- Communication. In a crisis, it's essential to know what actually happened. Is this a local catastrophe, regional, or national? Will assistance be coming (for others--we don't need it because we prepared, right?) today, tomorrow, a week, or never? The answer to that will govern a lot of critical choices in the very near future. Having a battery pack or solar charger for your cell phone may let you connect with the outside world, especially if phones require more power because the nearest cell towers are down. As sometimes happens, regular cell and internet service may be down in a disaster, but text messages can get through. Likewise, sometimes services for one company will be down, but not another. So include in your kit hard copies of phone numbers in case your phone isn’t working, but someone else’s is, even if you are one that normally memorizes phone numbers. The stress of a disaster can turn a good brain to Jell-O. Other options, and more reliable, are ham radios and two-way radios. And then there is always pencil and paper.
- Entertainment. In a stressful situation, people need to be able to de-stress, both individually and as a group. There may be times when we just need a break, an opportunity to de-stress. Each person in the group is required to have a game—preferably one that doesn’t require any supplies, only the ability to explain how it’s played. Favorites in our family are murder (AKA assassin) and charades. Some favor puzzle books. One person in our family is tasked with carrying a deck of cards.
- Scriptures. As important as it is to feed the body, it's more important to be able to feed the spirit. So we all carry small paperback copies of our scriptures, in a Ziploc bag.
- Documents. My husband carries the hard copy of important documents—birth certificates, social security cards, driver’s licenses, insurance policies, credit cards, etc, in a folder. In addition, all of these documents and other important items are on thumb drives.
- Money. We all carry cash, in all small bills. The children weren't open to taking that much cash out of their personal circulation, so they have cash from Mom and Dad--clearly labeled as Mom and Dad's cash--so that they do not spend it.
So how do you plan to carry your kit? What makes the most sense for your situation? There are loads of options in cost and convenience, but for most, it comes down to your individual stage in life.
- Backpacks. They hang easily in the garage and slip on your back when it's go time. Lots of pockets make it easier to access something you want close at hand. And padded straps make them a bit more comfortable to carry.
- Buckets. Plastic buckets are free from doughnut shops, and some of them smell pretty good, even after being washed out. They're waterproof. And you can replace the original lid, which can be a bit difficult to remove, with a gamma lid so that you can easily get into your bucket. Unfortunately, buckets can be a little awkward to carry.
- Totes.Ten- and eighteen-gallon totes, like those manufactured by Rubbermaid, hold more stuff, volume-wise, and are more suited for carrying with two hands. This is perhaps the way to go for families with small children. The kids go in the backpacks, and then the hands are free to carry supplies.
When children have their own backpacks, it not only lightens the load for parents but also teaches children that preparedness and self-reliance are a way of life. Though they can't carry everything, they can carry clothing, some snacks, and maybe even their own boo-boo kits. If children are allowed to choose what foods go into their kits, especially their comfort foods, a disaster becomes less of an emergency and more of an adventure. Comfort foods and special treats go a long way with children.
As you assemble kits for your family, plan for the most likely disasters. Living on the side of a mountain, we don't worry about tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. We plan for wildfires and earthquakes. However, most of the planning and packing is the same as for other disasters, with a few modifications.
Wildfire preparation begins each year in the spring, before fire season. We check again with a friend about being able to take our animals to her property for a day or two. Our fire kit includes water, dog leashes, two-way radios, and bright yellow t-shirts and bandanas. (In the Great Chicago Fire, families got separated. Our thinking is that bright shirts will help us find each other a little more easily.) Of course, fires can happen at any time, but sometimes we have some warning. When a thunderstorm is in the forecast, we dress appropriately. The trailer gets hooked up, the cars are prepared for animals, rabbit carriers are ready to load, leashes in place, wallets and phones are in the car, and keys are in the ignition.
If we were preparing for a tornado, many of those same things would be moved into the storm shelter, because there is advance notice of tornado weather. If we were faced with a hurricane, I think we’d leave the area.
My husband has his kit for getting home from work, and our college students are prepared to make it home from school.
- Pets. With your documents, include proof of vaccinations and licensing to be able to take your pets to a shelter. As laws vary by municipality, be aware of what is expected in your area. With your emergency kits, be sure to have food and water for the animals.
- Rotation. Check your kit every six months, perhaps spring and fall to accommodate seasonal changes. Summer clothes go into the pack in April, and winter clothes are substituted in October. Change foods out as needed—freeze-dried items don't need to be replaced as often as dehydrated foods and nuts. Battery-powered items are checked each time, and batteries and medications are rotated.
- Label. Label everything. In a stressful situation it can be hard to think. Even doctors label everything in their emergency medical kits.
- List. Post a list somewhere convenient in the house, perhaps a closet door, to remind everyone what needs to be grabbed and where it is. Include a list of items that you want to take in case you are never coming back.
- Delegate. Delegating some of the assembly of the kits to family members makes the task more manageable.
- Purchased kits. These range from bare bones basics to super deluxe. Bear in mind that purchased kits don’t include clothes and may not include other essentials. Most omit sewing repair kits and the medical supplies are often lacking--they don't even include basic pain relievers or antibiotic ointment. They don't include your personal medications or sanitary needs for women. They definitely don’t include enough water.
- Pest-proofing. Wool socks and mittens go in Ziploc bags to protect them from moths.
Links to related posts:
96-Hour Kit, part 1
For more information:
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