This weekend, assemble your 72 hour emergency kit
Whenever a natural disaster strikes, we usually hear a renewed discussion about what the public can do to prepare for an emergency. One of the things that is often recommended is to keep a 72 hour survival kit or backpack in your home or car. No matter what you call it, it’s an important tool to help protect your family.
A 72-hour kit is a bag or backpack full of items that will help you in an emergency. Some call it an escape bag, emergency kit, or survival backpack.
What is the significance of 72 hours? This duration is not arbitrary. Disaster response and emergency management agencies have identified 72 hours (3 days) as the time needed for relief or emergency personnel to arrive after an unplanned disaster. This is called the “lag time”. If a disaster strikes, you can find yourself without food, water, electricity, communication, and more during this time. A 72-hour kit can go with you when you have little time to prepare and limited or no access to outside resources.
When building your 3 day emergency kit, it doesn’t take long for the weight to start to add up. After you add enough food and water for each person along with hygiene items, flashlights, and first aid, your kit can get quite bulky. One of the most important attributes of any good travel bag or bug out bag is the ability to be easily grabbed from your storage location and loaded into your car or transported on foot. If your bag is too heavy to be easily transported, you are limiting the effectiveness and value of your emergency kit. This is why it is important to prioritize what you pack in your 72 hour bag.
However, this is easier said than done. The potential items you could pack are essentially limitless. The main issues are 1) disasters, by their very nature, are unpredictable and 2) your family’s daily needs will not be the same as everyone’s.
You know that food, water, and shelter are essentials for everyone, and including these items in your 72-hour kit is essential. However, different natural disasters or emergencies lead to different problems, and every household has different and unique needs. If you are on medication or have someone in your house who needs medical supplies on a daily basis, this should be included in your survival pack. If you have small children or pets, you may need a whole bag just for them.
If you live in the mountains, flooding might not be likely, but if you live near a major river it would obviously be prudent to take this into account. What types of natural disasters can occur in your area? Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes? What local and regional characteristics could constitute a potential threat? Nuclear power stations, large urban centers, high crime areas? Considering these questions will help you choose the appropriate items.
You can also do a mental analysis of your normal day. Think about every part of your daily routine, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. Think about the things you do that require electricity; what needs fresh water? You must have something in your emergency kit to replace or meet these needs if you were without power, access to food / water or medical care. Start with a need that you would have in an emergency, then consider items that might meet that need rather than thinking about specific items and their uses. After all, when you buy a drill bit, you are not buying a drill bit, you are buying a hole in your wall.
When you have a list of everything your family needs to survive 72 hours, you can get creative and find the most efficient, lightest way to get those items into your survival kit.
Here are some suggestions for getting started with assembling your 72 hour kit:
A good backpack – There are many options, find something comfortable and well constructed. There are plenty of military style tactical backpacks out there, but you can also use something more subtle without sacrificing functionality and tactical features.
Smartphone / Charger – Although 90% of the time we don’t use these remarkable tools for productive purposes, in an emergency, they can provide you with communication with your loved ones, access to government warnings, GPS location, maps, first aid guides and virtually any information you may need. Of course, if they aren’t charged and you don’t have access to electricity or the grid is down, you obviously can’t rely on them. Despite this, they are lightweight enough to be included in your emergency evacuation planning. BONUS TIP: Even if the network is down, as long as your battery is charged, you will have access to the photos you store on your smartphone. It can be a real moral boost in a bad situation!
Personal / hygiene items – Speaking of morale. Cleanliness is also linked to your emotional and mental state. Keeping your loved ones clean and comfortable during an emergency or evacuation can make all the difference. Not being able to brush your teeth or wash your face like you do every day can make the situation even more stressful. Make hygiene / personal items a priority in your backpack.
First aid – Disasters are inherently dangerous. Injury is to be expected and if you don’t even have the basic first aid items, a minor injury can be life threatening. A good first aid kit will include bandages, duct tape, absorbent pads, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic, cold compress, aspirin, gauze roll, latex-free gloves, triangular bandage, forceps hair removal, an oral thermometer and more. The purpose of first aid is to prevent further injury and stabilize the victim until further medical help is available. In many cases, even simple first aid treatment can dramatically increase a victim’s chances of survival. CPR can increase a person’s chances of survival by 50%, according to studies. In addition to keeping a quality first aid kit, you can learn about basic first aid techniques and treatments.
Clothes – Imagine wearing the same pair of clothes for a few days. You will be happy to have included a change of clothes in your emergency backpack.
Drugs / medical equipment – Pain relievers and other common medications should be included in your first aid kit. But, if you have any medications or special medical needs, you should include at least a 3-day supply in your disaster preparedness backpack.
Important documents – Insurance cards, IDs, list of contact information (if your phone is dead, will you remember someone’s number?). Tip: If you pack your phone and charger, you can take photos of your important documents and store them on your phone instead of bringing fragile paper that could be lost or damaged.
Food / water – It is recommended to have 1200 calories of food per day for each person. 1 gallon of clean water per day is also needed for each person. Water can be heavy to carry around, so having something like water purification tablets is great and allows you to find a source of water rather than lugging gallons of fresh water around with you. It is suggested to carry at least one reusable water bottle per person.
Cash – Money is king. Don’t plan on being able to use credit / debit cards or your phone. Cash can even be rejected by some people in an emergency, silver or gold coins could be the solution but you have to take the risk of carrying something of such value.
Light – Hand-cranked flashlight / radio combos are a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Candles are great for when the power goes out and for a safe option you can use glow sticks.
Communication – If your cell phone isn’t working, you’ll want access to emergency news and updates. Keep an AM / FM / weather band radio, as mentioned above, there are plenty of radio / hand-crank flashlight combos available.
Weather protection – Most emergencies that would require you to leave your home are related to weather conditions. You should have something in your kit to protect you from the elements. A tent would be great but may not be practical to take with you, however, there are many great alternatives. Emergency sleeping bags, hand warmers, emergency blankets are lightweight and extremely effective.
Fire – Whether you just need to light a candle or start a fire to prevent freezing, you should have a reliable fire-starting tool in your emergency kit. Ferrous rods are light and small. Matches do not require any skills to use, but can be affected by wet / windy conditions. There are windproof and waterproof matches, but there is no substitute for learning how to start a fire with limited tools.
Multi-function tool – There is no way to know what kind of tools or equipment can save your life in an emergency. However, a multi-tool knife is a compact way to make sure that you won’t kick yourself when all you need is a screwdriver and you don’t have one.
Various – Can opener (if not in your multi-tool), plastic garbage bags, dust mask, duct tape, extra batteries, formula, pet food.