Friday, November 27, 2015

Emergency kits for the holiday gift season

My annualish post below on home and car emergency kits, something that makes an excellent gift. Even if you and yours are all set, there's always maintaining and updating your kits. Most of this post is a retread; the one upgrade is an inexpensive, solar-powered lantern. 

I've found that emergency kits make highly-appreciated gifts for friends and relatives, one of those things that are on everyone's to-do list but often don't get done. If the entire kit's too expensive, you can just give a car kit, or get a part (I suggest water and water purification) and upgrade over time.

If people have had kits for a few years then it's also time to consider replacing out the food. If you or someone you know uses camping food, you might switch out the old with the new a year or two before expiration, so you can use the food before it expires. Freeze-dried food will probably last longer than the expiration date, so you might replace the older stuff but hold on to it in case the emergency lasts longer than expected.

My emphases were making them easy for me to put together, easy for people with no camping experience to use, and ones that would last as many years as possible without needing replacement or maintenance. In return I was willing to pay more, be more bulky than the minimum possible, and have limited control over food selection.

72-Hour Home kits:
The above is the absolute minimum. Meals can be eaten in their pouches, so no dishes are needed. Flameless heating kits eliminate the need for cooking stoves (water has to be purified, though). Emergency meals also can be eaten with cold (purified) water although they taste bad. The food and flameless kits should be good for at least 3 or 4 years, and probably more than twice that long.

In earthquake country, your kit should be stored outside your home in case you can't get inside. So in your yard, your car, or somewhere else. The only maintenance this requires is to simply look every six months to see if the water's leaked through the seams of the plastic jugs - it happens fairly often.

Additional useful items:
  • MPOWERD Inflatable Solar Lantern, 1 per person. Maybe a cheap flashlight/headlamp too.
  • Spare batteries in clear plastic bag so you can see if they've become corroded over time
  • Plastic tarp and cord as a rain shelter
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Emergency shelter, 1 per adult
  • Cheap or expensive first aid kit (I went with cheap kits from the local drugstore)
  • Cheap rain gear, spare shoes and clothes
  • Toilet paper (in plastic bag to prevent dampness) and trowel
  • Hand-crank radio/flashlight combination (can also charge cell phones)
Don't let the extras delay you from putting together the minimum.

I also made better-than-nothing emergency kits for everyone's car, in case you're stuck on the road:

Car kits:
  • Liter water bottle per person (enough to keep you hydrated for a few hours until you can find a water source)
  • Water purification tablets (can disinfect murky water from ditches, and you might need to) 
  • Emergency shelter
  • Small amount of long-lasting food (I found tins of honey-roasted peanuts that were good for four years)
  • Cheap rain poncho
  • Emergency contact list
  • Shoes you can walk many miles in, if that's not what you normally wear
  • MPOWERD Inflatable Solar Lantern, and maybe a cheap, tiny flashlight
  • wool blanket (additional warmth, or traction under a spinning wheel in the mud or snow). Cheap space blanket is an alternative, but it won't give you traction.
You can do much better than this car kit, but it's something in case destroyed roads/bridges keep you from getting home for 12-24 hours.

Additional tricks for both kits: put the contact lists in their own ziplock plastic bags to reduce the chance that they'll mold/get wet over the years.

Hopefully this is all unnecessary.

Lots of great comments when I did this post in 2013 here, and a resource link at Making Light.


Aaron said...

I live closer to the Hayward fault. When it goes, I expect pretty much all services to be down for between a couple of days and a couple of weeks.

If you need the emergency kit, it might well be the difference between life and death. Your family might need it to rescue you or you might need it to rescue them or neighbors. Make sure that things like required medications and eye glasses are in a "jump bag". Keep copies of important documents at a safe remote location - e.g. with family in another state.

Know how to use everything in the kit. A first aid kit is much more valuable if you know how to use it. It may be a long time before the paramedics can get through to you.

I think an emergency kit should include things like a shovel, axe, pry bar, and wrench for shutting off gas - if you have to seek shelter in some structure, you need to be able to shut off the gas.

Oh, and sunscreen! You may suddenly be spending a lot time outside, and bad sunburn can be debilitating. Also, sunscreen needs to be replaced every year.

Russell Seitz said...

Who was it who said : " With enough trowels to go around , everybody's going to make it."

Hank Roberts said...

Include this, printed out:

(Good site, for many other resources; this is what you'll want to have read when you rush into the problem site to try to help.

Summary from the sidebar:
What Rescuers Learned

• Right after an earthquake, nobody’s in charge. You self-start, or nothing happens.
• Collect tools!
• If you can smell gas, turn it off.
• After an earthquake, further building collapse is not the main danger. Fire is.
• When you see a fire starting, do ANYTHING to stop it, right now.
• In any collapsed building, assume there are people trapped alive. Locate them, let them know everything will be done to get them out.
• Searching a building, call out, “Anybody in here? Anybody need help? Shout or bang on something if you can hear me.”
• Give people who are trapped all the information you’ve got, and enlist their help. Treat them not as helpless victims but as an exceptionally motivated part of the rescue team.
• Join a team or start a team. Divide up the tasks. Encourage leadership to emerge.
• Most action in a disaster is imitative. Most effective leadership is by example.
• Bystanders make the convenient assumption that everything is being taken care of by the people already helping. That’s seldom accurate.
• If you want to lend your help, ask! If you want to be helped, ask!
• Volunteers are always uncertain whether they’re doing the right thing. They need encouragement—from professionals, from other volunteers, from passers-by.

afeman said...

Anybody know from personal experience of a solid crank radio/flashlight/phone recharger? The market seems rife with flimsy crap with dodgy batteries.

Brian said...

Afeman - we've got one of those crank radio etc., but just shoved it into an emergency kit and forgot about it, so I can't speak from experience. If you come across a good one, please let me know. My email: schmidtb98(at)yahoo