Picture this: A local emergency of some sort has emergency personnel knocking on your door telling you that you have 5 minutes to evacuate your house (fire, gas leak, railroad collision, earthquake). What will you spend those 5 minutes grabbing? Hopefully you’ll say your children and your 72 hour kit (and then whatever else you think you have time to grab and can carry).
The idea of creating kits that keep your family alive until help arrives, until you find help, or until you can just return home can seem daunting. It feels like there is so much to have, so much to do, so much to buy, and if you forget just one thing, you might be doomed.
Don’t think it. Break it down into individual pieces. Most of the things you need you probably already have at home now. The remainder are not expensive, are easy to get and easy to use. Think about it more like planning for a camping trip, but with much less stuff!
What is a 72 Hour Kit and Why do YOU Need One?
Just what is a 72 hour kit? It is a kit (sometimes referred to as a Go Bag), in a back pack or tote, that allows you to live away from your house for up to 3-4 days in an emergency. It is different than a term you might hear called a Bug Out Bag (B.O.B.) as a B.O.B. is meant for the possibility of permanent living away from home. Your 72 hr. kit is meant to allow you to escape an immediate threat, live for 3 (or 4 days if you stretch it) without having to rely on authorities, and going back home (though sometimes, home won’t be an option if it is bad enough and that BOB will be a blessing).
Why might you need a Go-Bag or 72 hour kit? You might need one for any number of reasons why you might be evacuated from your area.
You will probably return home, eventually, but until such time as you can return home, find a place to be safe with your family whether in a shelter or at a friend’s house, you’ll have the means to keep your family hydrated, fed, and safe until then.
• Scenario #1: Leaving Houston for the oncoming Hurricane Rita, many were stuck in the stand-still traffic on the highways going out of Houston. Some for a very long time.
• Scenario #2:Wildfires happening in the Northwest and California that have people evacuating from their homes, sometimes with only minutes to spare, and having no place to go until they can find shelter with friends and family or in governmental shelters, depending on what is available. (This is a real-life situation in California and the Northwest almost every year)
• Scenario #3: There is an explosion in the area at a local factory. The fumes might be toxic, and they cannot predict that more explosions won’t be coming. You’re asked to evacuate and make way to safer ground. But where is that? This is a real life situation for those in West, Texas in 2013 and in China in the last month.
What Kind of Container Do You Need?
You’ll see in the photo above that we’ve used a variety of containers for our 72 hour kit.
- Rolling Suitcase
- Plastic Storage Tote
We keep the plastic storage totes in storage in our home full of food and water and rotate out often. The backpacks serve as our Get Home Bags (the ones we travel with all the time) and are a portion of our 72 hour kit. We have a suitcase for family clothes and blankets. We keep a camping kit handy with 2 2-person tents and some supplies in another tote not seen in this photo. Items can easily be transferred if needed, but are created for quick and easy storage, gathering and use for us if we need to leave. We understand that if we had to trek across the miles, we wouldn’t be able to drag those plastic totes, but we’d do some quick rearranging and make things work better for the situation at hand. We also keep a first aid kit (the bottom-most tote) handy.
TIP: To go along with your 72 Hour Emergency Kit, it’s important to already have an escape plan ready for when you do need to get away from the house quickly. Don’t wait til the last minute to make decisions about where you’ll go because you don’t always have the best decision-making skills in the moment of panic.
*Don’t miss the 30 Days of Preparedness Linkup at the bottom of the post!
There are many more ways to be prepared!*
What to Have in Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit
Here is a list of basic items to include in your 72 hour kit. Be sure to store them in an easily accessible spot (we’ve actually begun to keep ours in the car along with our emergency car kit). The preparedness mindset is 1 is none (meaning you have no backup) and 2 is 1 (meaning once you use your extra, you only have that one left). The idea behind this kit is that you have what you need to get through a short-term crisis before you can return home or until you can find shelter and/or help. You don’t need to take your kitchen sink, but where you can, have a backup or a plan if something fails or gets lost.
FEMA recommends 1 gallon of water per person per day, but that is a bare minimum. You’ll want more for sanitation, first aid and more. Be prepared with water filtration systems, water purification tablets, water bottles and more for water gathered on the road.
Here are some of the items you might find useful:
Tips: Keep a set of water bottles in your car at all time. You can rotate them out monthly to keep it fresh. A case can be stored flat on the bottom of your trunk, or you can use handy emergency water pouches for extras. Always keep water with you when you’re on the road.
NOTE: Ready.gov recommends having a bottle of bleach and an eye dropper. I prefer the tablets, even if they take a little longer, because you don’t have to worry about the bleach bottle breaking or leaking, which they are prone to doing because they aren’t meant for long-term storage.
In most cases, you can get by with typical camping food or things you’ve collected for your family. But don’t discount the calories and stock up mostly on granola and dried fruit. You need dense nutrient, high calorie food. If you do have access to a shelter, food may be provided for you, but it might not be enough.
Here is a list of ready-foods that can go in your kit. But you’ve got one more decision to make. Do you want food you’ll need to cook or food that can be eaten directly out of the packaging? This is just a list to get you started.
