An unforeseen emergency can befall an area at any time and when panic strikes, it’s impossible to remember everything you need to keep. That’s why it’s essential that every home has an emergency kit that can be accessed in such situations.
No, not just an ordinary kit that is comprised of protein bars, but a comprehensive selection of all the essentials you need to survive for a period of 72 hours in an emergency situation. These may differ from household to household, but it’s obvious that they will include water, a means of disposing of sewage, imperishable food items, and warm blankets.
Aside from those, batteries, radios and flashlights are considered to be useful as well. A family with young children may have to cater to their needs which means there’ll be chocolate and some toys on the list. But these things are just the tip of the iceberg, there are a good many items you’ll need and we’ll explain why they can be of use.
It’s essential and it goes without saying but sometimes the significance of keeping an ample amount of water is understated. To be clear, it’s imperative that you store three gallons for each person; this will be used for drinking and sanitation. Each person can use up to one gallon every day but try to refrain from exceeding the limit. Sanitation uses should be limited to washing hands and other necessary hygiene rather than complete showers.
However, in some cases, you’ll need to evacuate your home and look for shelter at some other place. For those situations, it’s advisable to skip on the added weight and opt for a portable water filter that can eradicate around 99% of bacteria and germs present in water.
If the option to use portable water filters isn’t available to you because you forgot to get them or just couldn’t afford them, packing some household bleach will help you disinfect water and make it safe for consumption. This method requires that you use a medicine dropper and add a few drops of chlorine household bleach to a gallon of water. Remember to opt for regular bleach instead of scented or colored bleaches that may contain extra chemicals than just the chlorine that you’re looking for.
There isn’t enough space or capacity to store your entire spice cabinet so keep it limited to imperishable foods and edibles that don’t require cooking. This is because keeping ingredients that need to be prepared would mean you would have to store cooking utensils as well. This results in more weight being accumulated and space being used which you should avoid.
Remember to pack enough edible items so that you have 3 meals for a whole 3 days (72 hours). However, it’s equally important that you store foods that you’re sure others in your group will eat. Even though adults set aside their picky eating habits during an emergency, it’s less likely that children will do the same. This doesn’t just apply to children; seniors and pets should be considered as well. While selecting canned foods for your kit, refrain from choosing cans with pop-up lids because these are prone to openings and leaking easily when under pressure.
A few examples of foods that you can pack for a to-go or storage kit are dry cereal, crackers, almonds and similar dry fruits (trail mix is preferable). Children may prefer to eat something more flavorful so granola bars may be a suitable addition while canned foods such as beans, tuna, and meat can fulfill the daily protein requirements.
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Being trapped in your home without power isn’t the most fruitful of situations which is why keeping a flashlight and spare batteries are advised. A flashlight comes in handy when there’s no power and you’re fumbling to find things by nightfall. Remember to ration the charge but don’t go overboard because that’s the whole reason you should carry extra batteries.
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4. Emergency Radio
You may have thought that radios are long gone but in the world of emergencies and disaster survival, they’re still worth something to the average civilian. These allow you to know about conditions outside if you’re trapped in your home, or in other areas if you’re traveling and on the road.
Moreover, they also provide the priceless opportunity to communicate with services and authorities while in an emergency situation. A two-way radio is ideal for these kinds of situations because they work flawlessly with batteries and you can crank them up when you’ve run out of batteries. Some models have additional features such as the ability to provide weather alerts by analyzing the surrounding weather conditions.
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Just to be clear, these are extra batteries and all your emergency electronic devices should already have batteries, to begin with (looking for batteries in the emergency kit, isn’t the best way to respond to emergencies). You should pack extra batteries based on the number of electronic devices you’re carrying, such as a radio, flashlight, etc. You have to survive for 72 hours and so do your electronics because they’ll be running for long periods of time during the 3-day period.
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6. Solar Charger
As for your phone, it may be a good time to invest in one of those handy solar-powered chargers so that you can easily contact emergency services later on. Some people argue about whether a charger is really necessary because they don’t fit into the ‘need’ category but the main point remains that they can help you contact emergency services and other officials to come help you.
A smaller version will have enough power to charge your phone or other handheld device but remember that it isn’t strong enough to juice up your laptop.
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A few lighters aren’t regarded as essential because there are more situations where you should be careful as to not use them than ones in which you should. However, that’s the whole point of this emergency kit; to be prepared. Hence, keep some lighters in the emergency kit in case you find yourself in a situation where you need to light a fire.
