On Day 12 of our Let’s Get Prepared! Challenge, we’re entering Phase 3: Gather Your Preparations. Today, we start discussing what should go into an emergency kit. We’re going to break the week up into separate topics, since there are a lot of different ways to think about what we need and when we need it:
Day 12: Emergency Kits
Day 13: First Aid Kits
Day 14: Home Safety During Shelter-In-Place
Day 15: Car Emergency Kits
Day 16: Protecting Information and Documents
We’ll start today with talking about Emergency Kits. We’ll talk about it from the different plans, as we have with the rest of the Challenge so far:
1) Shelter-in-Place at home, with supplies needed for 3 to 7 days
2) Evacuation / “Go Bag”, assuming we can get to a hotel or other shelter, for a few days, or if you need to leave for a longer duration.
Let’s start with the things to have on hand for Shelter-in-Place:
Non-perishable foods (tuna, canned chicken, peanut butter, crackers, energy/meal bars, camp food/dehydrated meals that can be reconstituted with water, etc.) Review semi-annually for expiration. Plan for 3 days worth, minimally. Bags for storing opened/unfinished food. Don’t forget a can opener (a manual one, and know how to use it)!
Large bottles of water, small bottles of water. FEMA recommends one gallon per person, per day. Plan for 3 days worth, minimally. Don’t rely on your own water supply. This is another product to review in your supplies every 6 months or so. The plastic in the bottles can break down, and you can spring some leaks!
Cell phones, backup phone batteries (charged), car charger. Battery, solar or hand-crank operated radio, with weather channels.
Some ideas: Flashlights, extra batteries. Propane lantern. Glowsticks. Solar-charging lights can help, too. Candles, as long as we are able to keep them in an area that is safe.
Assuming we are home and can use our whole wardrobe to layer, we still will include a blanket in our kit. Chemical hand warmer/foot warmer packages. Have a battery-operated fan in case this is a warmer-weather event.
A basic first aid kit that can address injuries and illness. (We’ll dedicate one day of the Challenge to this topic, so this is just an overview here.) A kit will include bandages, gauze, tape, antibiotic cream, tweezers, ibuprofen, anti-bacterial gel, hydrocortisone cream, arnica gel, cauterization stick, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, latex gloves, dust masks, and wipes.
Have prescription medication? Plan ahead. Grab a supply that can last longer than you think you’ll be gone. Keep a list of your prescriptions with you. Small cooler with freezer packs for any refrigerated medication.
Wrench, pliers or screwdriver to turn off any utilities and (even more importantly!) know where our shut-offs are in our house for electricity, gas, water, just in case (and know the process of turning things back on when you return… gas will require a professional). Distress whistle and dust masks are important safety items, too.
Small scissors, duct tape, swiss army knife/ leatherman/ multi-tool, weatherproof matches, garbage bags, mylar sheets for warmth. Basic clothing for 3 days (see list at bottom of the post). Pen, pencil, permanent marker. Poncho and Towel. Toilet paper.
This one is an important one! Cash on hand, at least $100, best kept in small bills. (Assume if you have to leave your house to purchase something, or need to pay others for help cash registers won’t work, ATM’s won’t work, credit card swipes at the gas station won’t work. You will likely have to work in pure cash in a short term emergency. Plan on having at least $100, a bit more if you can manage it, on hand, that you DON’T TOUCH during times of non-emergency. And if you do (but don’t), but if you do, commit to replenishing it ASAP.
Extra gasoline on hand to fill up the car on short notice (fill up the car as SOON as we learn that evacuation may be possible). Don’t travel with a can of gasoline in your car… that’s as much a safety hazard as the disaster you’re fleeing.
Build a great checklist that I can go over before having to leave. Don’t rely on my own clear thinking in the moment! Also, activities to occupy our time and divert our attention: Books. Games. Cards. Use your imagination.
Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make a family emergency plan today. September is National Preparedness Month. Learn more at www.ready.gov/September.
Now, what if you need to evacuate?
If your Shelter-in-place situation becomes more drastic or longer, or you need to evacuate, we need to add to the initial kit, since we can’t rely on raiding our own pantry, closet, medicine chest, etc. This is how we start adding to it:
Add more non-perishable, ready-to-eat foods: dried fruit, beef jerky, other healthy sources of protein. Canned foods (pasta, fruit, vegetables, etc.) Coffee, shelf-stable drinks like milk (in packs or powdered). This is also where you might introduce “camp food” like just-add-water meals, and dehydrated food. Add a basic “mess” kit – camping kit and stove, plates, napkins, cups, utensils. Extra fuel for the camping stove.
I’d also put re-closeable plastic bags in this category. Not only is this important to help preserve food once it is opened, but also for things like putting your phone in one, your wallet in one, any important documents in one, all to protect them from the elements.
