Prior to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA used to encourage people to have a 72-hour kit for each member of the family, because it was assumed that within 72 hours, government agencies would be able to get to the scene of any disaster or emergency and bring aid. Katrina proved that when there is a disaster of large scale, or one that affects a large portion of the country, you might have to rely on yourself for more than 72 hours.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign is designed to empower and educate citizens to prepare for the potential of an emergency, whether a terrorist attack or natural disaster, by following some basic steps. The Ready Campaign requires three simple actions: supply yourself with an emergency kit; have a plan for your family; and understand the kinds of situations that you’ll need to prepare for, and how to react to them.
However, the idea of having a 72-hour kit or a “bug-out bag” is still good. If you need to leave your home quickly, whether in case of fire, flooding, or other natural disasters, each family member can quickly grab his or her 72-hour kit and have some supplies that will make being displaced a lot more tolerable. Each kit should be contained in something that is easy to grab and carry. It’s best to have a container that’s waterproof. Some people use five-gallon buckets for their 72-hour kits, and backpacks are also often used. The following section provides some ideas of things you could place in your kit. Be sure to customize the list in order to meet the needs your family.
Food and Water
You should have a three-day supply of food and water, per person, that requires no refrigeration or cooking. If you prefer, a small water filtration device can take the place of three days supply of bottled water, which can be heavy to carry. Some ideas for food include:
Protein bars/granola bars
Trail mix/dried fruit
Remember to create the bags to meet the needs of your family. If you have infants and use formula, be sure to include formula and diapers in one of the 72-hour kits.
Not every emergency happens when everyone is at home. Have a contact number that all family members should call in case of emergency. Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact.
Bedding and Clothing
Having warm and dry clothing and blankets are important during any emergency and can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
Change of clothing: inexpensive sweatshirts and sweatpants are excellent choices—and don’t forget socks!
Raincoat/Poncho: small emergency ponchos work well
Blankets and emergency heat blankets (the kind that keep in warmth)
Cloth sheet: to place over you
Plastic sheet: to lie on if the ground is damp or to shield you from rain.
Fuel and Light
The ability to heat food or water or to escape from a dangerous situation at night are only two reasons to have sufficient fuel and light. Another is to provide comfort in a scary situation.
These are some of the items that will make life much easier in case of emergency.
Radio (with batteries)
Pen and paper
Personal Supplies and Medication
You can’t take your bathroom medicine cabinet with you, but you should be sure you have the life-sustaining medical supplies you need during an emergency.
First-aid kit and supplies
Toiletries (roll of toilet paper—remove the center tube to easily flatten into a zip-top bag—feminine hygiene, folding brush, etc.)
Cleaning supplies (mini hand sanitizer, soap, shampoo, dish soap, etc.)
Medicine (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, children’s medication, etc.)
Prescription medication (for three weeks or more)
Extra pair of glasses
Personal Documents and Money
If your home was devastated by a flood or fire, what are some of the legal documents you would need as you put your life back together? Here’s a list of some of the items. You might think of others that are important to you. Place these items in plastic bags so they are waterproof.
Copies of legal documents (birth/marriage certificates, wills, passports, contracts, etc.)
Copies of vaccination papers
Copies of insurance policies
Remember to update your kits to make sure all food, water, and medication is fresh and has not expired, that the clothing still fits, that the personal documents and credit cards are up to date, and that the batteries are charged.
If you have a cell phone, make sure you program your emergency contact as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get ahold of someone you know. Make sure your family, especially your children, have ICE numbers in their phones.