Friday, April 17, 2015

72-Hour Emergency Kits

I told my friend Marie that I was going to make 72-hour emergency kits for our family this week. That was about six months ago.

It's not like it should be that hard of a task, right? Especially since I'm not starting from scratch; both Jeffrey and I had wonderful mothers who sent us to college with emergency bags that we dutifully carried with us from place to place to place to place, expired food and all.

And it's an important task, too. FEMA, The Red Cross, and, most notably, prophets of God all urge citizens everywhere to have a three-day supply of food and other essentials readily on hand in case disaster strikes.

Yet making packs for our little family has been surprisingly difficult for me, mostly due to the following constraints:

First, I  needed them to be inexpensive kits. There are several options to buy survival bags ranging from around $40 to $150. In most cases, though, the kits either didn't have quite what I wanted or had appropriate items but were still cheaper to assemble myself. Or both.

Next, if I'm going to take the time to update/reassemble our emergency packs, I want them to be well-organized. These should be good and complete kits, not just a halfhearted effort at obedience to my church leaders and the emergency disaster experts.

Hand in hand with well-organized is my desire that they also make a lot of sense. This is really Jeffrey's doing, to be honest. When I told him (rather excitedly) about my impending project, he asked me what the kits were for. Our exchange went something like this:

"It's 72 hours worth of food, silly, in case disaster strikes!"

"Don't we have food here? Like, 3 months worth?"

"Well we might not be in the apartment when it happens."

"Oh. But don't we keep the kits in that closet over there?"

"Maybe we grab them on the way out the door? Besides, they have other useful things in them too. Like... tooth brushes! And matches! And...etc. etc. etc."

I am pretty sure that I got all huffy in my defense of our emergency kits. Silly, really, because rather than attacking them, my husband was actually thinking about them. Which, I'm afraid to say, stuck with me too. So over several months, many lists, and various amazon purchases, I've finally come up with an emergency plan of sorts for our family. To be honest, I don't feel "done" at all. Yet I finally decided I won't ever be "done"; this is a project I'll revisit and rethink on a yearly basis, adding to and taking away from our supplies as our needs as a family change. Yet now we finally have a starting point, and it's a pretty good one too.

So, without further ado, here it is...

The Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why 

Nice to begin with the easy one, right? The who, of course, is our family. Two adults and one baby. I mean toddler. Hmm. That's the trouble with SourPatch: his needs (and sizes) can't stay the same for two weeks together. That's why it's so important to update these kits each year, especially if there are kids involved.

What do we need in a 72-hour kit? It kind of depends on the disaster, really. So I started thinking of various disaster scenarios, ranging from being stranded with a flat tire to zombie-apocalypse/alien invasion. Since we live in the Bay Area, my median, baseline tragedy in mind is always an earthquake.

First, we need a container for our supplies. Backpacks seem like the most sensible kind of pack, though buckets or duffles could work I'm sure (but who wants to haul around a bucket on foot? So never mind-don't use a bucket. That would be the worst).

Water and food are two obvious things we don't want to run out of (ever). I'm trying to keep a 2 week supply of water on hand in our home. There's also a gallon of drinking water in the trunks of both of our cars, and I'd like to add a box of emergency water pouches that have a longer life and will better withstand the heat. However, at the recommended one gallon of water per person per day, the idea of actually lugging around all that water in a pack is not very supportable.

So along with a couple of filled water bottles, I bought a Seychelle water filtration bottle (found here at the LDS store or here on amazon) and iodine water purification tablets. It seemed like a good idea to have two different methods of purification. However, I was chagrined to read that the Red Cross does not recommend using the iodine or any chemicals to purify water other than regular household bleach with 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. A cursory search didn't uncover exactly why they are opposed to the iodine tablets (which are commonly used by campers). The bleach method appears to be more effective and safer (pregnant women shouldn't consume iodine). Still, the filtered water bottle and iodine tablets are what I have in our packs just in case boiling or chlorinating with bleach isn't feasible.
  • Seychelle water filtration bottle 
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • 2 week water supply at home
  • Water supply in car

Now the food part stressed me out. First, I never realized how few foods won't expire within the year. Do crackers and granola bars really only last for another 6 months or so? To avoid quick expiration dates, I know many people go the can route. We have a stash of canned goods at home, but surely we don't want to haul heavy cans on our backs. I know the cans could be reused to heat up food or perform other useful tasks in a dire emergency, but for me, their possibly utility was over-shadowed by their weight. Then, there are several dried food items such as oatmeal or soup that are light and compact but require water and, ideally, a heat source to prepare. Other foods such as trail mix or crackers are salty and therefore thirst-inducing.

