Have you been thinking about putting together an Emergency Kit / Earthquake Kit / Disaster Kit for your house?
We have for a long time – pretty much since we relocated to the Pacific Northwest but just didn’t make it a priority. Truthfully, the task just seemed so daunting and overwhelming.
Then a couple of months ago, that New Yorker article came out. You know, the one that scared the shit out of every single person living in and around Seattle, Portland and British Columbia. People like us. We started planning and making lists. I figured we would slowly build an emergency kit and finally get it together with the hopes that we never have to use it.
Then out of nowhere about a month ago, Seattle had a freak summer storm with high winds, frequent lightning strikes and lots of thunder. We lost power (along with thousands of other people) for a good part of the day. At first, we were like, “Oh, no biggie. Let’s make it fun.” Then it started to get dark, the power still wasn’t on, nobody was having fun anymore, we couldn’t open the fridge, the kids needed to get bathed and put to bed and we realized we were totally and completely unprepared for any kind of situation bigger than losing power for a couple of hours.
After spending a good chunk of time researching and cross-referencing credible resources for emergency preparedness, I have compiled what is a very comprehensive list of supply items you should consider stocking.
Why So Much Stuff?
Well, because there are many possible scenarios. The way to think about it is to fully stock your home emergency kit in case your structure is still standing and you can shelter in place. If that happens, you will most likely use all of the supply items.
Then, there is the possibility that your structure is no longer safe. Which is why I highly recommend keeping a couple of sturdy backpacks or a large duffel bag as part of your kit. If for any reason you need to leave and do so quickly, you can fill the bag with the supplies / food that you feel are most important.
This is a lot of information, so we are going to break it down into two posts.
This post has tips and things to consider listed below as well as a downloadable comprehensive list of safety, hygiene and comfort items.
We’ll walk through the “why’s” of some of the items but I have included FREE lists at the end if you just want to print off the shopping lists.
Part Two is the “Real Food Emergency Kit” shopping list and meal plan. It is based on approximately 1800 calories per person, per day and I will also be including FREE downloadable lists.
Tips and Things To Think About
- Make a family plan and be sure to include two meeting places. Meeting place A and a back up (Meeting Place B) in case something catastrophic happens to the first one. Be sure to check in with your neighborhood or local community leaders as many communities have designated meeting places.
- Place a Snaplight chemical glow stick underneath the bed of every adult and older (above 5?) child in your house. These are very cheap at big home improvement stores (think $.99 at our local Home Depot). They are waterproof, non-sparking, last about 10 hours each and you do not need a battery. This way if you lose power when it is dark outside, you can easily navigate your home without freaking out that you have to find a flashlight or worse start lighting candles. You want to secure your environment before you begin using matches and introduce an open flame into the space.
- Your needs are different in you live in an urban area vs. an isolated or rural area. For instance, we live in an urban area. There are 3 gas stations and 4 full-service hotels within walking distance (less than 20 min) of our house. If you live in a more remote area, make sure you take that into consideration and appropriately plan for backup gasoline and a walking plan.
- Phone lines and internet will most likely be unavailable and then intermittent in the case of a serious emergency as they get jammed. It’s important to develop an emergency contact plan and designate a central person (possibly out of state) to establish contact with. Try texting first as text messages usually go through first.
- Where you store your emergency kit is crucial for accessibility. Perhaps outside in a deck box, outdoor shed or other waterproof storage container? In the foyer or most accessible part of your garage? Obviously, this all depends on what type of home (or building) you live in so please take this into consideration. You do not want to go through this exercise and gather all of these items only to have them but not be able to access them in the case of a serious emergency!
- Next, you will want a “Go To Bucket”. The 5-gallon bucket with tight-fitting lid was recommended in multiple lists as something to have on hand if you can still inhabit your home but have no indoor plumbing aka need a place to have people go to the toilet. Since the bucket is big and doesn’t fit into my containers, I put it on top of everything and placed what I consider our most crucial, immediate items in there. In our case that is a large floating flashlight with battery pack, a Leatherman multi-purpose tool and the Quakehold Earthquake Survival Tool (which is basically for shutting off Gas)
- This sounds like a lot of work but take the time to make an inventory list of all of your supplies, include the expiration dates if you can and make sure to print and place in a waterproof page protector and tape to the underside of each container. Just think of the drama you will avoid by not having to guess what is in each container. Plus, you will be able to quickly grab exactly what you need. If you use my downloadable shopping lists, just list which BIN you put your items in and viola, there is your inventory list!
- If you are a camping family and already have camping gear (tents, inflatable mattress, etc.), do not purchase a second set of these items, just store your camping gear next to or on top of your emergency kit in case you need to evacuate. Alternately, if you are not a camper, there are a couple of items I recommend to add to the kit and you will find them on the DOWNLOADABLE shopping list.
- Be realistic about what you are capable of. My husband is very handy and has a lot of outdoor / survival experience. If we have an emergency and are at home (or can safely get home), he will be the leader. Me, I will secure our kids and dog, open the bottle of (screwtop) wine I put in the food kit and probably work on getting a radio signal. Since most of you probably fall somewhere in-between, I recommend including a good Survival HandBook in your kit.
- Finally, every family size is different. We have a large dog, a 5-year old and a 9-month old. They all require special items. Make sure to consider all pets, kids and family members with food or medicine allergies and their special equipment.
I know there is a lot of information here so don’t hesitate to ask me any questions in the comments. I learned a lot going through the process of putting this all together and I really want to help so that more people can be prepared!