How to build your emergency kit is a subject of much debate. You can find thousands of suggestions online, so it’s very easy to become overwhelmed and confused.
All humans have the same five basic needs when it comes to survival:
Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. That’s why these emergency kits are often called a “72 hour bag.”
What is the kit for?
Disaster kits are also referred to as a “bug out bag” or BOB. They are for when you have very short notice to evacuate an area and you may have to travel a considerable distance to reach safety. Some examples include:
- Flash floods
- Hazardous chemical spill
- Tornado or hurricane
- Riots or civil unrest
When you need to get out of Dodge quick, and you only have time to grab a few things on your way out the door, this bag is one of the things you take with you.
Basic Disaster Kit
Every member of your family should have their own bag, but as outlined in your Family Disaster Plan, one person should be designated for maintaining and restocking all bags as needed.
It doesn’t matter what kind of bag(s) you purchase. A simple backpack works best – they are roomy and carrying the load over your shoulders is the most efficient way to distribute weight if you must travel on foot.
You will need one gallon of water per person, per day, for drinking and sanitation. For a family of four, this means having 12 gallons of water on hand. You will also need a three day supply of non-perishable food per person. Food and water are best stored in easy to carry plastic bins and kept separate from personal bags.
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
- 2 flashlights
- Knife and/or multitool
- First aid kit
- Cash – including loose change
- Complete change of clothing
- Local maps
- Water purification tablets
- Battery or crank-operated radio
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Roll of duct tape
- Dust mask
- Small sewing kit
- Moist towelettes (for sanitation)
- Solar power charger
- Prescription meds
- Non-prescription meds (allergy, pain relief, nausea, laxatives, antacid)
- Prescription eyeglasses (avoid contacts)
- Feminine and other hygiene products (travel size)
- Baby supplies (formula, diapers, etc.)
- Waterproof USB with ID cards, insurance info, bank statements, utility bills
- Sleeping bag or blanket
- Paper and pencil
- Disposable lighters (at least 2)
- Waterproof matches
- Water filtration straw
As a general rule, each bag should be self-sufficient. For example: your family decides that dad should carry the only knife, maps, cash, and lighters. Solar chargers are kind of expensive, so dad will carry that for everyone also. If something were to happen to dad, or his bag is lost or stolen, then everyone else is kind of stuck.
Maintaining Your Kit
Once your kit is put together, don’t forget to make sure it’s ready when needed. Replace expired items, keep food in dry containers, and update items as your family’s needs change.
Keep your kit in an easily accessible place. When you need it the most, you don’t want to have to ransack the house trying to uncover a backpack buried at the bottom of a closet.
Finally, if you search online for disaster kits, you’re going down a deep rabbit hole. Like anything else, “be prepared” has many different levels and extremes. You’ll find military bags with level 4 trauma kits, HAM radios, GPS gear, satellite phones, MREs, and everything in between.
Be realistic and budget-consious. Take care of your family’s basic needs, and you’re set. Even a small kit is better than nothing at all.