With Southern California out with no electricity, homes burning up in Texas, tornadoes across the country, devastating heat waves, much of the Northeast under water (and more water), earthquakes, and the threat of terrorism in New York and Washington DC (which means it could happen anywhere), are you ready? Is your emergency kit been inspected, updated, and do you even know where it is?
At a minimum, your emergency kit needs:
- First Aid Kit
- Camp Stove And Fuel
- Can Opener
- Duct Tape
- Dust Mask
- Extra Batteries (Of All Sizes)
- Extra Glasses And/Or Contacts (And Prescription Information)
- Fishing Lines And Hooks (Or Simple Hunting Gear)
- Latex Gloves
- Medications For Pain, Diarrhea and Constipation
- Pet Food
- Pots/Pans/Dishes For Food Preparation
- Prescriptions (Actual And Paper Refill Permissions)
- Preserved Food
- Radio – Battery Powered and/or Crank
- Rain Gear
- Sewing Kit
- Signal Mirror
- Preservable Condiments
- Sun Lotion
- Trash Bags
- Wrench/Pliers And Basic Tools
- Writing Equipment
Sure, it’s easy to buy a ready-made kit, but don’t trust it after a year. Check it. Replace all bandages that have aged (lost their sticky), water, food, and medicines that have passed their expiration date. Make sure there is enough water for at least three days for drinking, cleaning, cooking, and personal use. Ensure it is stored in BP free, potable containers and change it every nine to twelve months.
Games and books to read out loud or alone are excellent for families and groups. There is nothing like a good book to distract and make time pass quickly.
Have a printed out list of contact information, phone numbers, etc., of friends, neighbors, family, insurance, medical centers, veterinarians, emergency contacts, utility services, and repair services (roofers, plumbers, electricians, etc.). Keep this in a protected envelop in case of water damage.
Think about where you would go if your home was destroyed. Do you know the location of the nearest shelters near your home and work? If these are full, do you have backups or alternatives? What about family or friends living outside your community? Could you easily reach them? Have maps of each of these ready just in case, even if you know the path well. In an emergency or disaster, you can get turned around, distracted, or confused.
Make copies of personal information such as medication and medical history, proof of residence and address, deed/lease/mortgage papers, passports, birth certificates, legal and insurance policies, and all the paperwork you may need to prove ownership, citizenship, and existence. Put these in a waterproof envelope along with a CD or DVD of the scanned copies as extra protection. Consider putting originals or another set of copies into a safe deposit box off your property.
Stuff it all in a backpack and let everyone in the family know where it is. Keep it near the main door or a regularly used exit, especially during storm prone seasons. If you have multiple floors or buildings, consider making more than one kit. Add a small version of your emergency kit for each of your vehicles.
Pets in an Emergency
Ensure all pets have chips, licenses, and tags, and copies of the paperwork stored with your personal paperwork. Check with your vet to ensure they have the most updated information on your pet annually.
Do not risk your life for the sake of your pets, but do your best to protect them during emergencies and storms. Keep them inside and close, preferably collared and leashed. If you have an animal carrier, put them in it for the duration of the emergency, if appropriate. If necessary, let your animal free as many can fend for themselves during some storms. If they run away, contact all animal rescue services and nearby vet offices within three days of the event to collect your pet.
If you have a pet and they are important to you, if you have the chance, take them and leave the area at risk immediately. Few shelters will take animals and few emergency services can respond to pet care and discovery during or immediately after an emergency or disaster.
Your Emergency Kit May Vary
Depending upon where you live, your emergency kit may vary. Think about all the disasters or emergency situations that might befall you and your family.
While suicide bombers, terrorists, and soldiers might not be hanging around your neighborhood, gangs mights. Are you prepared for street violence coming to your neighborhood? That’s pretty dramatic but more and more towns are finding angry folks around their community, bringing drama and emergency situations close up and personal.
Think about the weather. Does your area get major snow or wind storms? Deep freezes and ice storms? Hurricanes, floods, landslides, tornadoes, or other dramatic weather?
In the Pacific Northwest and West of the United States, earthquakes are common. Floods are also common around the Mississippi and other river and dammed areas. Live in a heavily forested area? A good dry spell or heat wave could bring fires. Living along an ocean coast? Tsunamis might be on your radar.
Think about all the seasonal, weather, natural, and man-made disasters and emergency situations you may encounter in your area and plan accordingly with your emergency kit.
It could make sense for your area to include a gas mask (yes, ours did once for several years), potassium iodide (ki) or potassium iodate (kio3) tablets, iodine solution (tincture of iodine or betadine), portable toilet or 5-gallon buckets (for potty), talcum powder (for mustard gas), tents, protective weather gear, nerve agent antidote like atropine (or equivalent) for nerve gas (had those, too), water purifiers, medical treatments for giardia, and other emergency care treatments and supplies.
Make Plans for Prevention, Protection, and Survival
Talk to your family about safety steps. Don’t worry about scaring young children. Make this a game or just talk calmly about what to do in case of an emergency. Practice getting in and out of the house through windows, about how to open the garage door without electricity, and how to move around the house and property in total darkness (a blindfold is excellent for this).
Find one or two points in your house that are the most stable and least likely to cave in or collapse or is most protected from storms. They should have no windows nearby and are usually found near stairs, bathrooms, and furnace areas. If you live in an apartment or multiple level building, know where the emergency or bomb shelters are and inspect them annually. Keep an emergency kit there and practice getting to that point from anywhere in the building or on the property as fast as possible.
Have escape plans set to and from home and work, as well as popular places you visit like favorite shopping centers or clubs. If roads are blocked, know back ways around them.
Have a plan for how to contact each other or reunite if your family or friends get separated. Have multiple contacts for checking in and make sure they know how to contact each other.
If you have time to prepare for the emergency and it is life threatening and you’ve decided to stay, take a permanent marking pen and write down your name and emergency contact information on the inside of your arm, leg, or on your foot. If you are wearing durable shoes, write the information on paper and put it in a thin, waterproof envelop (Tyvek), and put it in your shoe. These might never be needed, but just in case, they help if you are injured or killed.
As someone who has survived earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, suicide bombers, wind storms, snow storms, ice storms, blackouts, brownouts, floods, war, and all that nature and man can dish out, an emergency situation can arise at any time and any where. Take a lesson from the scouts and be prepared now for that “just in case” moment.
I’ve only brushed the surface of what might be included in your emergency kit. What is a must have in your emergency kit?
UPDATE: What’s on Your Emergency Kit List?
I posted an abbreviated form of this list on Google+ and here are some additional items people recommended to include in an Emergency and Disaster Kit.
- Gun and ammunition
- Toilet paper
- Railroad lantern or kerosene lamp and fuel
- MP3 Player/Video player with power backups
- Space blankets (2 – one for bottom and top)
- Alcohol – for disinfectant and wounds
Got more to add to this list?