Though I did fill a giant ziplock bag with fruit leather, oatmeal, hot chocolate, canned tuna salad/crackers, and peanut butter, my principle food plan for our kits is to use energy bars specifically made for emergencies. These Millennium Bars are my bars of choice. They have a 5-year shelf life, several flavors, and 400 calories a piece. The 24 bar multipack would sustain two adults for 3 days.
  • 24 count Millennium Bar multipack
  • Other food items as desired, such as:
    • Instant oatmeal
    • Mini peanut butter 
    • Tuna salad "to-go" packs
    • Hot chocolate mix
    • Fruit leather
    • Hard Candy
    • 3 bowls and utensils

Shelter, Warmth, and Protection
Now, it's hard for me to limit myself and what I purchase. The more I research, the more excited I get about packing us tarps, tents, and all sorts of protective gear. Still, keeping in mind my goal to be inexpensive and compact while still hitting the essentials, here's my list of protective gear.
  • Working Gloves These are a biggie should an earthquake strike.
  • Poncho
  • Mylar Emergency Blankets We actually have about six of these. A bit excessive for 2.5 people, I know, but we could potentially share them with others, and they take up so little space. 
  • N95 filter masks These could be essential in an earthquake to protect our lungs from all the particles in the air. They also could be used in a health epidemic for droplet precautions.
  • Emergency Whistle
  • Trash bags
  • Multipurpose knife
  • Duct tape
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra pair of clothes for each of us In my case, I used scrub bottoms and a light long-sleeved shirt. I also added my water shoes. A real pair of shoes just seemed so very big; these are light, small, and if they protect my feet from sharp coral, they could presumably do the same for earthquake rubble. 

 Fuel and Light
  • Mini Stove. This came with my original 72-hour kit (thanks, mom!) It could be used for cooking, boiling/sterilizing water, and as a heat source.
  • Waterproof Matches x2
  • Flashlight + extra batteries

Personal Supplies/Hygiene
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • 2 Washcloths
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Tissue packs
  • Moist towelettes
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Travel size shampoo
  • Travel size body wash
 Medical/First Aid
  • Pain Relievers
  • Large and Small First Aid kits
  • CPR Masks I've only ever had to perform CPR once, and I really pray I never have to do it again, especially outside of a hospital setting. Nonetheless, it seems prudent to be prepared, and if I end up needing to do rescue breathing, I'd really like to have a mask on hand. Masks are more effective and more sanitary. I ordered this one from amazon; I liked that it has both an adult/child size along with an infant size for SourPatch.
  • Vinyl Gloves The CPR mask comes with one pair, but if there are many injured individuals to help, I'm sure I would want multiple pairs.

Documents & Cash
This one is tricky. I love the idea of having copies of our birth certificates or other important documents with us should our apartment become rubble. I don't love the idea of having them potentially stolen, though.

So unlike others, I left such documents out of our packs. Instead, I included:
Honestly, that's a lot to fit into a typical backpack already. I added a pack of playing cards to help the adults pass time. It seemed unnecessary to add toys for SourPatch quite yet; he quite enjoys playing with the whistles, ponchos and knickknacks in the bag. I also put in a pad of paper and pen so we can jot down notes (or doodle, if we're bored. M.A.S.H., anyone?) I also added a pocket-sized Book of Mormon. 
  • Deck of cards
  • Pen and paper
  • Pocket-sized scriptures
  • Emergency contact numbers This could include family, friends, and local church leaders.

So my smart husband had a bit of a point that keeping our kits in our home might not be the best option. I decided it was more prudent to put one in each car. Granted, I know there are some problems with this idea, the most obvious being that we'll only have one pack with us should the whole family be out together in one car. Yet both kits are equipped with SourPatch in mind. Jeffrey and I would have to make do with the rest of the items. Many of the items can be shared, and those that can't, such as ponchos and mylar blankets, are cheap and compact, making it easy to slip two in each pack. If, instead, Jeffrey and I were both out in our cars, we'd both have a pack. And if we were at home? Then our cars would be too, so we could still use them.

It's also true that the heat in our trunks will probably shorten the lifespan of some of the items in the bags (particularly the food). Again, though, the potential benefit of having our bags with us away from home outweigh the risks.

So along with the emergency bags, each car has a gallon of water. My car, too, always has a stroller in the trunk, which could come in handy if we had to walk rather than drive to safety. My car also has a blanket for warmth and at least a half-tank of gas at all times (or that's what I aim for, anyways!)

As aforementioned, the bags are intended to care for our family through 72 hours of various emergency scenarios, and I intend to update and check on the contents yearly.

I really like my mom's method of grouping similar items in ziplock bags. There's one for our toiletries, one for food, one for diapers, and one for most of the other items. I printed off a list of all the items of each bag and slipped it instead for a quick contents reference.

Since this has taken me months to complete, I bought the contents from various places. The backpacks we already owned. Walmart, Amazon, and Dollar Tree were all excellent resources for the contents. I've thought about, prayed about, and stressed about these emergency kits, but I really great peace of mind now that they are complete.


“When we speak of family preparedness, we should speak of foreseen, anticipated, almost expected needs which can be met through wise preparation. Even true emergencies can be modified by good planning.” (Bishop H. Burke Peterson, Welfare Services Meeting, April 5, 1975, p. 5.)

"My brothers and sisters, I feel our anxieties are justified. It is the opinion of many that more difficult times lie ahead. We are deeply concerned about the welfare of our people and recognize the potential privation and suffering that will exist if each person and family does not accept the word of the Lord when he says, “Prepare every needful thing” (D&C 88:119), and “It must needs be done in mine own way” (D&C 104:16)." –Victor L. Brown, Prepare Every Needful Thing.

To maintain some semblance of stability in our lives, it is essential that we plan for our future. I believe it is time, and perhaps with some urgency, to review the counsel we have received in dealing with our personal and family preparedness. –L. Tom Perry, If Ye Are Prepared  Ye Shall Not Fear

All Americans should have some basic supplies on hand in order to survive for at least three days if an emergency occurs. ... Individuals should also consider having at least two emergency supply kits, one full kit at home and smaller portable kits in their workplace, vehicle or other places they spend time. -FEMA

No comments :

Post a Comment