According to the American Red Cross, other than a plan, your 72-hour kit is the first line of defense in preparing for any type of disaster. The kits may be kept at home or in the car, but it is recommended to have a bag (large backpack) for each family member with enough necessities to last three days in the event an emergency evacuation called for grabbing nothing but the bags and heading out.
Maybe you would need to spend an unexpected few days in your car (as some did when evacuating for Hurricane Rita), in a shelter, or even outside, so having items that would keep you alive and somewhat comfortable for those few days until either help could arrive or you could get to a place of assistance is vital. From there, those that might want to plan for longer-term situations could work on a three-month supply of necessities for their family, a six-month supply, or even more.
The photo in this post does not reflect all of the items we have in our bags, such as clothing, maps, cash, and a few other things, but most of our kit materials are depicted here. I purchased almost everything new (other than the sleeping bags, MRE’s, and a few other small things) and spent about $115 for three adults, so the cost of preparation is definitely worth the risk of your family being completely exposed to the elements and having no resources for survival.
The least expensive way to go about collecting the contents of your BOB is to use coupons, check the dollar stores, Goodwill/Salvation Army stores (especially for inexpensive backpacks), or even implement freecycle, craigslist, or other online share communities.
The following kit items are those recommended by the Red Cross. Depending on how much space you have left in your bag and how easily you think each family member could carry their bag if they had to, you might want to include some additional items, as well.
- Water—one gallon per person, per day (3day supply for evacuation, 2week supply for home) (May carry a combination of water bottles and some purification pills)
- Food—nonperishable, easy-to-prepare items (3day supply for evacuation, 2week supply for home) (You can purchase dehydrated meals at camping supply stores)
- Flashlight and/or glow sticks and/or flares
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
- Multipurpose tool and/or knife
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash (in small bills and coins)
- Emergency blanket
- Map(s) of the area
Consider the needs of all family members and add supplies to your kit. Suggested items to help meet additional needs are:
- Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
- Games and activities for children (small, such as deck of cards)
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
- Two-way radios
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
- Manual can opener (not necessary if using meals ready to eat)
Additional supplies to keep at home or in your kit based on the types of disasters common to your area:
- N95 or surgical masks
- Matches (in waterproof container)
- Rain gear
- Work gloves
- Tools/supplies for securing your home
- Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
- Plastic sheeting
- Duct tape
- Scissors (or knife)
- Household liquid bleach (or tablets from camping supply store to purify water)
- Entertainment items (small things such as a deck of cards or travel size game)
- Blankets or sleeping bags
Take the time to pack the bug-out bags with your family members so that they know what is in their bag and how to use each item – and then put them away and don’t touch them. Try not to get tempted to “borrow” an item here or there, because when you most need the bag, you will not have time to replenish it. Of course, some items may need to be checked and/or replaced once or twice a year, such as batteries, medications, food bars, etc.; but for the most part, put them where you can get to them and leave them alone.
Also, take the time to pack the bags well, so that they will withstand the elements. Utilize plastic ziploc bags to keep items dry, as well as keeping those items separated that might leak and cause a mess.
Could you set aside one day in the next couple of weeks to prepare a bug-out bag for each member of your family? You will love the peace of mind that comes from being prepared.