1. If there’s one thing we all learned from Hurricane Katrina, it’s that we should all be well prepared in the event of a disaster. Of course, FEMA warned us all to be prepared to fend for ourselves for at least three days following any kind of large-scale disaster well before Katrina blew through New Orleans. If more people had taken the warnings seriously, maybe things would not have turned out as badly as they did.

     

    In California, we prepare for earthquakes; in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and all the other states along Tornado Alley, they prepare for tornadoes; in the Gulf Coast states and the southeastern United States seaboard, they plan for hurricanes and in the northern states they prepare for blizzards. No matter where you live, Mother Nature is going to mess with you sooner or later, so you better be ready for the worst-case scenario.

    Regardless of the type of disaster you get ready for, disaster preparedness kits are essentially the same, with common sense exceptions. For instance, Southern Californians don’t have to include blizzard gear in their kits. More than anything, it’s important that you tailor your kit to your specific needs, especially if you require prescription medicines, glasses, etc. Some online preparedness sites recommend that you include financial papers and similar important documents in your kit, but as far as I’m concerned, the foremost consideration for every kit should be survival first. With that in mind, I have divided my kit preparations into two categories: Essential and Secondary Items. Start with the essentials and for safety’s sake, prepare two disaster preparedness kits and keep one in your house near an exit where you may be able to get to it even if you have to evacuate the building and another in the trunk of your car, in case you can’t reach the first one. In flood-prone areas, store your kits in high places; in tornado-prone areas, store them below ground level if you can. Make only one secondary kit and store it with the essentials kit in your home. Canned foods will remain edible for years past the expiration dates printed on the cans; however, the quality of the food will deteriorate. Most online sites also recommend that you include a cell phone in your kit, and while I think this is a good idea, it is far more important for your survival to have a transistor radio in the kit—and such radios are far rarer these days than are cell phones.

     

     

                          Individual Kit                                             Two-Person Kit                                                  Family Kit

    Several companies sell pre-pagaged survival kits. These usually do not include food and contain bare-bones minimal required equipment to insure survival. Anyone with children or family members taking required medication will have to suppliment these kits, check and restock them (or any survival kit that you make yourself) twice a year to be certain that foods, medicines and batteries have not expired. Pre-packaged survival kits are designed to allow mobility, which is a very good idea. I suggest that you include one knapsack per person to whatever kit you construct. Even if your kit is too large to move easily, you can always pack the essentials and leave behind what isn’t really needed if you have to relocate.

    Essentials

    • Flashlight (preferably hand-crank model)
    • Candles (minimum 3 per person)
    • Rope (100 feet)
    • Hunting or utility knife and sharpening stone
    • Matches (preferably waterproof) and cigarett lighter
    • Transistor radio (not an iPod; preferably a hand-crank model)
    • Batteries (AA and C x 3 each; even if radio and flashlight are hand-crank models)
    • Canned foods (especially stews, soups and the like that require no added water), ready to eat foods (peanut butter, jelly, granola bars) and dried foods if you have plenty of water available (otherwise, don’t pack them).  MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are an excellent alternative if you can get them.  Stock at least a three day supply for everyone in household.
    • Can opener
    • Bottled water (at least 3 gallons per person)
    • Cookware (mess kit) including utensils; medium and large pots for family
    • Sterno (at least 2 cans per person)
    • Baby food/formula/diapers if you have small children
    • Rain gear (ponchos, caps)
    • Wool blanket or thermal blanket (at least one per person depending on regional climate)
    • First aid kit (bandages, antiseptic ointment, tweezers, aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Immodium in case of diarrhea, safety pins, scissors)
    • Required medications (prescriptions)
    • Special needs items (for disabled, elderly or the very young)
    • Cash (at least $100)

     

    Secondary items

    • Change of clothes, including shoes, hats and gloves in cold climates (or preferably heavy boots)
    • Filter masks (one each)
    • Towels (one per person)
    • Toilet paper (1 roll/2 people; remove from roll; store in sealable bag)
    • Paper Towels (remove from roll; store in resealable bag)
    • Moist towelettes
    • Map of your city (topographical if possible)
    • Spare reading glasses in hard case or magnifying glass
    • Signal mirror
    • Compass
    • Gasoline siphon
    • Gun and ammunition in lock box (optional but advisable; not listed in any online survival kit website I researched)
    • Soap
    • Small bottle of pure unscented bleach and eye dropper (for water purification; 16 drops per gallon; let stand 30 minutes); or iodine water treatment tablets
    • Multi-tool and adjustable wrench (to turn off valves if necessary)
    • Duct tape
    • Aluminum foil
    • Re-sealable plastic bags
    • Knapsack or book bag
    • Pencil/paper
    • Crossword puzzle book, deck of cards or other diversion

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