More of it, same per person guidelines as above. While a water purification system would be more ideal, we can make do with a few home-made options. FEMA recommends a solution that includes a small amount of bleach diluted — research this as an option and get comfortable with it. A product like a LifeStraw is a good product to have in your kit.
A complete copy of your Communication Plan, a list of key phone numbers and e-mail addresses to stay in contact, and a plan on “if you only get one person to contact in the outside world, who will it be?”. Charger for phone, both a wall charger and a car charger.
More of what is listed above.
Assume shelter is possible, but plan for a worse situation. Small tent, sleeping bags and mylar space blankets are good to add to your kit for evacuation.
Focusing more on basic hygiene and care that you’ll need if you leave, think about the things that make everyday life survivable, especially if you’re dealing with challenges (injury, illness, etc.) Eyeglasses and set of contact lenses and saline, tampons/pads, medical devices like an inhaler, if you use one, over-the-counter medication (colds/cough, pain, allergy, stomach issues), any prescription medication (including birth control), soap/shampoo, toothbrush/paste, deodorant, sunscreen. Other supplies to improve your First aid kit would be a manual, and something that can work as a tourniquet.
For when you’re away from home: local maps (on paper… the internet/GPS may not be there to help). Bright-colored clothing/top. Compass, whistle, mirror, and paracord are standard supplies to keep in your kit.
Changes of clothing – light-weight, layers, easy to pack, carry, and wash/dry if necessary. More clothing, and items for special weather: wool socks, sturdy sneakers, or hiking boots. Hat and gloves if it is colder weather. Sunglasses are good, too.
More Cash (Some people will advise other currency, maybe gold, silver, or traveler’s checks, too.) Credit cards (may or may not work).
Tools: Compact, hand-held tools such as an ax or hatchet, mallet, and shovel, or a tarp.
We will focus on Documents and Information later this week, but here’s an intro. Passport/ID and any original documentation at home (birth certificate, car title, etc.). If you can’t get the originals on short notice (in a safe deposit box?), keep a set of copies. A copy of your home insurance policy/information. All in a waterproof bag. Extra digital copies of important items on a flash drive, ready to go.
Longer term checklist to review before leaving. Take pictures of the inside of your home before leaving and bring a camera with you (helpful in case insurance comes into play).
We may never return home again, or home may be destroyed. Any portable valuables (Jewelry, heirlooms, photos, etc.). We can’t pack them all in advance, but we can make a list of what the items would be, and can leave that list in our go bag. And don’t forget all your keys!
How do you store these supplies?
For items that are purely just for your emergency kit, find a place that is easy to access, and has a grab-and-go way of taking the items quickly. This may be a dedicated set of shelving or closet. Consider what the impact would be if you lost power and had no light where things are stored. Could you still easily grab everything?
Keeping items in clear storage bins or in backpacks or duffles will also help with quick access.
For other items, ones you don’t keep dedicated in that space, you might consider keeping a checklist of where to locate those items quickly (on paper, and in your phone). An example might be sleeping bags; maybe you’re keeping those with camping gear, and not with your emergency supplies? Know that, and make sure that everyone in your home knows what you’re bringing and where to find it.
Where do you start?
Building a kit takes time, and it also takes regular maintenance. You don’t need to run out right now and get everything, but you can build this with efforts over time. Prioritize things like first aid, basic safety, and important documents, and build from there.
Sources to shop for supplies:
- “Dollar” stores – these are easy places to find items for your first aid kit, hygiene supplies, simple shelf-stable foods and activity supplies
- Camping / Outdoor or Army / Navy stores – For gear, food, cooking fuel and supplies, water filtration
- Thrift shop – you never know if you’ll find some good supplies to add to your kit for minimal cost. The extra clothing to pack comes to mind for this one.
- Specialty sales focusing on survival products – You can buy complete “72 Hour Kits” at some survival supply stores like the Ready Store. You might also find food ideas from a home-based sale company called Thrive Life, which focuses on long-lasting, shelf-stable pantry ingredients and meals
- Amazon — visit my “Emergency Preparedness” section on my Product Ideas page!
Some other lists you might check out:
One final word:
Finally, a word about another safety issue: Weapons. As you research sources about emergency preparations, you will read that many people have or suggest having a weapon, specifically, a gun, as part of their kits. I don’t address that here on Clever Girl, but you need to consider your own situation, risks and comfort level. Create your storage and access plan accordingly.
– Begin thinking through what you have already, and how you’d start building up your kit
– Identify where in your home you’ll store the kit
– Create a plan for yourself for how you’ll continue to add to it, what your “must haves” will be, and prioritize what you’ll add. You don’t need to do this all overnight!
Join in the conversation over at the Clever Girl Organizing Challenge Facebook Group to learn from and to teach others as we all take on the Let’s Get Prepared! Challenge!
Reminder: Our goal here is to take steps towards improvement. The content in these posts is designed to inspire thinking, not fear.