Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Emergency Preparedness Kit

First, let me say that I never expected this task to take so long. I thought I could just go to a few sites and get what we needed. Nor did I expect this post to be so long either.

Along with getting our financial house in order, I have had on the "to do" list for ages the task of preparing or purchasing an emergency preparedness kit for the house.

It is amazing (and a bit overwhelming) how many kits are available online. Starting out on the Red Cross site, I spent several hours last night surfing around looking at all of the options. Two days and many hours later spent surfing...

There are small one-person kits like this one, and huge multi-person cases like this one. I didn't even really get into all of the survival sites where people stock up a year or more worth of food and supplies.

By the end of the night, I was totally confused about what we should get.

So, this morning I regrouped and asked:

First question: What is the purpose of the kit?

I am not an alarmist and am realistic enough to realize that in the face of a catastrophic emergency, think terrorist attack or nuclear bomb, no matter what I did would be insufficient.

Ok, when exactly do I think this kit would be used, and why do I feel a compelling need to have one?

In our part of the world, the most realistic emergency would be the extended loss of power due to snow or other inclement weather. In our case, loss of electricity means no lights, no water since the pump on the well is electric, no heat, and no cooking on the electric stove.

No lights--we already have a camp light and numerous flashlights as well as candles.
Tasks: Check the battery on the camp light
Find the flashlight that belongs underneath the sink and return it

No water--not much we can do to run the well without electricity
Tasks: Get an emergency supply of water (done 9/10)
Get water purification tablets (done 9/10)

No heat--we have tons of blankets and two fireplaces with plenty of wood. The laundry room trash always has lint in it for a starter, and the matches are in the kitchen cabinet.
Task: None

No cooking--we have a camping stove with extra fuel as well as a gas grill and a manual can opener. We always have some canned food on hand.
Task: None

No communication--the cell phones would last only so long, but we have a generator so we are ok there.
Task: Find the hand crank radio and return it to under the sink

Other items: We have a lot of tools for whatever might be needed, games and cards for entertainment, a four-wheel drive vehicle, and I would like to think two resourceful adults. W also has a lot of his Army gear, such as heavy-duty rope and a ruck sack.
Task: Get a more complete First Aid kit (done 9/10)

It seems like we would fair fairly well if we were stuck in our house for several days without electricity. Anything beyond a week or so, we would probably start to run out of water, food, and gasoline for the generator.

The other issue would be an evacuation due to a forest fire around our house. In this case, we would simply go to a nearby relative's house. I don't foresee having to camp out in a shelter or some other makeshift lodging.

SO....if we would be OK at home, it seems that the emergency preparedness kit would likely be used more in an evacuation-type situation--getting us from the emergency to safety.

Second question: In an ideal kit what would our family need?

At a minimum, the Red Cross recommends the following:
  • water
  • food
  • flashlight
  • extra batteries
  • first aid kit
  • medications
  • multi-purpose tool
  • sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • copies of personal documents
  • cell phone with charger
  • family and emergency contact information
  • extra cash
  • emergency blanket
  • map of the area
Seems like a good place to start. Since we have two small children and a dog, the following additional items are suggested:
  • baby supplies (food, diapers, etc.)
  • games and activities for children
  • pet supplies (leash, food, carrier, bowl)
Additional suggested supplies include:
  • two-way radios
  • extra set of car and house keys
  • manual can opener
  • whistle
  • surgical masks
  • matches
  • rain gear
  • towels
  • work gloves
  • extra clothing
  • plastic sheeting
  • duct tape
  • scissors
  • liquid bleach
  • blankets or sleeping bag
Third question: To build one myself or purchase one? Should each individual have their own kit, or should the family's be all together? Should we go the backpack route or a waterproof bin?

You can buy these kits for four people, but I think it makes sense to have two bags--one for each adult with additional supplies added for the kids. I went back and forth on this. It finally came down to cost. I budgeted $100.00 this month for this expense and wanted to stick to that. I ended up getting one 3-day adult bag and adding some additional items. Depending on what it looks like when it arrives in the mail, I might get another one at a later date. I figured that if the purpose is to give us a few supplies to keep us until we get to safety, we can split up the food and water meant to cover one person over a three-day period.

