You never know when a disaster will strike your area. Every inch of the planet is subject to possibility of storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, fires or floods. Terrorist attacks are also a very real threat in many major cities. Once a disaster strikes, it is usually too late to gather the essentials that you need for survival. Every family should prepare an emergency kit with the items you will need to sustain you until help arrives.
The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared”. As a former Boy Scout, Explorer and survival instructor who has extensive camping and survival experience in wilderness areas throughout North America, I can attest to the importance of being prepared for any type of emergency. Most people tend to become very complacent about disasters if they have never experienced one.
We were once halibut fishing in Alaska in an area that had a surprising number of semi-active smoking volcanoes. The resort owner pre-prepared several survival kits, which were hanging on hooks in the kitchen next to the door. He also had an emergency radio in the kitchen that was always turned on. When we arrived we were told that several of the nearby volcanoes were being monitored. If one decided to erupt, the alarm would sound. From that point we we were supposed to grab a pack and we had approximately 20 minutes to scramble up the mountain as fast and as far as we could. If a volcano erupted, we only had about 20 minutes before a 30 foot wall of water would crush the resort.
Most people do not live on the edge like that, but they should at least be prepared for other types of disasters. Both the American Red Cross and the Department of Homeland Security offer tips for preparing emergency kits, which we will cover here. Use you own judgment based upon the types of disasters that could hit your area, but be find the recommendations from these organizations to be important.
The American Red Cross offer recommendations for an Emergency Preparedness Kit.
The US Department of Homeland Security offers similar recommendations for their Get a Kit program.
It would be a good idea to read both of the articles. You should adapt the kit for the specific needs for your geographic area and adjust quantities based upon the number of people in your family.
You can store your emergency items in a closet or large plastic bin. That will work if your survival situation merely isolates you to your home, such as in the case of a major power outage or snow storm. Most survival experts recommend keeping your emergency preparedness kits in backpacks. Each family member should have their own backpack. That is because in situations like floods, tornadoes or wildfires you will most likely have to evacuate the area. In many situations, you will not be able to drive out of the area and thus it will not be possible to carry boxes or large bins. Backpacks are much more versatile.
Here are the basic necessities for a Family Emergency Preparedness Kit.
- Water – One gallon of water per day per person. You should plan on stocking a three day supply large enough to handle the entire family. This will only be practical if you are isolated in your home or can escape the area by automobile. If you need to escape with your backpacks, carry as much water as each person can handle in addition to the other emergency items. This should be a minimum of one gallon per person. A plastic water bottle and a good water filter designed for backpacking would be a useful addition to your packs.
- Food – Once again, a three day supply per person. Stock ready-to-eat canned meals, including fruits, vegetables and meats (such as Spam). High energy foods, such as energy bars are granola bars are useful. Dry cereal, peanut butter and crackers store well. Do not include a lot of foods that you might have to cook or prepare. You may not have the opportunity to do this. Most freeze-dried backpacking foods only have a shelf like of 1 or 2 years. If you have access to fresh military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), they will last 5 to 8 years if stored properly. Many military surplus stores and emergency preparedness stores stock these items. Make sure that any MREs that you buy are fresh.
- A Good Flashlight – A good flashlight with extra batteries is essential. Better yet, we recommend a quality multi-LED flashlight with a hand-crank dynamo to charge on-board batteries. That way, you will not have to deal with dead batteries when you really need them. We do not recommend the shaker lights that are commonly found in sporting goods stores and hardware stores. You will be disappointed with the low quality and low light output of these devices.
- An Emergency Radio – A good AM/FM radio works for local news reports. A better radio includes NOAA emergency weather channels. Make sure that you get one that covers all seven NOAA frequencies. A real plus is a model with a weather alert feature that sounds a tone and lets you know when bad weather is approaching. There are several good emergency radios sold with the American Red Cross label. The best models include hand-crank dynamos and solar charging options. Some also include shortwave radio bands.
- First Aid Supplies – Make sure that you include antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, sterile bandages, sterile gauze pads, adhesive bandages (Band-Aids), tape, scissors, etc. Make sure that these items are in a waterproof bag or container.
- Basic Personal Hygene Items – Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap in a container, a hand towel. Forget razors, deodorant and non-essential items.
– Do not forget to take any important prescription medications, especially if someone’s life depends upon it. Include standard over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, Tylenol (or similar), antacid tablets, etc.
- Tools – One or two family members should have multi-tool knives, such as those sold by Leatherman, Victorninox and Swiss Army Knives. If you are taking canned good with you, make sure that you have a small mechanical can opener. Waterproof matches, fire starter materials, duct tape, large plastic trash bags, etc., should be included.
- Change of Clothing – Each family member should have one complete change of clothing. Spare clothing should be stored in plastic bags. Once a storm or flood is over, you will really appreciate being able to remove wet clothing and crawl into nice dry clothes.
- Pet Supplies – Most people will not leave their family dogs and cats behind. If they are going with you, make sure that you have enough food and water for their needs.
- Cash – It is always a good idea to keep some cash on hand for emergencies. The prices for essential foods and supplies skyrocket when disasters strike. Make sure that you have some cash hidden away for emergencies.
Make sure that everything that might be damages if it gets wet is stored in sealable plastic bags, such as Ziploc bags.
This may seem like a lot of gear to carry with you. It is. But it may be critical for your survival. If you are going to use a backpack, looks for lightweight foods and other essential items.