- Granola Bars
- Emergency Food Bars
- Protein Bars
- Oatmeal packets
- Beef jerky
- Peanut butter snack cups/crackers
- Freeze-dried meal pouches (remember to pack enough water to use with these)
- Dried Fruit & Vegetables to snack on
- Homemade MREs
- Meat in a tin or pouch
- Canned ready-meals
- Home Canned Food (just be careful of the glass)
- Camping Plates/Utensils (you shouldn’t need a cup as your water bottle will double)
- Can opener
- Comfort foods and special dietary foods
- Bring whatever cooking canisters you’ll need depending on the kind of cooking you intend to do. Remember to keep it small and lightweight. Include at least one item that can be used to boil water.
Tip: Don’t rely on weird food that you bought off the internet to feed your family. Make sure you use what you’ve actually eaten, even if it is the weird food! Take a night to play act an evacuation or a ‘camping night’ and eat that food and use your items in your kit so that nothing is unfamiliar to you.
Your car can serve as a shelter if you are stranded on the way. However, a packed shelter can give you peace of mind in case you are no longer with your car or are given rest in an area without your own shelter. A simple tarp + rope can serve as an emergency shelter, or you can tie a small tent to the bottom of your pack, or make a bedroll out of sheets/pillow. We keep a tote of just the camping equipment that can be attached to our backpacks if needed. We live in an area that even in colder weather, we don’t need heavy-duty gear. But please pack according to the needs of your environment.
- Tarp (you can get a smaller one with it’s own pouch)
- Rope or Paracord
- Emergency Blankets
- Sleeping bag, sleeping pad and/or blankets
- Inflatable pillow
Tip: Like with eating new weird food that you got from the internet, don’t assume you’ll know how to make a shelter with your tarp and rope. Take a night to camp in the backyard and use these supplies and build your shelters so that you’ll have the basic understanding of what you need to do. Trying to set up for the first time in a harsh weather event will make things even worse.
Fire & Heat
If you’re having to be outside, fire can be a great way to warm you, to cook your food or even be a signal. Keep a couple of different kinds of fire starters in different areas of your pack, safely wrapped from the elements, so that you can always have fire. You’ll also have to think about portable cook stoves if you won’t be able to start a full fire in order to cook your food.
- Matches If you are going to use matches, be sure to store them in a waterproof case, even if they are waterproof matches.
- Lighters If you are going to store a lighter, please don’t get the cheapest lighter you can find. Often times, they fail miserably. Get the disposables, but get the better versions. I keep a Zippo lighter and a backup canister of fuel.
- Strikers– There are all sorts of fire strikers, magnesium rods and more, but this is my favorite of all the ones we’ve used. I particularly love it becuase it’s bright orange and can be seen easily if you drop it.
- Portable stove There are stoves that take fuel tabs, but I like the idea of a small portable stove that can burn wood like a rocket stove and save some weight. The portable fuel tabs can be more convenient depending on where you might be.
- Portable grill for campfire If you decide to cook food over a campfire, this is a great portable grill to have a stable platform to cook on.
Tip: Develop an alternative ways to start a fire that don’t involve matches or starters. It’s a skill that takes practice and can change depending on your surrounds and weather, but it is a good skill for anyone to have.
Flashlights, glow sticks, etc., help make you able to see in dark spaces and have light to get you around safely. Don’t just rely on battery operated flashlights because there is a whole world of solar power lighting options available to you now that are much better than they used to be. Invest in good lights, not the cheapest you can find. There are so many options but here are what we use:
SANITATION & HYGIENE
Let’s face it, the need to go to the bathroom is going to come up. And you need to be able to clean yourself, even if only gone for a few days or until help arrives, because being sweaty and dirty will just lead to feeling blah when you’re away from home. While doing something homemade may seem a great idea here, this is a time for convenience!
- Wipes – bleach wipes to help clean surfaces, dishes, gear and more. We store these in zip top bags or vacuum seal them to keep them fresh instead of lugging around the container. Then we rotate them through our regular supplies when we do our quarterly bag checks.
- Toilet Paper – just because.
- Toothbrush/Toothpast or toothpaste dots/Floss
- Soap – you may choose to purchase body wipes for quick wipe downs instead of soap, but having a bar of hard soap is going to be useful for doing things like washing clothes, your hair, etc.
- Powder shampoo can help a little with morale
- Feminine hygiene products
- Trash bags – not only to put your trash in as you generate it if you don’t bury it, but for all sorts of reasons.
Tip: Remember, you’ll need to think about water for sanitation as well as drinking when planning your 72 hour kit. Having some convenience products to clean with helps take a load off carrying more water, but don’t discount needing water to clean with altogether.
TOOLS AND GEAR
- Axe – for cutting firewood
- Shovel – to bury trash or waste product, put out campfires
- Duct Tape
- Knife – whether a sheathed knife or a large multi-tool, you need to have a sharp blade for many jobs around camp.
Tip: Use a bright color of duct tape that can also be used to mark trails or signal directions in wooded areas or on buildings.
