from region to region, family to family, and person to person. It is up to you to decide what you need in your kit. Most lists suggest at least three days water (1 1/2 gallons) per person. Read many lists before making your own.


    Thanks for the OP. My daughter has a gluten allergy (not Celiacs), and I've been wondering how to prepare for her in our kit. Very helpful info.

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    Guest Goldy


    Must_have clean water, buy some 16 oz bottled, and add to your E-Kit. Package anything that would be ruined if wet into watertight zip bags. (I use Glad, they are stronger, more watertight.) Manual can opener, cans of tuna, salmon, chicken are essential. 1 a day to keep your health strength. Juice mixes for the water...can use sweetened kool-aid as a break. Instant coffee. tea bags. 2 lb package of sugar...it WILL be worth having. 1 small pot with burner that uses bottled gas, and 1 bottled gas (avail at grocery stores). Packaged dehydrated soups, gluten free. Get a first aid kit, add Kotex pads and other first aid items: peroxide, alcohol, bandages (in waterproof baggies). Pads are good if you get cut/injured to absorb blood. Emergencies can be lethal..and you can be cut/injured. Butterfly bandages. band-aids, and some extra tape. Field guide: "3x4 inches" for poisonous plants if you are forced into a wilderness area, and are starving...you might find edible plants, and avoid poisonous ones. Inflatable plastic container to use to replenish water if you find potable water. Portable radio/extra batteries or a good crank up model. One of those super thin silver/gold blankets that are tiny, and open to 6x8, to stay warm. A thin rain-poncho for drenching storms. Bible - small. Finally, a good pair of comfortable shoes, with 3 pr socks. You won't believe how important that those shoes are...especially if you grab your E-kit while in heels or other shoes that are uncomfortable.

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    Guest Melissa


    To keep things like food bars (Larabar, Kind, etc.) from getting water leached into the wrappers, try vacuum sealing 2-3 bars per bag, using a food vacuum sealing machine. You can also vacuum pack Ziploc bags, candles, matches, etc., to keep them from getting damp in case your grab-n-go kit gets wet from rain or flooding. They are handy to put leftovers in (like that opened non-resealable bag of gluten-free jerky), and things you acquire along the way that you don't want rolling around loose in your bag or pack.

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  • About Me

    Author of Gluten Free Success for the College Studentand other specialty publications, I am a career food service manager and chef, diagnosed with gluten and dairy intolerance in 2004. I publish the website GFCollegeStudent.com for gluten free college students and parents as well as blog on this subject at gfcollegestudent.blogspot.com. I am dedicated to bridging the gap for special situations in food allergy using my decades of food service experience.

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