In the US, today is the first day of Daylight Savings Time. This change to and from Daylight Savings Time is great for remembering that you should not only change your clocks, but check your emergency kit and check your fire alarm/carbon monoxide detector batteries. While I’m a public health geek through and through, my emergency kit isn’t only food and flashlights. I have tech supplies too! Below I’ll cover both, but think about setting these up more as a marathon not a sprint. Trying to acquire even just the home emergency kit can cost quite a bit of money so for many of us it involves some saving and some bit by bit shopping.
Home Emergency Kit
Food – Make sure to have non-perishables such as peanut butter, tuna fish or meal replacement bars on hand and to have enough for everyone living with you for 3 days. Maybe consider extras if you have guests. Don’t forget a can opener and food for your pets!
Water – 1 gallon per day per person. You can buy water at the store or purify your own and replace it on schedule to prevent having contaminated water. Use a clean container if you do this!
Flashlights – Don’t rely on your cell to give you light! You’ll run the battery down faster. Get a good flashlight that has a bright beam. It can be one that costs a dollar. Make sure to get extra batteries for it (or that it has a working crank) while you’re at the store. You could also consider getting a headlamp to serve as one of your flashlights. Avoid using candles as they can increase your risk of having a fire.
Clothes for each season
Copies of important papers like social security cards, birth certificates, passports
Cash – In an emergency, you don’t necessarily have access to ATMs or have the ability to use credit cards/debit cards. Plan ahead!
Medications – This includes your prescription meds. Ask your doctor for an extra prescription for this purpose.
Toiletries – Deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper…you get the drift
Books – The paper kind. I support ereaders but they use battery power like other electronics. Maybe even toss in a book light for good measure.
Games – Again, non-electronic ones are best but if you have a battery powered system for kids, grab extra batteries to make sure they stay calm and entertained.
First Aid Kit – Enough first aid supplies for 3 days. I bought a pre-made kit meant for hiking and added items to it to meet my needs.
Cell Phone – You could rely on your personal phone (hopefully you can get extra batteries) and/or grab a cheap prepaid phone for the express purpose to be used in the kit. Keep it charged!
Emergency radio – A battery powered, crank powered or solar powered radio is great in emergencies.
Additions for the car:
First Aid Kit
Blankets or sleeping bag
Technology Emergency Kit:
While technology might be the last thing on your mind in an emergency, having a backup of your hard drive with important files can be useful if you have to evacuate and you can’t take computers with you or if they run out of battery power. You may also have a serious need to place a phone call and without a working phone, it’s next to impossible.
In Case of Emergency info on your smartphone – Your emergency doesn’t always leave you able to take care of yourself. Put ICE info on your phone on the home screen or on the lock screen. How you do this depends on your phone’s operating system but look for free apps like Emergency ICE or Ice Standard on Android and CloseCall (supposedly no longer available in US app store) or Ice Standard on iPhone. I use Close Call in combo with RxmindMe (free version) so if I’m in trouble someone knows who to call, what meds I take, what I’m allergic to, etc. An ICE memo on Ellie’s Android phone helped us know all this when she got sick a couple years ago so I know for sure it works.
Other useful apps: The American Red Cross has a good series of apps you might be interested in (hurricane, first aid, find a shelter, etc) and you might want to grab your pharmacy’s app for quick access to your medication info.
Extra batteries for your laptop – You can buy a backup battery for many laptops these days. Especially if you don’t have a backup power supply to charge the battery you’ve got, give yourself a few more hours for playing Monkey Island.
Emergency power supply – This comes in handy if you’ve got a lot of electronics or household appliances you want to keep running. Use one meant for indoor use, such as this one from Duracell to prevent fumes/death hazard indoors. If you want something more mobile, try something like this and if you want something specifically for your phone, check out this mobile power pack.
Backups of important documents in “the cloud”, your email or a program like Evernote – The same list of important documents above is still subject to water damage or getting lost. Just in case you’re unable to access paper copies, you’ve at least got proof of who you are elsewhere. We’ll just hope those servers don’t die.
In Case of Emergency Flash Drive – Just as you backup your system a million different ways, you should have enough backups of your important documents. Check out this suggestion.
Camera – I love my camera so it goes everywhere with me. But you should also have a small point and shoot for taking photos of damage of your home, vehicle or just the conditions in general to make it easier to file insurance claims or let family members know what you’re going through. If you’re outside the home, a small point and shoot makes you less obvious than a large DSLR. Be sure to have backup batteries (charged) and a large memory card (>4GB) so you don’t have to delete any photos. Even though your phone can do everything these days, you run the battery down quickly in an emergency if you use it for that.
I’ve been putting my kit together over some months. I’ve still got some items to put in the kit, like jumper cables and saving for an emergency power supply. I keep an eye out for good sales of the items I need, particularly batteries and first aid kit/supplies. As Black Friday approaches, you’ll be seeing more sales on the tech items such as external hard drives. No matter what all you have in your kit, get a good container for it. A 20 gallon tote can help protect from moisture and can help carry items. One of the easy carry craft kits or a fishing tackle box could be great for organization. A backpack is a great idea if you have to walk long distances. Just in case I have to quickly leave my home, I have the most important things to me in one location so I can quickly pack them and move. An emergency isn’t the time to prepare!
In the comments, post pictures of your emergency kit(s) and list out (or post links for) suggestions you have for others to include in their kits. Thanks for reading!