When it comes to emergency preparedness it’s very easy to tell ourselves that we’ll do it tomorrow.
That the likelihood of a natural disaster in our neighborhood is almost nothing.
It doesn’t however, take a natural disaster to wipe out the power and leave you stranded in your own home or in your vehicle. No matter what kind of emergency happens, you’ll need to be able to take care of yourself for an indeterminate amount of time.
This quick guide will help give you the basics of what you should keep in your car and in your household to be prepared for anything that might come your way.
In Your Car
The key for an emergency car kit is space. Since there is limited space in any vehicle, you want to pack the essentials without it being too bulky or difficult to handle or unload if you need to.
First Aid Kit
Yes, technically this is a “kit” in of itself, but you’ll want to have at least the basic first aid supplies in your emergency kit, especially in your car. Keep it stocked with gauze, band-aids, cooling packs, ace bandages, an antibiotic or tea tree oil and some sort of pain-relief tablet.
If you’re particularly skilled you can keep rubbing alcohol, a needle and lightweight fishing line for the real emergencies, but self-stitching is only recommended if you have experience.
Jack & Lug Wrench
For the most common of car emergencies, a jack and a lug wrench will run you about $30-$40 and will help you immensely if you get a flat tire. They’re the only two tools, aside from a spare tire, that could save you from being stuck on the side of the road for hours on end.
Flashlight & Flares
A flashlight is essential if you get stuck at night, or if the lights go out in your car. Though flares may seem excessive to some, they’re an important part of any emergency kit as well. They can help you locate help if you’re in a rural area, and alert other drivers to your presence.
Nonperishable Food & Water
Just in case you’re stuck for longer than you planned, food and water a must for any emergency kit. Power bars are always the popular choice, but not recommended, because they most often melt or get stale. The best foods are dried fruit, nuts, seeds or crackers with bottled water.
Having a blanket on hand if you’re stuck at night or in the winter, and can keep your body temperature stable as it gets colder outside. A wool blanket will work just fine, though Mylar thermal blankets are a great option because they’re smaller, lighter and warmer.
Jumper cables are an absolute must, not just for an emergency kit, but for general car safety. Just in case your battery dies – or someone else’s battery dies – jumper cables can get you out of a sticky situation.
Gloves, Hat & Boots
If you live in a cold climate storing gloves, a hat and boots in your emergency kit can make your life a lot easier. You can’t always dress for a disaster, but having the proper clothing on hand can make a big difference.
A knife is a good tool for any emergency kit, or to have on hand for daily life. Swiss army knives are always a good option, but go for one that’s larger than keychain size; it will have more functionality and be a better deal.
For Your Home
Since you’ll likely have much more space in your house than in your car, there are a lot more options about what kind and how extensive an emergency kit you want to have. Some of the items are similar or identical to those that you’ll want to keep in your car, but there are several home-specific things that will complete your emergency kit for inside the house.
Food & Water Storage
Food and water storage is paramount for home survival kits. You’ll want to have enough food and bottled water to last for three days, though you can always have more if you live in an area that’s prone to power outages or extreme weather. Store things like canned vegetables and beans, as well as dry goods, that require no cooking whatsoever.
Don’t forget to keep a manual can opener on hand as well, so you’re able to open the food you’ve stored.
Hand-Crank Radio & Charger
A hand-crank radio and cell phone charger are a great way to stay in touch and keep on top of the news or current weather situation in your area. Plus they’ll save you money and space because they don’t use any batteries.
Flashlights & Candles
Try buying a flashlight that doesn’t require batteries, to avoid it running out of power on you. And candles should be used with care, especially if there are small children in your household.
While flashlights are good for portable light, you’ll want a stationary light source for the main room. Again, invest in a lantern that is crank-powered rather than battery operated – it might be a little more work but it will save money and trouble in the long run.
First Aid Kit
Since this first aid kit will likely be staying in a closet or a pantry you’ll have a little more freedom about what you can put it in. Include extra essentials such as hydrocortisone cream, iodine, fever medication and basic toiletries and hygiene supplies.
Chances are you won’t need a full tool set if you’re stuck in an emergency, but having the right tools will always help. Keep a Swiss army knife or something similar on hand, like a Leatherman multipurpose tools. It’s also handy to keep superglue and duct tape in your emergency kit.
A map of the local area may seem strange, but it is essential. When the power goes out and Google maps is no longer an option, you’ll need to be able to find your way around – or in the case of a natural disaster, the quickest way out of town.
The last thing you will want to keep in an emergency kit, or just in your home in general, is a backpack. In case you need to leave quickly, you’ll need something that you can easily fill with your emergency supplies and take with you where ever you go.
These are the basics of emergency kits, and they’ll keep you prepared for a variety of issues, accidents and natural disasters that might come your way. Of course, you can always add to them – some people even have emergency toilets – and tailor them to what your specific needs are.
If you’re a new prepper this may seem like a pretty hefty list, but when the time comes you’ll be glad you had everything you needed to handle it.