No one ever believes they will have the sort of emergency that requires a kit or planning. No one, honestly, believes that some day they may be forced from their homes or imprisoned in that very same building. Sadly, it happens. It happened to me.
I have always been the sort who believes in preparedness. I have worked with the scouts and the Red Cross. I have taught classes. I had kits and plans but life moves forward. One day, our kit was forgotten. It had become unnecessary since it had sat untouched for a few years. I didn’t mean to forget it. I didn’t mean not to be prepared but it happened.
Suddenly, one evening, we lost our home. That kit that would have made our life easier didn’t exist. I will say that because we were the only ones who were affected, our neighbors rallied and we found ourselves taken care of. That was not as much of a comfort as you would think. It’s been nearly 5 years and I am still not comforted. I still mourn for what was lost but more importantly, I am frustrated that I was not prepared. I was terrible during that emergency.
We were victims of a house fire. Our home didn’t burn to the ground but we couldn’t return to live within its walls. I had a son who would no longer have his bed to sleep in or his favorite sheets. We lost treasured loveys and our cat carriers. I can’t express how awful not having cat carriers was. We had two cats who were rescued from the house and we didn’t have anything of comfort for them. One had a medical condition requiring medication.
I remember feeling powerless. I remember someone asking me if we had eaten dinner and I couldn’t even remember that we had just two hours prior. When we were offered shelter, I was too traumatized that I couldn’t even accept it. I was smart enough to tell the kind woman that I had to talk to my family. They were able to keep that offer available for me.
Now, I know the importance of maintaining that kit. Not only that but I think of all the times we were stuck in storms and had to seek shelter miles from home. Having a kit in the car would have been more than a blessing.
I know I’m going on but I want you to understand that it’s more than preaching to the choir. I need you to understand that you need a kit. I’m hoping that this post will ruminate in your brain and make you start putting together something, anything.
This year, I’m going all out. We’ve had a kit in our car since the fire and I will not let it leave the car for more than an afternoon (and that’s just on those rare occasions we check it for supplies). I would rather have an outdated kit than nothing at all because most of what’s in the kit doesn’t expire.
In addition to that kit, I am building an evacuation kit, an office kit, and a home kit. My home kit isn’t that extensive because if I’m stuck at home during an emergency, then I pretty much have everything I need. My office kit won’t be that extensive either because I hope that I can make it home before my three days are up.
The evacuation kit is quite similar to the car kit but will stay in the house. The idea is that it’s available when someone has to leave during an emergency but the car is not available (such as if I was at work and my husband was at home).
Today, I am only going to talk kit. Next week I’ll talk about food and water storage and planning for an emergency.
What needs to be in a kit?
There are plenty of lists out there that offer information about what you need. The Red Cross has an interactive site that not only gives you a list but emails you a list with how much you need for your family. You can find it here at Get a Kit and Create Your Own.
I have created my own list based on other emergency preparedness lists. Creating your own list isn’t that tough. First, consider what you need every day. Then consider your environment – what is the worst weather conditions you are going to find? Here we have extreme temperatures from freezing to over 100 degrees. Having warm blankets and a heat source are necessary. Boots are good but not practical in your kit. However, I do throw coats we don’t wear in the trunk of the car.
Next, think staples – hygiene, first aid, comfort. I have packed toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, soap, deodorant, wash rags, dental floss, chapstick and anything else I can think of. Q-tips are one of those things I always overlook when we go camping so into the kit they go.
For the car, I keep a purchased first aid kit but make sure to have extra bandaids and hand sanitizer. I have extra socks and underwear because I figure that will give us something clean to wear.
Paper plates, cups and plastic utensils along with food that doesn’t require much in the way of preparedness – packets of tuna, granola bars, energy bars, etc. I want something in the car that doesn’t need heating and won’t get funky.
From there all I need is emergency gear and entertainment – light sources, rope, gloves, multifunctional tool, poker cards, books, pens and paper.
Since we still have a cat, we need easy access to a cat carrier and foot in the evac kit.
Also, in the evac kit we need medications for everyone and anything special that can’t be left behind.
Our car kit is in a bag that’s about the size of a carry-on. It’s not huge. We’ve had home kits in 5 gallon buckets. Currently our evac kit will be two larger (not camping) backpacks so we can add a few extra things such as sweatshirts for everyone.
My office kit – a change of clothes with extra shoes, a small first aid kit, water and snacks.
We will be investing in a few new items this year such as a tube tent, headlamps and emergency three day supply food bars. In the past, we’ve used things around the house and from the dollar store. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to create a kit. Tuck away toothbrushes from the dentist and toothpaste samples. I’ve used a lot of free samples in my kits over the years.
What I have forgotten to mention is how long should your kit last? Our car kit and evac kits are three day kits. First, three days makes it more portable. Second, we hope that within three days we can be in a more permanent situation. The same is with my office, even though at this point my kit wouldn’t last more than a day.
For our home kit, we are looking at 14 days at this time with the idea that we want to expand it to a year. A year’s worth of supplies are not practical in our small apartment so we’re starting with what is practical. We believe we can easily house a 14 day supply of water and supplies (water takes up a huge amount of space but that’s a future post).
Making a kit is not all that difficult when you start putting it together. I recommend starting with what you are putting your kit into. If you have a bag that won’t take up so much room in your car that it makes you crazy, then work with that space and decide what you need most. What will give you the most comfort if you are stuck away from home? If chocolate comforts you, then add some (be careful because chocolate does melt). Maybe hot chocolate packets will suffice. If a steamy romance novel will comfort you – guess what should be in your kit? If your kids like a certain book, keep a copy in the kit. If you can’t stand being dirty, put in stuff that keeps you clean.
Making a kit is more than just being prepared. It is providing comfort. It’s making the best of a terrible situation. It’s a way to relieve stress. I love post-apocalypse movies and tv shows. It’s the stuff that I start thinking I want or need during those shows that I need to make sure I have in my kit because that’s what’s going to help me survive anything.