Very interesting thread. It's not often I find something on this site that pertains to what I do for a living. (I love to cook but not I don't think I'm good enough to keep up in a professional kitchen.) As an IT guy, I spend quite a bit of time working on and testing disaster recovery/business continuity (BC/DR) plans. One of the professional groups I belong to just had their quarterly meeting the other day and one of the topics/presentations was what to put in a "Go Bag".
So, here's a short list of what I remember from the Go Bag that was emptied on the table at the meeting (in no particular order):
ID, copies of property deeds, and any other important papers
Hiking food (freeze dried meals, high energy bars, etc.)
water purification tablets, filter
medicine (prescription and OTC stuff for normal ailments)
first aid kit
crank/solar radio/flashlight combo
deck of cards
knife/knives - think multi-purpose, tough knives, not your treasured yanagiba.
leatherman type tool
home and vehicle keys
glasses/contact lenses and supplies
One thing that was mentioned but not brought along for the meeting (we were on a high-security defense contractor's site) was a gun. One woman was a little shocked as to why someone would need a gun. The guy who put the bag together said "If I have a gun, I can get anything I forgot to pack" and the FBI agents standing there agreed. (As the song says, "Rally 'round the family with a pocket full of shells.")
Some things to add to the list if you are not going to be traveling and have more space than a backpack available:
heavy cookware (camp dutch oven, etc)
signaling devices (radio, mirror, flares, air horn (like you would have on a boat))
fuel for generator(s), vehicle(s) and cooking tools (thinking gas grill)
books and board games to pass the time without FB or XBox (even more important if you have kids)
axes/saws for firewood
spare parts for generators, vehicles, etc.
You can get quite a bit of what you need at outdoor stores like REI, EMS, LLBean, Sierra Trading Post, etc. Think about items that could have multiple uses.
Depending on the nature and duration of the emergency/crisis, you may need to be more self-sufficient than you expect. It's easier to plan for an emergency, which is usually a short duration event, in comparison to a long-term crisis. Water, food, medicine and some sort of shelter are at the top of the list. FWIW, the feds figure that it will be two weeks before a federal response to a disaster is deployed and ready to help people. Before they get their, it's the responsibility of local and state authorities to maintain order and provide assistance. As we've seen from recent history, these folks are often victims of the same disaster and may have a more personal agenda than their job would dictate. If you are in an urban area, you may want to include a plan to get out. Not that joining a refugee exodus doesn't have it's own dangers and concerns, but foraging opportunities will be quickly exhausted in an urban area and competition will be significant.
When planning for a disaster, your geographic location is probably the most important factor in determining what goes into your bag or in your case, your larger, stay home kit. For example, up here in New England, we get blizzards, ice storms and nor'easters. We don't have to worry about hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or wildfires, so our list would be quite a bit different than someone from Florida or California. (Do they even sell snow shovels in Florida???)
As a side note, during the Blizzard of '78, the Boston area was shut down for about a month. Food deliveries to local stores stopped for a week or longer in most areas. Few vehicles were authorized to be on the road, although many were stranded there. Only newspaper delivery trucks(?!), police, fire, civil defense vehicles could get through the roadblocks. Not that it mattered that much as most people's cars couldn't be found under the snow drifts. The effects of that storm still linger around here. When the first snow of the season is predicted, or any significant amount after that, the supermarkets are blitzed. No bread, milk, water, batteries, soda, etc. can be found. I remember working in a supermarket bakery and a guy was trying to get me to sell him a 100# bag of flour when 6 inches were predicted! (I would have sold it to him if I could have found out what to charge...)
Disasters are unpredictable. There is a good chance that one or more of your loved ones will not be home when it strikes. A communication plan is a key part of your disaster plan. It should have rallying points and contact info for all family members as well as contact information for friends or relatives that live outside of your geographic area. In an emergency, they may be the best place to leave messages and coordinate recovery efforts.
Power is a big one if you are going to stay home. KYH made a great point. Make sure you not only know how to operate and fuel your generator, but I'd like to add that you must also TEST IT! At companies that I've worked at, emergency generators were tested either every week or every two weeks. To test your generator, turn it on, let it come up to speed, and put a load on it. (Actually cut over to the generator and run your home as you would expect to in an emergency.) You should run it with a load for at least 4 hours (8 is better) every quarter. Many home improvement store generators have a tendency to die shortly after the standard 4 hour load bank test, so consult with an electrician or plant engineer with backup generator experience. (Hospital electricians are pretty knowledgeable, as people tend to die when they fail at their job, so hospitals pay close attention to hiring competent electricians.)
There are some good sites out there with lists and advice. The FEMA site Chef Petals recommended is very good. Another one worth checking out is is http://www.ready.gov. Different lists for businesses, families, and individuals. A google search for emergency preparedness (http://tinyurl.com/2f88eno) has some good links as well. An important resource to include would be the Official Boy Scout Handbook, Boy Scout Fieldbook, and the instruction book for the Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge (the Boy Scout Motto is Be Prepared!). All readily available on Amazon. Also, check out some Mormon sites or talk to some Mormon leaders, if your area has a local ward. I was researching this topic last summer and found quite a bit of information on emergency preparedness for families staying at home that was posted on Mormon related sites. (I don't know too much about the faith, being a simple Catholic boy from Boston, but from what I've read, there is a significant tenet of the Mormon faith that requires families to maintain a year of emergency supplies. Hopefully someone with more knowledge on the subject can weigh in.) There were sites that sold complete kits for families or wards and others that went into detail on food storage and rotation. Not many MRE or freeze dried products. Mostly rice, beans, and other grains, salted meat, canned goods, etc. Yeah, commercially canned goods don't always taste so good, but they have a very long, stable shelf life if they are stored in a dry location.
All this being said, I hope you never need to rely on your preparations.