The Disaster Tool Kit

Almost any disaster you can imagine brings with it the likelihood of damage, debris, and other unpleasantness that will need to be handled or dealt with in some way. While downed trees and branches certainly come to mind first, it might be that you’ll need to stumble your way through a plumbing issue because help will be delayed. Or, maybe you’ll need to patch a hole in the roof or cover a broken window.

Whatever the case ends up being, you’ll be glad you took the time and effort to put together a set of tools to get you through.


Perhaps surprising to some people, hammers come in a dizzying array of sizes and styles. If you can only afford one, go for a framing hammer. Larger than most other types, the framing hammer will not only drive nails but it works great for quick demolition work. It has a longer handle which provides some extra reach. Honestly, a good framing hammer will be able to handle just about any job you can realistically expect. But, if you just gotta have more than one hammer, your second one should be a simple claw hammer. It will be a bit smaller and lighter than the framing one, which could ease the arm strain a bit in the long run.



You’ll need at least flat head and Phillips screwdrivers, both in varying sizes. Torx (star shaped) screwdrivers are sometimes needed for certain car repairs but that’s about it. Square screwdrivers, the ones that end in a box shape, are sometimes used in home building and remodeling. Take a look around your house to see if anyone has used square head screws and, if so, pick up the corresponding size screwdriver, just in case.

Rather annoyingly, the folks who owned my house before me often did their own home repairs using whatever they happened to have around. So, if I need to remove a shelf, for example, I’m usually confronted with a flat head screw, a Phillips screw, a square head screw, and a nail. Yeah, working on projects in my home is lots of fun, let me tell you….



When you’re dealing with nuts and bolts, you’ll need wrenches. Don’t just pick up a cheap set at the dollar store. They are likely to bend into pretzels the first time you actually need to use them. Pay a little extra for good quality and they’ll last a lifetime. These come in two flavors and you’ll probably need both. “Standard” or SAE are the fraction ones (1/2, 9/16, 5/8, etc.). Metric are the whole numbers (10, 11, 12, etc.).

You should also have a couple of adjustable wrenches in your tool kit. I actually like to have three, so as to cover all the bases – 6-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch. You can often buy these in sets of 2 or 3.

Socket sets can often make jobs a lot easier than plain old wrenches but it can get expensive buying both sets. A good compromise is a set of ratcheting wrenches.



You’re going to want at least two pair of pliers. The best for general use are the channel lock variety as they open the widest while still affording some degree of control over the tool. I say to get two because many jobs require you to hold one fastener tight while you turn the other.


Duct tape

There are many brands and varieties of duct tape. Honestly, I don’t know that any one is significantly better than the rest. No matter which kind you get, duct tape has millions of uses and you’ll want to have at least a couple of rolls on hand. I like Gorilla tape, myself.



Most of us carry at least one knife with us almost all the time. That’s all well and good but I like to keep a small sheath knife in my tool kit as well. The one time you forget to put a folding knife in your pocket will be the time you need a sharp blade to do some cutting during a repair project. You don’t need anything fancy nor expensive as this knife is likely to see some very hard use.

Cordless drill

I know, I know, the drill might be cordless but it still needs electricity to charge the batteries. Here’s the thing – the drill will still work until the batteries are drained. That being the case, the drill will keep my wrists and arms from getting tired from turning screws by hand, at least for a while. Plus, I use cordless drills all the time when working on remodeling projects anyway so for me it isn’t an added expense to the emergency tool kit.


Tree/brush trimming

If you live outside the city, you’re going to want a bow saw, loppers, and perhaps smaller pruners to handle storm damage. A chainsaw would certainly be nice, too, provided you have fuel, sharp chains, and you know what the hell you’re doing. You’ll probably want or need shovels and rakes as well for general cleaning up outside.



Nails, screws, nuts, and bolts can be had for pennies by the pound at rummage sales and such. Many homeowners have found these fasteners seem to multiply on their own, too, and accumulate jar after jar of them. They come in quite handy when doing expedient repairs so if your own collection is somehow sparse, pick some up.



Given the high probability that the power will be out after a disaster hits, a portable source of light will be necessary. Headlamps allow you to free up both of your hands, which is nice, and small lanterns can light up a room. Make sure you have plenty of batteries.



This is a very handy tool should you need to move something rather heavy. You attach it to something stationary, such as a tree, and hook the line to whatever you’re trying to move. A ratchet pulls the line and thus the object.


Start with getting together a set of basic hand tools. These are the things you’ll likely need most often for home repairs and such. Once you have acquired those, branch out into power tools and such.

1 Comment

  1. Rob B says:

    Just a comment on the cordless drill and recharging, a little 300W inverter combined with the factory charger will keep your batteries topped up as long as you can generate 12V. My particular brand has a dedicated 12V charger but it’s three times more expensive than the 120V charger/inverter combo. Loose a little bit in efficiency, save a lot of $$$.

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