A pre-paid cellphone (with numbers already programmed into it), walkie talkies, a radio – things to help you be able to stay connected if communications are still available.
- Cell phones
- Hand held Ham radio
- Walkie Talkies
- Signaling devices.
Tip: Most walkie-talkies work on a line of site idea. If you are trying to use them where you are in canyons, large buildings, etc., their range can be effected, but they are good to have for short-range communications.
ATM’s and banks may not be available during a local emergency. Nor will credit and debit cards be operational if there are interruptions in power or satellite in your area. Be sure to have extra cash stashed in small denominations to be able to purchase things if purchasing is an option.
Tip: Tuck coins and money in different pockets and crannies of your bags and boxes. Don’t keep it all in one place.
Have an extra set of clothes good for whatever season you’re in, plus extra socks. Keep a good, sturdy pair of shoes handy in case you have to walk. You’ll want to have dry clothes available if you get wet, be able to layer on more if it is cold, and change into something clean if you get hot and sweaty or dirty. If you’re wet, having something dry to change into will be a wonderful thing.
- Extra set of clothes suitable for the season you’re in.
- Extra socks
- Extra sturdy shoes
- Poncho/trash bag/rain gear
If you’re in cold temperatures, be sure to have cold weather gear available, with extra gloves in case you get yours wet. Wear items that breath easily and won’t make you sweat (cotton for the winter can get wet easily and not dry out quickly).
If you have small children and the elderly, 2 or 3 changes might be needed for accidents and diaper changes. Be sure to also include any extra diapers and diapering equipment you might need. Small children might revert to pre-potty trained days because they might be scared or you can’t make quick potty stops as often as they need them. This might be time to think about a portable potty, too, because rest rooms might not be readily available.
TIP: Tuck a few large trashbags into your pack. Not only are they good for carrying and sitting on, they are good to cover your gear or your body as a rain protector if you didn’t pack ponchos.
Have a small, well-packed first aid kit to help out with medical emergencies. You can either make your own or buy one ready-made to suit your purposes. Here is a very basic list to get you started:
- Bandages in varying sizes
- Sterile gauze pads (sanitary napkins/pads will also work)
- Triple Antibiotic ointment
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Alcohol wipes
- Pain relievers/aspirin
- Instant cold compress
- Hand warmers
- Sterile gloves
- Space blanket (use a better version of a blanket)
- Ace bandage/large scarf
- Particle mask/face masks
- Prescription Medication
- Extra glasses/contacts
Make sure you have copies of the documentation you may need to rebuild your life after, or identify yourself during an emergency. You can keep the copies in a water proof bag or vacuum sealed or on a small memory stick.
- Driver’s License
- Social Security Cards
- Credit and/or bank accounts
- Birth Certificates
- Voter Registration
- Medical Information
- Vaccination Records
- Contact information
- Emergency ID cards
It is important to have something that you carry at all times for security. Even having a knife in your pack that is handy for utilitarian reasons but can do double-duty as a self-defense weapon is important. If you are more comfortable carrying a weapon or mace.
You might want to consider adding items for entertainment if you end up spending many hours waiting for things to happen – books, card games, pen/paper, electronic readers (though know that you might not have electricity to recharge).
- Playing cards
- Crayons/paper a small stuffed comfort toy
Tip: Pack some extra glowsticks for night time play with the youngesters.
Make this list what you need for the particulars of your family. There are many other things that you can add to the list that you may find helpful. Depending on the vehicle you may be able to evacuate in or the modes of transportation you may use, where your planned final stop might be, or whether you have extra bodies to help carry. Make this a good starting point for what you need to do for the basics and expand it as your family needs and circumstances dictate.
Just remember, you need to be able to pull or carry what you pack. Don’t plan emergency needs expecting to always have a working vehicle or a way out in a car. Be prepared to carry, pack the most important items in personal packs that you can carry.
TIP: Don’t plan on carrying more than 25% of your body weight.
or use this link to help you create a printable .pdf of this post (until I can get the printable list done for you). It’s easy and free to use, and will let you edit what you actually print!
Watch this family to see how important having a prepared evacuation plan and a 72 hour kit can be!
If you would like to take the next step and use a step by step weekly plan, check out Your Own Home Store’s plan – you can read the review here.
September is National Preparedness Month and The Prepared Bloggers are at it again!
It’s safe to say that our ultimate goal is to help you have an emergency kit, a family plan, and the knowledge to garden, preserve your harvest and use useful herbs every day – without spending a ton of money to do it. Luckily that’s obtainable for every family and a journey we would love to help you with.
This year we have posts about food storage, 72-hour Kits & Bug Out Bags, and every aspect of preparedness, from water storage to cooking off grid. You’ll also find many ideas to help you be more self-reliant.
Be sure to visit our sites and learn as much as you can about being prepared. We’ll be using the hashtag #30DaysOfPrep for these and many other ideas throughout the month of September, so join in the conversation and make 2015 the year you become prepared.
72-Hour Kits or Bug Out Bags
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