Depending on how much extra space there is in the bag, I will likely get another empty backpack and split up everything between the two, including items for the kids and the dog.

After much deliberation and comparison, I narrowed the selection down to these four kits, realizing that none of them had exactly what I needed:
  1. Red Cross Deluxe Emergency Preparedness Kit (Adult, 3-Day)--$69.95
  2. Lifesecure Grab-and-Go 1-Person 3-Day Complete Emergency Kit--$69.95
  3. LifeGear Wings of Life Survival Backpack--$67.74
  4. Survival Gear Source 2 Person Essentials Survival Kit--$73.50
I wanted to get a kit that had as many of the Red Cross recommended items in it as well as some additional "survival" components, such as waterproof matches, a compass, and fishing hooks. (I know these items totally go against the whole purpose of the kit for us, which is a grab-and-go to safety thing rather than living out in the woods with Bear Grylls. I just felt like a disaster kit just wasn't complete without these types of items.)

I really wanted to support the Red Cross, but after comparison, the only thing the RC kit had that the Lifesecure one did not was a hygiene kit. On the other hand and for the same price, the Lifesecure kit has a multipurpose tool, LED safety signal light, notepad, pen, waterproof document pouch, water purification tablets, biohazard bags, and toilet paper.

The LifeGear kit had a drinking water pouch, hygiene kit, compass, thermometer, and signaling mirror, which the Lifesecure one did not. However, the LifeGear kit was missing: plastic sheeting, duct tape, radio, flashlight, light sticks, purification tablets, biohazard bags, and toilet paper.

The 2-person Essential Survival Kit available from Survival Gear Source came the closest to having everything. I decided not to order from them though because I just couldn't tell the quality of the items from the website. The price almost seemed a little bit too low.

I went with the kit from Lifesecure and for added the following items from Wal-Mart to make it work for four people and our family:
  • cloth diapers
  • safety pins
  • 46-piece survival kit (compass, fishing hooks, poncho, etc.)
  • hygiene kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, tampons, shampoo, deodorant, baby soap, mouthwash)
  • 2 rain ponchos
  • 2 emergency blankets
  • 2 whistles
  • Advil
  • miniature coloring book with stickers
These items cost $59.50 with the survival kit at $14.88 and the diapers at $11.00 being the most expensive items.

Fourth question: So what do kids need that is different than an adult? Does it make sense to buy a kit specifically for kids or should I get a two-adult bag and add a few kid things.

There are emergency kits specifically for kids here ($33.95), here ($33.99), here ($44.95), and here ($57.95).

The kits for kids had a few things that were different from an adults kit, but not much:
  • rechargeable squeeze flashlight
  • children's poncho
  • activity book and crayons
  • toys--jump rope, paddle with ball, and jacks set
  • cup
  • child-sized backpack
  • food kids recognize--hot chocolate, jelly, fruit cup, raisins, fruit roll up, etc.
In addition, this article includes the following for kids:
  • extra clothes
  • a favorite toy, doll, or stuffed animal
  • paper with home address, phone number and parents' names
  • $20 in small bills and coins
I am just going to add a few thing for the kids rather than buy them a specific kid-friendly bag. They don't seem worth the money.

I am off to order my grab-and-go bag...can't wait to see what it is like...

Things left to do: (will this project every end?!)
  • make copies of documents
  • find a hold flashlight for kids
  • buy small bottles of alcohol
  • make a "to grab if time" list
  • buy two child ponchos
  • pack some kid-specific items
  • find the under-the-sink flashlight
  • get small bills and coins
  • find long-lasting gluten-free food
  • consider gathering up items for an inhome emergency (candles, matches, flashlight, first aid kit, water purification, lint, etc.)
  • get a map of the area
  • put together a emergency contact card
  • get pet supplies together
  • add the travel sewing kit
  • check the battery on the camp light
  • find the flashlight that belongs underneath the sink and return it
  • find the hand crank radio and return it to under the sink
  • pack everything up

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