Sunday, April 3, 2011

72-hour kit, Part 1 of 2

It's an emergency!

Well, not yet it isn't. But the whole idea of emergency preparedness is to prepare BEFORE the emergency, right?

The American Red Cross, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Emergency Management Agency all recommend that everyone have an emergency kit
in their home. Why? Because even though all those agencies try to help when there's a disaster - like a hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, power outage, or, heaven forbid, some type of warfare - it can take days for help to arrive.

Disasters often shut down transportation routes, and even when government agencies and charitable organizations have all the supplies ready to go, it takes time to distribute everything to the people who need it. Think of Hurricane Katrina. Or, you may have to evacuate your home in a hurry, and if everyone else is doing that too, store shelves can empty fast. Think of the California wildfires. So it's just common sense to have some supplies of your own to last until the situation ends or help comes.

A standard recommendation is to have enough supplies to last for 72 hours, or 3 days. You need to think about what your family would need in the way of food, water, clothing, sanitation and bedding/shelter.

I've heard several people say that General Conference is a good time to work on your 72-hour kit because it comes around every 6 months, and that's a good time period for checking to see if any food is close to expiring, or if your kids have outgrown their emergency change of clothes. We've had some emergency-type supplies kicking around for the last few years, but it was never really organized and it was definitely never comprehensive, so I decided to get my act together this weekend!

My in-laws gave us this Red Cross emergency pack for Christmas, and it was a great starting point. It comes with water pouches, ration bars, 2 foil blankets, 2 warming pads, a little first aid kit, 2 ponchos, some Kleenex packs and feminine hygiene products, 2 whistles, a flashlight and a foldable 2 1/2-gallon water container. I added the baby wipes and TP you see below.

Since the Red Cross bag came with two blankets and we have a 4-person family, I put two fleece blankets in a water-tight bucket, along with 3 days worth of diapers, hand sanitizer and a bunch of garbage bags. If there's no plumbing available, you can line the bucket with a garbage bag and... PRESTO! You have a commode. I know, I know, I don't like to think about it either, but if you had no other choice it would be better than sitting on a sagebrush, right?

I have young kids, so I packed just a small backpack for each of them to carry: a complete change of clothes, a coloring book and crayons, a small toy, and a whistle in case they get separated from us. It seems funny to bring entertainment for the kids when you're trying to pack light, but it is important to keep morale high during a stressful situation, and if the kids are stressed out with nothing to distract them, everyone will be miserable!

My sister-in-law made these darling little drawstring bags and they are just perfect; the girls love them.

Read on for part 2!

72-hour kit: Part 2 of 2

All right now, on to the food! That's everyone's first thought when disaster strikes, right? There are lots of options. You can get ration bars, but I don't know what they taste like and I have doubts about whether my kids would eat them. You can get MREs or various dehydrated dinners you can get at camping supply stores where you pour boiling water into a pouch and wait a minute for them to cook.

I ended up deciding to only pack food that I knew Roy and the girls were familiar with and would eat, and that needed no cooking or preparation. I didn't think we would want to deal with the hassle of cooking equipment and fuel, especially if we had to leave the house. Here's one of the breakfasts I packed for the four of us. It all fit into a gallon-size Ziploc bag: eight granola or cereal bars, four fruit cups and four orange Crystal Light flavor packets that you can shake up in a bottle of water to make "orange juice."

I thought mini-cereal boxes for one breakfast would create some variety from all the granola bars I was packing, but they were bulky! Every meal I packed fit into a gallon-size bag except for this one; it took two bags to hold eight mini-cereal boxes and four Carnation instant breakfast drinks.

Here's one of the lunch bags I packed. A full-size can of ravioli for each of the adults, a mini-bowl for the girls, four pouches of real fruit bites, and four raspberry lemonade Crystal Light flavor packets. I also put a piece of candy for each person in each lunch and dinner bag. (Warning: chocolate and Jolly Ranchers will melt and make a big mess, and mint-flavored gum will make everything else in the bag taste like mint after a few months.) Don't forget the fork or spoon!

And here's a dinner bag. Again, a large-size bowl for the adults and small size for the kids, fruit cups, Crystal Light and candy. There are lots of different flavors of soup, stew and Chef Boyardee, and lots of different fruit cups or fruit leather you can buy, so the meals don't get boring. You can also use canned tuna or chicken, jerky, Vienna sausages, cheese or peanut butter cracker sandwiches, or anything that will last at least six months.

Here's what the food for all 72 hours looks like. The girls helped me bag it up while we listened to conference and we had a lot of fun! I fit all the food, clothes and various supplies into three backpacks, a bucket and the two mini-backpacks. I think it's best to store it in the house if you can, since the temperature changes in a garage can cause problems with the food. It could go in a closet or under a bed, out of the way, but where you can get it quickly if necessary.

I'm not done with my kit yet - I've still got to store water. The recommendation is for 1 gallon of water per person per day. You can buy bottled water, or rinse out apple juice bottles and fill them up with tap water. So that's my next goal! I may add other things to the kit as time and money allow, but hopefully I'm off to a good start now.

If anyone has suggestions for me or anyone else who wants to start working on their emergency kit, please leave a comment!