Disaster preparedness for your home and family isn’t one of those things to be overlooked, and yet, it ends up being one thing that many families only consider creating after a disaster strikes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and American Red Cross advise families to have a kit that can last them outside of the home for 72 hours, which means that you’ll need three days of food, water and supplies for every member of your family. Are you ready for anything?
It’s possible to purchase a pre-built emergency kit (like this 2-person version at Lowe’s or a deluxe kit at Home Depot) to prepare you for everything from a natural disaster to being abandoned in the Alaskan wilderness (we like the variety offered by Adventure Medical Kits for that). But it’s also easy to make your own survival pack using simple household necessities and a small suitcase. Take it as far as you feel the need to based on your geography. For example, homeowners who need to prepare for floods may pack much differently than homeowners preparing for wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes. But all disasters considered, you wouldn’t believe how much can really fit in an overhead-sized suitcase, a method of storage that is both easy on the budget and easy to transport, as many have wheels. For us, it’s great to know all we’ll have to do in an emergency is pull our prepared suitcase out of the closet on our way out of the house.
What to Pack?
Here’s a list of items that should be included in your kit. The amount depends on the number of people in your family. You can see how I created mine in this companion how-to post.
1. Tools and documents: Store multiple flashlights, extra batteries, and a multi-tool device in a handy spot on your kit. I like the suitcase for this, because I can fit everything in the front pocket, and keep it separate so we won’t have to dig around for it. In the same front pouch, also keep photocopies of important documents, like deeds, passports, and licenses, and extra sets of car and house keys in case you are forced to abandon all.
2. First Aid: Pick up a pre-assembled first aid kit equipped with bandages, creams, and ibuprofen. If you have special needs or are preparing with a child’s needs in mind, pack accordingly, and consider including child-safe medicines as well. If you require an inhaler, get an extra and store it in the kit too.
3. Hygiene: In addition to travel-sized tissue packs and wet wipes, include antibacterial wipes, extra toothbrushes and a travel-sized toothpaste.
4. Food: Have a pre-stocked supply of goods on hand. Even items like cereals and cans of tuna fish have an expiration date, so keep a running spreadsheet detailing the expiry of all of your items in your kit; that way, if a year passes and no emergency situation strikes, you can eat what you’ve rationed away and replace it with new goods. Stick to nutrient-rich products that won’t require refrigeration once opened, and cans and containers that are classic serving sizes for one person, or to share, so nothing goes to waste or has a chance to spoil once opening. And don’t forget to pack goods for infants requiring formula.
5. Water: Pack a full bottle for each person needing to be nourished. Stock an extra gallon (or two, or three depending on the number of people and space availability) for refills and for sanitary needs if you’re evacuating, and even more–enough to last up to two weeks–if you’re going to be stuck at home.
6. Warmth and comfort: Line the bottom of your kit with a few blankets. In a pinch, they can be rolled up as a pillow, spread out as a bed, or provide warmth in a cool environment. Consider extra pairs of socks for each person, and if you’re packing with an infant or toddler, be sure to consider what they’ll need to remain comfortable.
7. Pets: Don’t forget to be prepared to care for your pets; store a carrier in a convenient spot to quickly move small pets, and a leash and collar for larger pets. Food for pets is easy to pre-measure and keep sealed in air-tight containers (for dry food) or in cans (wet food), but remember to pack extra water and a small bowl for them—hydration is critical for all.
- A plastic garbage bag, for garbage disposal
- A tarp and towels, for if you find yourself in a wet environment
- Eye drops and an extra pair of contact lenses, if you’re in need
- A battery-powered cell phone charger
- Two-way walkie-talkies
- Activity books and a deck of cards
- Plastic bowls and plastic utensils, and a can opener if your canned goods don’t have a pull-to-open tab