Volcanic eruptions, intense typhoons, massive flooding, earthquakes…natural disasters are a part of life, no matter where you live. These events can come quickly and unexpectedly and it thus pays to be prepared. Aside from knowing basic first aid, you should have an emergency kit that you can just grab when you’re in a hurry.
The contents of your emergency bag will somewhat depend on where you live and the disasters you’re likely to experience—those in colder climates have to take snowstorms into account, for example. A basic emergency bag is a good starting point and you can add items depending on your specific needs. You should have enough in your survival kit to last you 72 hours—the Red Cross notes that this is typically the length of time that phone and power lines may be down and running water may be limited.
Your Emergency Go Bag Checklist
Ready.gov, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s official website, recommends keeping emergency bags in separate as you never know when an emergency will strike. Keep a grab bag in a designated space at home and let everyone in the household know where it is; keep one at the office in case you end up being stuck overnight; and keep one in your vehicle, so that you’ll have supplies in case you’re stranded.
Below are the basic items you should have in your emergency bag:
Water. Humans can survive much longer without food than without water so water should really be at the top of your list. You’ll need about a gallon of water per person a day (a liter for drinking, three liters for washing). If lugging around gallons of water for a big family is not viable and there’s running water, a portable filtration system or purifier tablets can do the trick. Just make sure you have reusable bottles. (Try Proud Source/Pathwater, available at Healthy Options.)
Food. You’ll need non-perishables so you can stash them for longer periods of time. If you’re packing canned goods, make sure they have easy-to-open tops that don’t require an opener or pack a multi-purpose tool (like a Swiss knife) along with the goods. You can also pack energy bars and trail mixes in sealed containers. (Try Nature’s Path Snack Bars, Bob’s Red Mill Energy Bars, Cadia and Crown Tuna, Bela Sardines, Probar Bolt Energy Chews, Wedderspoon Assorted Manuka Pops, and Second Nature Trailmixes, all available at Healthy Options.)
Portable lighting. Flashlights and emergency lights are great but the New York Times recommends also having a headlamp handy as this keeps your hands free, especially useful when you have to rummage through stuff or set up camp, so to speak, in the middle of the night.
Power source. Make sure your emergency lights are fully charged and bring extra batteries. Solar-powered chargers are a good backup for mobile phones so you don’t need electricity to power up.
Portable radio. When phone lines and WiFi are down, nothing beats an old-school radio. You can stay updated about weather conditions, evacuation centers, and danger zones even when your mobile signal is wonky.
First aid kit. For emergencies within an emergency—like cuts, upset stomachs, and aches and pains—you should have a first-aid kit filled with band-aids, gauze, medical tape, an antiseptic like alcohol, scissors, tweezers, a thermometer, burn ointment, and medicines for pain, fever, diarrhea, and constipation.
Whistle. An emergency whistle can alert rescuers of your location.
Mask. As recent events have shown, a mask can definitely come in handy. It protects you from volcanic ash and debris or fumes that cause respiratory problems and helps safeguard you from viruses, especially when you’re in a confined space with many other people.
Blankets. Sleeping bags may be too bulky. Choose blankets that are lightweight and pack them in plastic to keep them from getting wet in inclement weather. Mylar blankets (also called space blankets) are recommended for colder climates.
Documents in a sealed plastic bag or envelope. It might be handy to have important documents with you (passports, birth certificates, insurance policies) as well as some cash in case you’re unable to access a bank.
Miscellaneous items. Consider your personal needs such as maintenance medication, feminine products (consider reusable products like a menstrual cup, and personal hygiene items. If you’re packing for your family, take their individual needs into consideration—diapers, infant formula, even pet food for your furry family members.
Maintaining Your Emergency Bag
It’s not just a matter of setting it and forgetting it. You still have to periodically check on your emergency bag to make sure that everything is in order. Keep food sealed and away from heat and direct sunlight, replace anything expired, and evaluate your needs regularly as they might change over time—welcoming a new baby, growing children, a new pet, and new medication are things you’ll have to consider when going through your emergency bag.