Monday, December 12, 2016

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.


Albert Barkley said...

Good post. I am thinking to have some ideas for gifts for Christmas day. Can you share some ideas please? dissertation writing services

Fernando Leanme said...

I have taken survival courses for jungle, Arctic, desert, and emergency medical treatment, because I used to travel in pretty weird places which sometimes had non existent or possibly hostile natives. In those days we were given a kit, which of course included the Swiss Army knife, another knife, a whistle, a mirror, a can opener, flashlight, bandages, etc. But over the years I learned to pack my own goodies, and I pack according to the specific needs.

Your list is fine, but I would put the hand crank flashlight ahead of a solar powered flashlight. I use a small iodine bottle instead of chlorine pills because it works for disinfecting water as well as wounds. A small saw with a sharp point comes in handy, it can be used to get firewood, and to cut a hole in the ice to get water out of a frozen pond.

I figured out an iron ration that became really popular with my buddies, a small cylindrical plastic bag with a mix of powdered milk, sugar, and instant oat meal. That goes over very well if you can heat water.

There are also these Mylar type blankets you can pack really small, they come in handy to stop the rain, wind, and make a small shelter. And I would add a box of rubbers. Those can be used to keep matches, as tourniquets, and to keep your clips dry if you carry a gun. I wouldn't say a gun is a priority, a good knife, twine or fishing nylon and a lesson on how to set a bird trap are much handier.

I think the key is to prepare a car kit suited for the specific trip, and to have in the house things you need for whatever you expect can happen. For example, I would expect a large earthquake in California, and that means keeping your goodies where they won't be covered by a ton of rubble. And evidently if you are getting ready for a helicopter crash in the Arctic you had better have stuff to survive low temperatures and be ready to patch up a compound fracture.

Hank Roberts said...

> Spare batteries in clear plastic bag
> so you can see if they've become corroded over time

Stock up with Energizer Lithium primary cells (AAA and AA) -- silver and blue wrapper --- they work in freezing temperatures and last for years in storage. And they don't corrode and leak like alkaline cells do.

Hank Roberts said...

> keeping your goodies where they won't be
> covered by a ton of rubble

We took down our chimney before it falls down:

Most of the chimneys fell to the south after the big Hayward quake.

We can't have wood fires on the cold damp foggy "clear the air alert" high pressure nights anyhow.

Hank Roberts said...

Stewart Band was a first responder at the Marina collapse and fire, and did a memorable review of that, well worth reading before you're on the spot:


Here is a useful price guide for more traditional gift-giving .

cRR Kampen said...

Large sheet of tent fabric or plastic to catch rain with.
Esp flood areas where drinking water can become very scarce.
4.5 square metres = a gallon for every mm of precip.

Padhma said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hank Roberts said...

"Padhma" appears to be a spambot. Doesn't Blogger have a way of nuking such?

EliRabett said...

Yep, but either the spambots are getting better or Blogger lazier. More are getting through these days.


Hank Roberts said...

Self-warming food pouches:

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