The reason why lighters are preferable than matches is that these can light more fires so they weigh less and work more. Additionally, lighters also have the potential to light a spark even when they’ve run out of lighter fluid. Again, just to be on the safe side, throw in a pack of matches as a backup.
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8. Knife and Tools
Surviving without a survival knife is impossible. Surviving with only an Army knife is still impossible, so it’s paramount that you pack extra tools that will prove useful when one isn’t working at all or for the specific task at hand. Tweezers and safety scissors work as basic safety equipment because they can be used to cut bandages and remove splinters.
Getting a non-foldable knife with a sturdy grip may not seem like the best idea because you won’t be packing the most compact tool, but it can be useful in situations when you have to cut through large items for long periods of times. Other useful tools that you can add include a wrench and pliers that can help you turn off the electricity, water, and other utilities before evacuating your home.
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Since you’ll be rationing food in emergencies, it’s likely that your body heat will take a hit as well. For this reason, it’s important that you keep a couple of blankets in your 72-hour emergency kit.
By blankets, emergency preparedness instructors don’t mean the cozy comforters you use every night, but a thin thermal blanket that can save space but keep you warm at the same time. Mylar thermal blankets are a good option and keeping them in the kit or pack is essential for when you have to evacuate your house in the event of a natural disaster.
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10. Medication (Prescribed and Over the Counter) and First-Aid Kit
A 72-hour survival or emergency kit should always contain basic medication and ointments that can help treat minor illnesses to prevent them from worsening. This means your pack should contain painkillers, cough syrup, anti-inflammatory medication, and laxatives. If you use prescription glasses or lenses, remember to keep an extra pair of each in case the one you’re using gets damages. As a rule of thumb, always carry extra contact lens solution to clean them out.
A first-aid kit is mandatory so there’s no skipping out on it, whereas prescribed medication based on your children’s or elders’ needs should be packed as well. Inhalers, insulin, and other such medication should be stored and replaced every now and then so that they don’t expire and go to waste. The athletic tape should be part of your First-Aid kit because it helps in reducing muscle tension while on the go. It may sound like a luxury at this point, but you never know how bad a sprain or pulled muscle could be.
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11. Hygienic Products
While it would be wrong to consider everyday toiletries as vital to our existence, it’s still true to a certain extent that we can’t live without them. Skip on the body butter and shower gel and stick to essentials like hand sanitizer, toothpaste, toilet paper and sanitary pads.
Pack some mild detergent that can be used for washing your hands and utensils that are used for eating meals, and baby wipes because they’re convenient when it comes to saving water. These are enough to help you make it through three days and if you’re evacuating, hopefully, you’ll reach a shelter before supplies run out.
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12. Clean Clothes
You probably weren’t expecting to find a change of clothes on the list but it’s here so that you can avoid catching any diseases due to a lack of hygiene (since you probably won’t be showering for quite a while). Disaster always strikes on short notice, so make sure to either pack a spare change of clothes for each season or change them out of the pack based on the current season.
This is because natural disasters can drastically change the temperature, no matter how ‘nice’ the weather may seem in your area all year round. You can take it a step further by investing in some clothes made of moisture-wicking fabric that dries easily and keeps moisture away from the body. Additionally, by clean clothes, it’s advised that you add underwear to the category as well because it’s obvious that you’ll need a change.
13. Dust Masks
These useful items will be life-savers in the event of an evacuation because natural disasters tend to throw out a lot of dust and exposing yourself to it can put you at a higher risk of breathing troubles and respiratory diseases.
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14. Baby Products
Having a baby at home is one thing and carrying him/her during a disaster is another. You can’t afford to skimp on the essentials that they rely on. This is why it’ll pay off to keep diapers, milk formula, cleaning products such as wipes and any medicines that they need to take.
Aside from those, remember to keep more spare clothes for your infant because they can easily get ill due to a lack of hygiene. If your party includes a toddler then packing some games or puzzles to keep him/her occupied will spare you the tantrums and crying.
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15. Pet Food
While evacuating, the frenzy can lead many people to forget about packing some pet food which is why it’ll be helpful to store it in your 72-hour emergency kit beforehand. It’s also better to keep dry food that you can prepare by adding water, rather than canned food that needs to be refrigerated after it’s opened.
Keep spare bags and ties to dispose of any waste, and a separate bowl they can be fed in. While you’re at it, it’s better to organize and manage how you’ll be taking out your pets in an emergency situation; smaller pets and birds should always be taken in a carrier.
