These days, preparing for an emergency doesn't just mean being ready for
a storm or an earthquake. Forces of nature aren't the only things we
need to account for, we also need to account for the unexpected, intentional
attack on our sense of peace. Still, whatever the source of an emergency,
you'll always be in better shape if you've done something to prepare
for the unexpected. Knowing your environment will help you determine
exactly what you need, but there are some things that just about everyone
agrees you should have available during an emergency.
Here's a quick list of items that you should keep in an emergency kit:
- more than one if possible - but always have extra batteries.
LED flashlights are among the toughest, brightest, and longest lasting
flashlights you can get.
- if you have to evacuate, it's easier to rely on radio than on any
other medium. For an emergency kit, pocket
or self-powered radios would
be best. Our best recommendation is the CC Solar Observer, which is an emergency
radio that can be powered from many sources (sun, batteries or by the windup crank) and it also has an LED light built into it. If you're more technically inclined, and willing to spend a bit more, you might
also want to keep a portable
scanner or ham radio handy. You don't need a license to
listen to either one and, during a crises, they can be great sources
of information - particularly when other modes of communication are
down. Listening in on police and fire frequencies can alert you to
immediate road conditions and emergencies. Listening to ham radio
operators on a scanner can also be very informative - especially
since hams are often the people most experienced at finding and sharing
relevant information. On most scanners, you can listen to what's
called the 2 meter band between 144 and 148 MHz and also the 440
band between 400 and 469.995 MHz. After listening enough, of course,
you might also decide to get your license and join the amateur radio
- First Aid Kit
- be sure to include extra doses of any medications you might
need, particularly prescription drugs. As an asthmatic, I can tell
you that having an extra inhaler in my first aid kit is essential.
- Extra batteries
- I mention this twice because it's important. Your radio
and flashlights should run on the same size batteries, that way it's
easier to stock up on backup batteries.
and a knife blade are
both important, so you might want a compact tool that has both.
- Duct tape
- you won't see duct tape on many emergency kit lists, but it
is important to have on hand. As most duct tape fans know, you can
fix almost anything with duct tape, even a wing on a plane (at least
in the movies) - but more importantly, duct tape can be used to seal
windows if there's a chemical attack and you're required to stay
- Water is very important, but it's also one of the heaviest, most
cumbersome things to store and carry. Since you need water to drink
and to wash, just one person could easily go through about 4 quarts
a day. Carrying around that much water might be impractical, so it
would also be useful to have some additional water purifying methods.
You could invest in some iodine pills - they taste terrible, but
they're an easy way to make water potable (I usually add a packet
of a powdered drink mix, like Crystal Light, or something). Or you
could go with a water
- Nonperishable food
- and a can opener, don't forget that can opener, and be sure
it's not electric. I know of someone who got stuck in the desert
with a case of canned beans and no can opener. By the time he stumbled
into a gas station, just a few miles from his stalled station wagon,
he could barely talk. According to the people who saw him before
he passed out, the only thing he could say was "can opener . . .
no beans." It's funny now, because he's fine, but it wasn't so funny
then. (No, it wasn't me).
Of course, all these supplies won't be very helpful if you don't know
where to go or you're not dressed right (wear sneakers or other sturdy
shoes, long sleeves, and pants). Putting together an emergency kit
is only the first part of dealing with an emergency. Once you've got
specialty items assembled, toss in blankets, toiletries and toilet
paper, and an extra pair of eyeglasses. You also have to take care
of other issues like securing important documents ahead of time (in
a fire resistant safe), and making sure that you know your area's evacuation
If you're on vacation, commuting to another town or have just moved to
a new place, it's also a very good idea to keep an area map in your
emergency kit. If required to evacuate, however, don't try to find
your own way out of town. Follow the prescribed evacuation routes,
since, in the event of debris on the roads, etc, those routes would
be cleared more quickly than others.
Finally, stay alert. Keep your radio on, stay clear of any heavy objects that
could fall, and do your best to keep calm. In terms of preparing for
anything that could happen in your vicinity, get in touch with your
local emergency centers. You may want to visit some of the following
Web sites, and print out some of the check lists and preparedness advice
that applies to you, in terms of where you are, or where you might
- Center for Disease Control - This is not the typical
CDC Web site. This site is packed with information on issues related to bioterrorism.
- How to handle
suspicious packages - goes into more detail than the postcard you might have
recently received from the Postal Service.
- FEMA — Basic Disaster Supplies Kit
- Red Cross Locator - find
out the location and number of your local Red Cross - useful for volunteering and getting
That's a lot of information to digest, I know. If you want to come back and
reread some of the items on this page, please add it to your favorites
or bookmarks now. One last thing, be sure to go over your preparations
with your family. Set some meeting places, one in town and one out
of town, and agree on someone out of town that everyone in your family
can contact if necessary.
As always, please contact us with any comments or
article suggestions you might have.