“I will prepare, and someday, my chance will come.” – Abraham Lincoln
Disaster Kit Basics
The single most important thing one can do for yourself, your family, and your pets: preparing disaster kits. A few items, gathered together in a handy place and safe from moisture and debris, can make a huge difference in your level of stress and peril in a disaster situation or emergency. The simplest thing that any of us can do to raise our level of preparedness and increase our margins of survival is to gather a simple 72-hour kit.
In banter about ‘survival’ and ‘preparedness’ the subject of 72-hour kits comes up a lot. They are called by many different, sometimes sinister sounding names: Bug Out Bag. Get Out of Dodge Kit. Go to Hell Bag. Whatever the name, their purpose is simple. A 72-hour kit should contain all the things you will need to be self-sufficient for the first 72-hours (or more) of a disaster or emergency.
It seems that everyone has the ‘perfect’ kit to either suggest or to sell. Now, those approaches are fine, if you want to just check off a little box in your survival checklist and go on, secure in the knowledge that you’ve acquired one more thing you may or may not know how to use.
You are farther ahead of the game if you tailor your kit to your own needs, including only those things you deem appropriate, according to your personal needs and knowledge. What this means is this: No one can gauge your level of need or preparedness better than you can. However, we all may need a few pointers to decide what to include.
An effective 72-hour kit should contain at least the following:
- First Aid Kit
- Clean Water
- Small container of bleach (to make found water safe to drink)
- 3 days of food you can simply open and eat without cooking
- Fire starters (flint and steel, disposable lighter, etc)
- A lightweight tarp, tent, space blanket or other method of making a shelter
Those are the basics that all kits should contain. Below are some additional items to consider adding to your personal kit.
- Weather Radio
- Walkie Talkie tuned to a per-agreed upon channel (batteries for same)
- Chemical light sticks (break and shake type)
- Instant Coffee
- Tea Bags
- Small kettle to boil water
- Metal Cup
- Pocket Knife
- Folding Saw
- Change of Clothing
- Three Pairs of Socks in a Waterproof Bag
- Anti-diarrhea Medicine
- Tinder for Fires
- Heavy Gloves
- Small Blanket
- Various Spools of Twine, Para-Cord, Cordage and Thin Rope
Customizing Disaster Kits To Your Needs
This is by no means a complete list of everything. It is simply a primer on what you could add. Kits should be designed to survive without electricity/water/gas for a few days with a minimum of fuss. You need to decide what you MUST have to get through three horrible days without help as comfortably as possible in the area in which you find yourselves. Kits need to be checked from time to time. Try to go through them as the seasons change. If it is summer, add sunscreen and more water. If it is winter, add an extra coat and warmer spare clothing.
Tips on Method of Transport and Carry
Once all of these items have been gathered together, one must decide how they will carry it all. Army Surplus ALICE packs are very handy, and designed for this sort of thing. Another example is backpacks designed for hunters with a water bladder and drinking tube integrated into it. You may want to pack your kits into waterproof lidded plastic tubs and use some sort of wheeled pull along carrying device. Your method, again, should be tailored to you.
Safety and Functionality
A bit of advice here if you plan to use a backpack-type carry method: put all your gear in the pack, then put it on. Make certain you can function with that much weight on your back. Now, bend over and tie your shoes. If your pack slams into the base of your skull you will want to repack it to ensure it doesn’t happen again at the worst possible moment. Every person in the household should have a personal 72-hour kit that they can grab and take with them under any circumstances from rising flood waters, tornadoes, civil unrest, or evacuation.
Depending on your area, you may be prone to interruption of services, and extended time periods for re-establishment of those services due to weather or a number of other reasons. Additional kits such as car and home kits are also a good idea and should be tailored to meet the needs of each location.
A car kit might include additional items such as food, blankets, a shovel, a hatchet, and tools to repair the vehicle. You may need these added items to dig out of a snow drift, or survive being stranded in the middle of nowhere until help arrives. A CB Radio is always a good idea for a car disaster kit also.
Home kits are usually even larger and more extensive. You may find yourself in need of a propane stove and extra tanks, oil lamps and fuel, family-sized first aid kit with trauma capabilities, spare firearms and ammunition. 50 gallons of water, 1 gallon of bleach, assorted books and a deck of cards to pass the time. Candy, canned milk, and sugar tins of coffee or drink mix. Extra blankets and comforters, roll of plastic, and duct tape. Plastic tubs can keep your home kit safe from the elements and from the stray rodent who wanders through.
Planning and Execution of a Preparedness Strategy
As you can see, the concept of disaster kits is one that is very tailorable to each individual and to the family as a whole. They can be as simple as you desire, or well-stocked enough to withstand the siege of Masada. Start with a primer of must have’s, and then THINK about how your kits should be tailored to fit your needs.
A strategy does not have to be complicated. Some simple reminders to avoid possible chaos in execution are:
1. Know where your kits are located, know what is in them, and know how to use those items.
2. If you are going to be carrying your kit for any distance at all, train with it on your back. A too-heavy pack quickly goes from being a help to being something that will hinder your survival.
As always in these things, your first and greatest asset is your brain; use it.