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16. A Good Backpack
In the event of an emergency, it’s always likely that you’ll need to evacuate and leave your home in search of shelter elsewhere. For that reason, it helps if your emergency survival kit is packed into proper backpacks and properly stored somewhere that’s easily accessible.
The backpacks you choose should be ideal for the situation and not just flimsy school packs that have one or two large compartments. More pockets mean that your kit will be organized and you can have efficient access to everything you need because it’s properly placed.
Survival gear stores have affordable and durable options that can be purchased and would serve the need in a survival kit. Children that can’t handle the weight of their own kit can simply carry a few items in their school backpacks rather than carry full-sized packs.
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An unfashionable staple for any 72-hour survival kit, a poncho can serve many purposes, especially if it’s made of a high-quality material such as tear-resistant nylon. It’ll keep you warm in cooler conditions and you can stay dry (to a certain extent) in the rain as well. Also, if you’re outside in the humid weather, they can help keep your backpacks dry as well. These are also beneficial to use if you need to make a shelter, mattress, and tent or tie something together.
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18. Identification And Important Documentation
Just as you never leave your home without any ID, the same applies to evacuating and moving to a shelter or rehabilitation center. If you plan on keeping some copies of official documentation, remember to laminate them so that they don’t get damaged due to weather conditions. Aside from identification, remember to keep spare cash because credit cards don’t help everywhere.
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19. Kitchen Utensils
Utensils such as cups, spoons, knives, and forks are somewhat essential because they can help in rationing food properly and prevent any wastage. Besides, it’s difficult to get all the food out of cans because of the sharp edges that can easily cut you if you use your hands.
Skip on the metal cutlery and instead opt for minimalist sets that can be purchased at camping stores. These will be made of durable plastic that can survive the 3-day period and a little longer, if need be. Can openers can be a good addition to your kit; just in case your multi-purpose survival tool doesn’t include a feature that can be used for this purpose.
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No, this isn’t a camping trip but packing a tent is still advisable because of certain circumstances during an emergency situation. Almost everyone in your neighborhood or area will be evacuating and then rushing to the nearest shelter. Hence, it’s very unlikely that there’ll be enough space inside to fit your entire family. In that case, a tent can be beneficial in keeping you and your family warm and dry.
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21. Camping Sleeping Bags
This may seem pretty unnecessary but it all depends on the situation; in certain disasters, you may be unable to use your car at all which makes you vulnerable to the cold. A sleeping bag can keep you well-covered and warm throughout the night, they’re also space-efficient so you don’t have to worry about them taking up too much room.
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22. Bug Spray/Repellent
This may be a no-brainer for some, but for others, a reminder is necessary. Being outside during the monsoon season or after heavy storms means the area is seeping with moisture and you’re likely to fall victim to various pests and bugs.
Many of these seemingly innocent pests are actually dangerous disease vectors (think mosquitoes) and it’s essential that you stay protected to avoid getting sick in the middle of an emergency.
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An emergency/camping whistle can help rescuers locate you because the other option, lighting a fire, takes too much time.
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24. A Map and GPS
Leaving your home during a disaster calls for being completely prepared to reach the nearest shelter that will be set up. A convenient GPS system is everyone’s best friend but technology can also be unreliable so a map should be carried as a last resort.
25. Disposable Camera
Many survivors have counted upon this magical device to help them save evidence about any damage that is done to their assets during a disaster. Any destruction that is caused to your house or car can be compensated based on laws within each state and whether you live in a zone that’s covered by such insurance. You may think it’s easier to use your phones but these can’t be relied upon as much because they might be destroyed or damaged due to bad weather conditions.
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If you’re recommended to keep a pair of gloves in your 72-hour survival kit, it doesn’t mean that you should stack up on disposables or dish washing gloves. In a post-disaster situation, a pair of sturdy gardening gloves can do you some good since you’ll be doing most activities by hand (tying ropes, carrying heavy items and cutting objects etc) and you’ll want to avoid getting sores or blisters which can leave you temporarily disabled from working with your hands.
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27. Sheets (Cotton and Plastic)
Pack some plastic and cotton sheets in your kit because they can be used as bedding, bandages, covering food and to keep on the ground while you sit. These can also come in handy when keeping all your backpacks together in a pile.
