Monday, September 17, 2012

Emergency Preparedness: Make a 72 Hour Kit

As I have mentioned before, September is Emergency Preparedness Month, This is the month to plan for emergencies you may face in the coming year. Since everyone's circumstances are different, only you know what kinds of risks you face. It's up to you to weigh each risk and create a plan to minimize those risks. You can see more information on potential risks to consider as you create your plans here.

One of the items usually included in a preparedness plan is the 72 hour kit. On the Internet, this kit is also called a G.O.O.D. bag or 'Get Out Of Dodge' bag. I call mine a 72 hour kit because it is designed to provide for all your needs for the first 72 hours of an emergency.

This kit is critical in earthquake, tornado or hurricane country. However, it is equally important in other areas as well.  Do you live near a chemical or some other industrial plant? How about near a nuclear power plant? Now we are not talking about living right next door, but say within 30 to 50 miles. What would you do if there was an accident at one of these plants?  In today's complex world, it's not rare at all to hear about the authorities evacuating large areas in response to some type of industrial accident. Often these evacuations happen fast, with little notice to those being evacuated. What about nuclear plant accidents? While governments do their best to minimize the risk, we all know that accidents have happen in the past. Like industrial accidents, when they do happen, citizens usually have to evacuate without much notice.

For many, such an evacuation is a stressful crisis, but the prepared family should be able to leave within 5 minutes of notification of such an evacuation. The key to being able to move so fast is the 72 hour kit. Everyone in the family should have their own kit. Packing items for the entire family in one box or bag would make it too heavy (and big) to lift and carry in an emergency.  A bag with wheels for each person helps out a lot.

Here is a picture of my 72 hour kit and all the items we have packed in it. My husband and I put all of our items into one large bag (with wheels) because for us, it is easier to store it this way. Our closet space is at a premium. However, this just wouldn't work for a family with several children, especially if they are of different ages and genders.  

A 72 hour kit will include obvious things like clothes, food and needed medications. It should include other things too. Here is what I put in my 72 hour kits:
  • A box or bag to put everything in. For small children, this can be a back pack. 
  • A complete change of clothing.  This includes socks and shoes (or better yet sneakers). No sandals or flip flops!
  • A flashlight  - one for each family member in their individual bag.
  • A pocket knife - there could be dozen of uses for this.  We have para cord in our kit too.
  • A small first aid kit. This can go in your bag for the entire family.
  • Personal documents - copies of anything you think you might need. Passports, driver's license and such, You don't necessarily have to keep these in the kit, but do know where they are and have a plan to get them into the bag at the time needed. Or, you could make a copy and keep the copy in your kit.
  • Water and Food - not just snacks but real food - breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You will need to live on this for 72 hours. Freezed dried meals work well here. We pack bottled water. You may get tired of drinking plain water so add some flavored packets too. I also have sport water filter bottles if I need to get water from an unclean source.
  • Knives, spoons, forks, can opener, paper plates and other kitchen items needed to support the food you have in your kit. The meals in our 72 hour kits are the kind you can eat out of the bag.  I only need a few plates and bowls for the breakfast items. I also have plastic utensils, napkins and other support items needed to be comfortable. Don't forget a garbage bag or two.
  • A heat source to heat the water or food. Now, you don't need to pack a stove if you don't want to (I do know some people who have a volcano stove in their kit.) You can see what I use here. I bought mine at a big box store.
  • Personal Care Items - toothbrush, soap, shampoo, hair brush, necessary medications as well as anything else you need. We carry mosquito repellent and sunscreen. Also, don't forget the toilet paper. That's important too.
  • Matches and Candles - The matches should be considered essential, you may need to start a fire. The candles can be considered more of a convenience item-don't add them if you are storing your kits in an area that isn't climate controlled.
  • Food and supplies for your pet.  Don't forget they are part of your family too. For my husband and me, we will not leave our home without Molly.  And we would never consider going to a government shelter if she couldn't come too.  My plan is to carry everything I need so I do not need to go to a government shelter and that plan includes my dog.
  • Rain gear - we have some inexpensive fold up rain ponchos - just in case we have to be out in the elements.
  • Emergency cash - how much depends on how many people you have in your family. I would suggest at least $100 (or the equivalent in your own currency) as a minimum.
  • Scriptures or books to read. If you are blocked from going home because of a local emergency, expect to do a lot of sitting around. Add some family games too - and extra batteries if necessary.
There are some other items I consider part of my 72 hour kit but do not store in my kit. Our suitcase is full now and they won't fit.  Besides, we use these items frequently - we like to go camping. In my kit, I keep a list of all the items I want that are not stored in the kit. In an emergency, all I have to do is grab the list and get the rest of the items. This works best if you know where these are stored and have a plan for adding them quickly in an emergency. You may even want to practice getting all your items together and out the door. Try timing how long it takes. If you get good at that, try it at night, without the power.

Here's a list of things I would take with me if I ever had to leave my home that are currently not stored in my 72 hour kit:
  • Sleeping bags - If you want, you could purchase extra sleeping bags just for your 72 hour kit.  I choose not to do this - I think it is a waste of money. Our sleeping bags are perfectly acceptable, they just are not stored in our kits.
  • Tent - this one is important for us because we don't expect to go to a shelter if there isn't one that will take dogs.
  • Small emergency radio
Once you create your kit, be sure to update it twice a year. Check your food and change out anything that has an expiration date before your next update. For example, this fall I will remove anything that has an expiration date before April of next year. Once the food is removed from our kit, it goes in the pantry to eat before the actual expiration date. I will replace it with food that has an expiration date no earlier than summer of next year. Also, change out season-specific equipment and supplies such as summer clothes for winter. By the way, asking your children to update their kits is a great way to build responsibility and to help them better buy in to staying prepared.  You can have all family members gather their kits in one room and change them out together.

To keep track of when it's time to update the kit, try using a recurring event. I usually update my kit at General Conference time (for LDS readers). You might time your update with changes in daylight saving time, or recurring holidays such as Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Take it from me, you sleep better knowing you have planned for any emergency that may come your way!

1 comment:

  1. Kate very cool article I completely agree with you that being prepare is best way about going through life. You definitely will sleep better haha. I just wanted to let you know and anyone else you comes across your article that if lets say, you didn't want to create your own kit there is company called J. Bullivant that has created backpacks that will have anything you need already inside to survive for 3 days. Its called urban survival gear and its getting to be a big industry. If you have time check it out it will save time to have everything already prepared for you and all you need is to get the backpack. I'll be looking forward to reading more posts and responses. Thanks


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