I get asked, “what should I have in a (Insert Emergency Here) kit?” more than any other question. While every geographical location has its own unique threats (be it natural or man made disasters), the basic items that I’m going to list here today will apply to all Emergency Kits.
First, I’d like to go over some of the different types of Emergency Kits explaining what they are used for and the common names you can use to search for examples of each. Then I’ll go into the basic items that apply to them. On some of these items I will give examples of how you may use different items depending on which type of kit you are assembling.
Some of the types of Emergency Kits (some are also referred to as “Bags” as a lot of folks like to pack them in backpacks or duffle bags to make them easy to transport) you may hear of are:
EDC Kit: This is basically items that you carry with you on your person so that you can improve your level of readiness should something go wrong during your day to day activities. To see an example, you can click here: My EDC.
Get Home Kit: This is usually a small backpack or similar bag with items to help you get home when conventional travel is prevented by some sort of disaster. A very common item for this type of Emergency kit is a pair of comfortable hiking boots or shoes if you wear dress shoes for work. Having to hump it home on foot in dress shoes can make an already bad situation even more miserable.
B.O.B. (Bug Out Bag)/ G.O.O.D. (Get Out Of Dodge) Kit: This is usually a full size backpack that has the essential items you would need to sustain you for 72 hours. This time frame is the average amount of time that it takes to be rescued or for order to be restored after a disaster. It is intended to be used when sheltering in place is no longer your safest option.
Battle Kit: In the Marine Corps, we referred to it as our “War Bag”. This kit has items you need should you find yourself in a W.R.O.L. (Without Rule Of Law) or a war type situation. This most likely would be used during an incident of civil unrest for civilians to protect your home and family. This is a weapons kit as well as extra socks and underwear and some high energy foods.
Home Disaster/ 72 Hour Kit: If you live in California this may be an “Earthquake Kit”, on the East or Gulf Coast a “Hurricane Kit”, in the South or Midwest a “Tornado Kit”, up North a “Winter Storm or Blizzard Kit”… You get the idea. If your are just beginning to develop your Personal Readiness Plan, I would recommend that you start with this kit. I prefer the approach of a “Home Disaster Kit” as it can cover you for all of the above disasters. It is also advisable that it be packed in a way that makes it easy to get to should you be sheltering in place; and portable in the event you have to evacuate. The items I will be going through below apply to this type of Emergency Kit.
I.N.C.H. (I’m Never Coming Home) Kit: This kit is for an event that you must leave your home behind and start from scratch again. Most people have this type of kit in some sort of trailer. In my opinion, this should be a low priority kit as it is very unlikely it would ever be needed. Not to mention that it would be prohibitively expensive to put together. I don’t have one and have no intention of putting one together in the foreseeable future. I just don’t see a situation where I would leave everything behind and go off Jeremiah Johnson style to live in the wilderness for the rest of my days. I only list it here so that if you come across it while researching Emergency Kits, you will be familiar with the term.
All of these kits have very similar purposes and gear. Their objective is to insure you are sheltered from the elements, hydrated, fed and safe. The difference is in scale. The larger the kit, the more comfortable you will be; you will also be less mobile. As the kits get smaller, you will have more mobility and also less comfortable. Each individual has to balance this out to suit their own needs and abilities.
Here is a list of Emergency Kit Basics:
1. Shelter. This encompasses anything from the clothes on your back to a tarp or tent depending on the type of kit. Cordage (such as paracord) is also a major part of any shelter portion of your kit.
2. Water. This can be not only water itself, but also means to collect and/ or purify water.
3. Food. Again, anything from food itself to means to procure and/ or prepare food.
4. Fire. Along with multiple fire starters, some type of tinder or accelerant should be carried as well.
5. Protection. Away to protect yourself and your group is essential if you find yourself in a situation that authorities are not available to provide this service. A knife at the very least or a firearm should be in your kit.
6. Tools. A knife and a quality multi-tool can handle the basic needs in most situations. A flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries should also be a part of any kit.
The above items should be included to some degree in any type of disaster or survival kit. The items below, while not essential to basic survival, can become extremely important should your situation last longer than anticipated or if you need to rebuild your life from scratch post-disaster.
7. First Aid Kit. From minor boo boos to major trauma, it is helpful to have the items and training to deal with injuries during a disaster. I also recommend personal hygiene items be added to your first aid kit.
8. Dust Mask(s). Many disasters can create a lot of dust and debris in the air that can be hazardous to you and your family.
9. Whistle. A means to signal rescue personnel can become important. A whistle will last longer and reach further than your voice.
10. Cell Phone and Solar Charger. Your phone can obviously be used to call for rescue, but smart phones today can also hold a lot of downloaded information that can help you in a survival type scenario. Also of note; if you are struck by a natural disaster and are seeking shelter you can text SHELTER + your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to get the location of the nearest emergency shelter to your location.
11. Cash. Access to ATMs may not be available following a large scale disaster, so having cash on hand may be the only way to pay for goods or services.
12. Important Family Documents. I’d recommend photos or digital copies of insurance information, birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc. on a thumbdrive should you lose the originals in an emergency.
13. Special Needs Items. These items will be different for everyone depending on their own needs and the needs of their family or group. From baby items if you have an infant to medications or insulin if needed. Supplies for your family pet may also fall into this category.
There are many other items that can make surviving a disaster much more comfortable. The above items are ESSENTIAL items. In addition to what I’ve listed here, there is one thing that you MUST HAVE. You can’t put it in a kit and pull it out when needed. You can’t buy it or find it somewhere. it is something that you must carry with you at all times. It is a strong mind and will to survive. You have to hold panic at bay and make yourself relax and think. No matter what situation you find yourself in remember this: Others have survived much worse and they were no better than you. That kind of mental toughness is the most important tool you can possess (you can read more about Mental Toughness here).
I hope that all of you prepare an Emergency Kit for you and your family as part of your Personal State of Readiness. Just being prepared for such an event can make all the difference in maintaining your its and not only surviving a disaster, but coming out the other side even stronger.