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Build your family’s emergency kit: Here’s what you’ll need

ByTiffany ReyesDecember 23, 2022
woman preparing emergency backpack
Emergencies such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and–as we have been reminded over the past three years–pandemics are always just around the corner. Despite this, many families go through such emergencies unprepared. This can be due to different factors, such as lack of awareness or even lax attitudes. But it can also be due to basic lack of resources.
One of the most basic preparations for emergencies is putting together a family emergency kit. Unfortunately, if you search online you will find that there is a wide variety of what exactly constitutes a “family emergency kit.”
You have on one extreme “kits” recommended by so-called “doomsday preppers” that are so detailed and composed of hundreds of items that stretch the definition of “kit.” You literally need an entire room to house this much stuff.
On the other end you have minimalist kits which may lack many essential items and focus only on basic survival.
This article will hopefully help you in making sense of what a “family emergency kit” should contain. We looked into different versions of the kit and summarized the essentials into a few basic and easy-to-remember categories.
Category 1: Food, water, medicine, and first aid
The most basic emergency kits focus on basic survival. For this purpose, you will need non-perishable food, water good for 3 days for each person, prescription and non-prescription medicine, and a first aid kit.
The water requirement makes this kit category bulky, so a possible alternative would be water purification tablets. However, these tablets are only useful if, of course, there is some kind of water source available.
Category 2: Communications
The next thing you have to ensure is that you can still communicate with the outside world in an emergency. This includes items for two-way communication (cellphones, chargers, extra batteries) and even one-way communication (AM radio, preferably with hand-crank charging).
We should also never underestimate the value that a low-tech item such as a whistle can bring in an emergency.
A flashlight might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to communication, but in certain situations it can be useful for communication as well.
Category 3: Personal hygiene
Personal hygiene can go a long way in helping your family survive an emergency. Infections caused by lack of personal hygiene can derail your family’s chances of survival in an extreme emergency.
Be sure to pack basic hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, alcohol, and hand sanitizers, as well as more specific items such as sanitary napkins and toilet paper.
We can also include under this category a change of clothes, including underwear.
Category 4: Money and important documents
You will need some form of money of course in an emergency. These days you can have digital wallets, credit cards, debit cards, and whatnot. But in truly drastic situations there is no substitute for cash. This is because when electricity, internet, and phone services are down, digital wallets and cards are useless.
Important documents that you need to take with you are ID cards, insurance documents, passports, and the like. You need to bring only copies (better if digital) of some important documents, so you don’t risk losing the originals in transit. But if the place you are storing these documents in (i.e. you home) is also under threat, it’s best to bring the originals with you. Keep your small IDs, passbooks, etc in a reusable and waterproof organizer.
Other Important Considerations
It is important to note that the actual contents of your family’s emergency kit or go-to bag depends on your specific situation. For instance, if you have a baby or a toddler, you will need to add essential baby-related items to your kit. If you have young kids, it may be a good idea to bring some simple forms of entertainment to keep them occupied during stressful times. If you have senior-age family members the exact contents of your kit will have to accommodate them as well.
Perhaps the most essential contents of your emergency kit are not tangible at all. These include a clear mind and a sense of cooperation among family members. These two things can go a long way in helping your family survive any emergency.
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