If you have a 72-hour kit…
Congratulations! You have taken an important step to being prepared. But it’s not enough to build a 72-hour kit and then just put it in the closet and forget it. You also need to check the kit periodically, preferably twice a year.
If the first time you test your kit is when you’re in the middle of a crisis, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. If you want your 72-hour kit to be useful to you at a moment’s notice, you should check and
update it at least twice a year, as the seasons change. You should routinely check your kit to to ensure that:
- food, water, and medication are still viable
- clothing fits and is appropriate for the weather
- flashlight or other batteries are fresh and have a full charge
- personal, financial, and medical information is up to date
- the contents are all there and working (How often have you discovered that someone has “borrowed” a mess kit or tarp from your kit?)
If you do not have a 72-hour kit…
Now’s the time get started. Make it a priority this month. It’s really easy to do and need not cost you a lot. There are lots of ready-made 72-hour kits available online. Or you can make your own. You probably already have most of what you need on hand, it’s just a matter of putting it into a backpack, a 5-gallon bucket or some other container. After you’ve gathered up the kit components that you already have on hand, make a list of what remains. Then set a budget of how much you can spend each month to add to your kit until it is complete. This post will guide you through the process.
What kind of emergency kit should you have?
FEMA and the American Red Cross both suggest that everyone should have a basic 72-hour emergency kit. It usually takes 2-3 days for emergency agencies to respond and establish emergency services after a disaster. A 72-hour kit will get you through those first three days before official help arrives. This page will give you the basics on how to assemble a standard 72-hour kit.
Car Kit: If you travel a lot, you may want a car kit. This is something that will tide you over if you are not able to make it home (a blizzard, chemical spill or other disaster that closes roads or limits access to your home). It should include a change of clothes, food and water for 2-3 days, first aid kit, money and a blanket. It’s also a good idea to have a small tool box in the car. And of course, you should have jumper cables, a car jack and spare tire and maybe even a tow rope.
Tornado Recovery Kit: You won’t necessarily leave home in the wake of a tornado, but you may find yourself without a home if a tornado strikes. Prepare by having a tornado recovery kit somewhere nearby. Your kit should include copies of important papers—deeds, insurance, bank information, school or health records, family photos, address book, a
picture inventory of all important household belongings, etc. All of these can be stored on a flash drive or other memory storage. The flash drive can be kept on a key chain. Keep a valve wrench handy to quickly turn off gas and water going into your home. And have some cash at hand.
Winter Kit: Being unprepared during the winter can be deadly. Your winter kit should include a small shovel, kitty litter or sand for traction, jumper cables, a blanket, hand and foot warmers, food and water for 2-3 days. Never travel without adequately warm clothing: hat, gloves, boots and snow suit. Even though you may be going from heated garage to heated car, you never know what will happen along the way. And during bitter weather, you will not survive long if you get stuck or find yourself stranded. You don’t have to wear warm winter clothing every time you leave the house, but you should have them packed in a suitcase or duffle bag and always carry it in the trunk of the car.
Get Back Home Kit: You may also want to consider a kit that will get you back home in case disaster strikes while you are on the road. We call this a Get Back Home (GBH) Kit. It’s sort of a mini version of the 72-hour kit. School-aged children should have a GBH kit they can keep in their backpack or locker at school. You will also want one to keep at your desk at work.
Planning for young children
Be sure to have diapers, formula (if needed) and other supplies for infants. Your first aid kit should include children’s pain reliever. You will also want small toys or treats to help entertain and relieve the stress that young children may feel during a crisis. Need more? Ready.gov has great ideas on developing an emergency plan with children in mind.
Don’t forget your pets
of a disaster. There are too many sad stories of pets that are lost or abandoned during an disaster. Plan ahead for your pet’s welfare. You will want a place to house them and enough food on hand for three days. You will also want to include your pets immunization and other health records on the flash drive in your kit.
If your kit is complete and up-to-date, you are way ahead of most people. Along with your kit, you should have an emergency plan. You should plan to have a couple emergency drills every year.
You want to make sure that everyone understands the plan. Plan a mock emergency where everyone practices your emergency plan. This will help children feel confident in case you are not present to direct them. Do the children know what to do if an emergency arises while they are at school or you are at work? What is your plan for getting everyone
safely home? What is your backup plan if you cannot get them home? Do you and your children know how to cook the food with your mess kits and the fuel you have in your kits?
Practicing an emergency drill will help you:
- determine if there are any holes in your plan
- ensure everyone, especially children, understands what the plan is
- ensure that your kit is complete and that the components function properly
- give everyone the confidence they need to stay calm during a real emergency
An up-to-date 72-hour kit and practicing emergency drills are both key to giving you and your family peace of mind and the tools to weather an emergency. Make it a priority this month.