Do you have at least enough supplies for 3 days? That's the bare minimum you need for an emergency kit. Do you have:
- Clean drinking water ─ 2 liters to 1 gallon per person per day ─ for 3 days?
- Bleach or a good hiker's filter in case you need to sanitize more water for yourself?
- Easily-fixed, non-perishable emergency food? With a can-opener?
- A first-aid kit? A first-aid instruction manual?
- A battery or wind-up radio and flashlight/lanterns? Extra batteries?
- Tarps and/or plastic sheeting, to help keep dry if you must take shelter outside? Duct tape and/or bungee cords to help secure it as needed?
- Blankets or sleeping bags or other ways to keep warm?
- Rain ponchos, extra garbage bags, and plastic baggies to help stay dry?
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation?
- A whistle to call for help if needed?
- Heavy-duty gloves, sturdy shoes, and other clothing to protect you from debris?
- Matches in a waterproof container?
- A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities?
A grab-and-go bag of the most portable of all these supplies (in a backpack, with a change of clothing) is always a good idea, should you have to evacuate your home quickly. Also, you should have an emergency plan about where to meet if your family gets separated, how you'll get in touch with family outside of town, who gets the kids from school, etc.
Because many of us are special sizes that would be extremely difficult to obtain in an emergency if our own clothes were to get wet, dirty, or bloodied, I also think it's important that people of size keep an emergency bag with a full change of clothes readily available.
Keep a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, extra underclothes, and wool socks in there, plus an easily-rolled up coat or wool sweater etc. for warmth. Even the warmest areas of the country can get cold at night and staying warm is very important in an emergency. Pack wool or synthetic fabrics instead of cotton; if you get wet, wool or synthetics will keep you warmer even when wet. Pack your clothing in a waterproof bag, so you are sure to have a clean and dry change if needed.
Why Make a Readiness Kit?
Some of you are saying, "Yeah, I've seen the news, but I don't live in an earthquake zone." Sure, not everywhere is located in an earthquake-prone area....but there's nowhere on earth that doesn't have at least some emergency hazard potential. Your area may not be prone to earthquakes or tsunamis, but how about tornadoes, floods, blizzards, hurricanes, landslides, or wildfires? There's always an emergency scenario possible, no matter where you are located. It's best to be prepared no matter where you live.
And of course, there's the non-natural disasters, situations that could still result in long-term power outtages, food shortages, etc. Or what about a major flu pandemic? Or a sudden major downturn in the economy? What if you could shelter in place but were without power and heat and a resupply of food for a long time? What if the fresh water system in your area broke down? How would you manage?
It always surprises me how many people don't have at least 3 days of food and fresh water they could live on if an emergency happened. 3 days, people. That's not very long. You really should have supplies for a lot longer than that. And yet, so many people don't have even that.
So, if you don't already have an emergency kit, get one organized. NOW. Here's a website with some basic information on how to do so.
Take It In Baby Steps If Needed
There's lots we can do to prepare for an emergency. It can seem overwhelming to do all the things on the lists you see online, so begin with baby steps. Something is better than nothing, even if you don't have everything on the "should-have" lists.
Start with whatever you can and slowly add to it as time and finances allow. Try dollar stores, drug stores, military surplus stores, thrift shops, and Ebay to help keep costs down. Use camping and hiking gear stores only for the most critical equipiment (for those, the best is worth the cost). Build your own kit in order to save money and to customize it for your family's unique needs.
Start with the 3-day supply of clean water, since water is one of the most critical of survival supplies, yet many people don't have this. Then move on a way to purify water, like bleach, a good filter or water purification tablets. Then move on to food, then first aid, then ways to keep dry and warm, then sanitary supplies. Then continue on from there, maybe devoting one evening a month or a season so you can spread out the time and the cost.
If you already have an emergency kit, good for you! Take time to review it. Has your food been rotated recently? Are the clothes in it the right size for the people in the house? Is the water fresh?
If your kit is in good shape, can you add to your stash so you'd have more back-up supplies if needed? Make it for a longer period of time? Improve on what's in it?
Ask yourself ─ is it stored where it's easily accessible in an emergency? Do you have a smaller version already in your car or at work, in case you are not at home when an emergency hits? Have you recertified in first-aid and CPR and emergency management courses recently?
It's okay not to have the "perfect" kit; just have something. Think of building your kit as a process. You'll learn more and improve things as you get more experienced.
Of course, no matter how much you prepare, sometimes it's not enough, you can't get access to your kit, or the disaster is so overwhelming that even the best emergency kit is not going to help. An emergency is an emergency; sometimes a kit won't be enough, and some emergencies just aren't survivable. We have to be realistic; a kit is not a magical talisman that guarantees our survival or protects us from disaster in the first place.
But in every disaster, there are always those who need emergency supplies like this afterwards. If you are not one of the ones killed in the immediate aftermath of the event, chances are it's going to be a while before help is going to get to you, and chances are you may have to survive on your own for quite a while.
Give yourself and your family the best possible chance for doing so. Make sure you have an emergency kit stocked and ready, create a bug-out bag for yourself, have a disaster plan for reuniting/communicating, and have some emergency supplies in your car or at work as well.
Hopefully you'll never need them ─ but if you do, having them may make all the difference in the world for you and your loved ones. Recent events have given us a stark reminder of this. Listen to the lesson and heed it.