28. Camping Supplies
Your usual hiking essentials such as rope and duct tape will be a pretty useful addition to your survival kit because they’re often seen as the ultimate fix. Rope can be used to help wade through waters with children, without getting lost. Another use for rope is if you’re building a makeshift shelter using plastic sheets and ties. Duct tape, on the other hand, can be used to temporarily fix tears in plastic and cover food to keep it from being exposed to moisture of bugs.
Packing Your 72-Hour Emergency Kit
Once you’ve gathered all the items that need to go into a 72-hour emergency kit, you have to figure out the best way as to how it’ll all be carried. One common way is to organize items and pack them into backpacks but this can be difficult to manage once a situation actually occurs, especially if you live with children. Adults, however, can manage these very well if the pack is designed to be ergonomic and has a lot of pockets.
A tub with wheels will be very difficult to store on its own at home, but the advantage it does provide is that it can hold all the emergency packs together to avoid any confusion. Since it has wheels and a convenient handle, it’ll be easier to carry around without using up too much of your energy. This is helpful when you’ve packed separate kit for each child but they can’t carry it own their own and it’ll be too strenuous to do it by yourself.
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This is similar to a tub except you’ll be packing the kit in this all together so there won’t be any separate packs unless you want to be extra prepared. If you plan on using this option, remember to get a size that can fit all the items that you need to pack or get two smaller ones if that is preferable. It’s beneficial for the same reason as the tub; you can pack your kids’ kits if they can’t carry them on their own.
The reason they’re preferable than a tub is that these have pockets, lots of them. This helps in categorizing important items according to essentials and secondary needs. It’s also better than a backpack because it has more space and if there are two adults, they can equally share the weight of an extra kit for kids or pets, if need be. The only drawback is that this isn’t the best option if you’re heading through the woods or a waterlogged area.
Where To Store Your 72-Hour Emergency Kit
The biggest question that comes to mind after preparing a 72-hour emergency kit is where you’re going to keep it. Essentially, you should keep one at home, with enough basic items for your whole family, and in a place that’s easily accessible, even by an eight-year-old. This can allow anyone at home to have the kit prepared and ready to go, even if you’re away from the house. At-home kits can be stored in either separate backpacks or duffel bags but for maximum convenience, a trolley is preferred because even kids can drag it outside.
The workplace is another area where you’re likely to get stuck during an emergency, and you’ll either be unable to leave the premises or you’ll have to evacuate immediately. For such situations, it’s crucial that you keep a fully-prepared kit with medication and comfortable footwear that’s stored in a compact backpack. Your car may also be your second home for a while; that’s why it’s crucial that you keep a min version of the kit in your vehicle with spare cash carefully packed as well.
In Your Car
A smaller version of your in-car kit should include imperishable foods, a first-aid kit, hand sanitizer and a gallon of water. Other necessities can also be added based on your preference and how far you usually go from home; if you tend to go on long road trips, it’s safer to stack up on more items in case your car breaks down while you’re a long distance away from home.
Keeping Your 72-Hour Emergency Kit Updated
Making a list of all the things you need for an emergency kit and buying them is just one part of how you should be prepared. It’s equally important to always stay ready by frequently updating your kit and checking supplies for their expiration dates.
Food items, hygiene products and medication that’s approaching their expiration date should be replaced with a new stock while clothes should be replaced as the climate changes and/or your or anyone in your family’s sizes changes (kids can outgrow clothes very quickly so remember to change those out every few months).
Checking Your 72-Hour Emergency Kit
Aside from objective factors such as expiration and best before dates, there are certain hidden needs that you or your family may not know of and haven’t realized. This may be because of lifestyle changes or additions to the family, and you won’t really know how effective your kit is in helping you stay alive until you’ve actually tested it.
Visit Online Forums
It’s impossible to actually try out your emergency kit by ‘camping out’ in the house which is why you can look up on survival forums and compare your kit with others who have a group size that’s similar to yours. Simply knowing the number of people in your party isn’t enough because each member has individual needs based on their age or physical condition.
Consider Your Family’s Individual Needs
Consider if you’re living with any seniors and whether they’re healthy enough to survive on a kit that’s similar to yours or if you should pack a separate one that’s just for them. Similarly, the needs of pets and infants/toddlers should be examined. Does your pet require certain medication? Does your child have issues with waiting or remaining inactive? Address all of these by consulting your friends and family as to what they have in their kit.
Related articles “What can I have to keep myself warm in my 72-hour kit?” and “How To Prepare For Emergencies“