Though most American families readily acknowledge that they’re in need of an emergency kit (or several), few families actually have these kits ready, and even fewer families have a strong concept of what to include in these kits.
What Kind Of Kit Fits Your Family’s Needs?
Many families opt to store all of their emergency kit supplies in one large box, which they house in their safe room or even an easily accessible closet. While easier in terms of preparation, this is ill advised for a couple of reasons. First, it definitely won’t be portable. If your area is frequented by tornadoes, this might be a wise choice because you’re unlikely to need to flee your home. In most other emergencies, the element of portability is vitally important—you’ll need that water when fleeing a hurricane or storm, for example. Make sure you learn what disasters your home is most likely to encounter and that you include any specialty items for those emergency situations. Secondly, storing all of your emergency supplies in one, larger container means that you’re likely ignoring the central idea behind emergency kits—keeping everything in a larger container does actually mean that you’re more likely to keep everything in that container. It’s great to have a home emergency kit in your safe room/area, as long as you additionally keep individual kits in sturdy (but cheaply available: think Goodwill and the like) packs or backpacks that you can carry if you need to evacuate.
There are a lot of varying opinions about how exactly you should structure your emergency kits. It’s always a good idea to have both car and home kits, but how you organize them beyond that (whether it’s all the supplies in two large packs for the adults to carry, or smaller packs for each member of the family) is largely a matter of preference and often depends on the age of your child/children. We’ll assume, for the purposes of this article, that each member of the family will be carrying their own emergency kit.
Staples of Each Emergency Kit
Inside each kit should be a spreadsheet or list of emergency contacts. Other papers you’ll need a copy of include a map of the meeting place where your family will head in case they get split up while fleeing your home, copies of your family’s birth certificates, social security cards, insurance cards, and relevant medical information. For example, if you have two daughters who are each carrying their emergency kits, their kits should contain any life-threatening allergy information to be sure that a doctor or hospital doesn’t expose them to any potentially deadly contaminants. Explain each document to your child, so that they know to show their allergy records to a doctor, hospital, foster home, or any other temporary guardian they might encounter after an emergency. Along with medical records, include inhalers or backup stores of any prescription medications that any member of your family needs on a regular basis.
While preparing your emergency kits, take an afternoon to conduct an inventory of your home. Everything that would need to be reported to an insurance company in your claim will be a lot harder to remember once you no longer have access to your home. If you make a spreadsheet with each item that you would wish to claim and its value or estimated value, you’ll have an easy tool to use for your insurance claim.
Your emergency kits should also include escape plans out of each room in the house, out of the house, and out of the area. It won’t do you or your children any good if you have an agreed upon meeting place with no way to get there!
Supplies you need in your kit:
- Water for three days (for each person). This is the ideal amount of water to keep in your emergency kit, but less necessary with younger kids, as they’re unlikely to drink that much water, and they almost certainly will have difficulty carrying it. Also include water purification tablets. These will come in handy if you find a viable water supply but you’re unsure if it’s clean enough to consume. Keep in mind that each year, you’ll need to switch the water supply out.
- Food supplies for three days. The best choice you can make here is some brand of high calorie bar. They’ll fit in your pack easily, and they’re also the most nutritious option you’re likely to have if you’re being forced to evacuate.
- A warm blanket. You’re looking for a wool blend, as that will provide the most warmth but will also be softer and more flexible than a pure wool blanket.
- A small first aid kit.
- A flashlight, batteries, and maybe even taper candles and matches.
- Cash. The important thing to remember about keeping cash in emergency kits is that you’re probably going to have limited access to ATMs, especially in the immediate area of the emergency, and many establishments will be unable to break larger bills. Keep a fair amount of small bills on hand.
- A small tool kit or multipurpose tool.
- A handheld radio with extra batteries. Trust me, if you’re in a safe room wondering exactly how close to your home that tornado is, you’ll be glad to have this with you.
When preparing a kit for your car, remember that the space in your vehicle is likely limited. Because you’ll want to keep your car’s emergency kit in the vehicle 24/7, you’ll need to keep water in much smaller containers than you might in a home kit. Try juice-box-sized water containers for easy storage. These types of water containers are also great for the kits that your children will carry. Make sure you have a spare tire and jumper cables in case your car runs into a bad situation during evacuation in addition to the staple contents of an emergency kit.
Prepping Your Children’s Kits
For kids under four or five, who may not be able to keep track of (or even carry) a pack containing water and emergency rations, it may make more sense to divide all of the supplies between two larger packs for you and your spouse. If your kids are old enough to carry their own packs, their kits will need to contain the staples above, with some extra considerations. You’ll want to make sure you’re meeting your child’s unique physical and safety needs. Don’t forget that in such a stressful situation, if you can include a fun version of something that needs to be in their kit, you should do it!
- Your child’s kit should contain some clothing, preferably warm clothes like sweatpants, gloves, a hat, and things along those lines. They won’t be necessary in summer months, but they’re of utmost importance for kids in the harsher months, especially if your car breaks down or you get stuck outside.
- A small bag of games, books, puzzles, or toys to keep them entertained. Having something to take their mind off of the immediate situation is definitely important.
- Keeping trail mix, granola bars, or some small snacks other than the high calorie bars they’ll be depending on will be a nice addition to the pack. Easy to carry, they’ll also help keep your child in familiar surroundings. Keep in mind that if you do choose to include these snacks, they’ll likely need to be swapped out of the kit every six months or so.
- Glow sticks, in addition to the flashlight, are fun ways for the kids to add additional light.
It might sound silly, but most families are pretty devoted to their pets. Rather than running the risk of trying to feed your dog or cat part of your high-calorie nutrition bar, you can purchase or make small kits for your pets. The basics should include water, food, a blanket, chew sticks, and toys. You’ll need to keep them hydrated and fed, and you’ll want to bring along something to entertain them during the evacuation. This would also be a good time to update your dog’s tags and consider getting your pet micro-chipped so you’ll receive a phone call in case you and your pet get separated. Vets and shelters know to check strays for these chips, and they greatly increase the odds that you’ll see your pet again.