Posted by: prepare4 | March 25, 2009

Surviving the Unthinkable-14 Favorite 72 hour kit Tips

Surviving the Unthinkable
By Carolyn Nicolaysen

In 1989, just minutes after “The Pretty Big One” — a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in San Francisco — a policeman walked up to a news camera in the Mission District surrounded by collapsed houses, fires and human frenzy, and warned the people of his city: “You’re on your own for 72 hours!”

Being prepared for sudden disaster is different than laying aside a year’s supply, which involves motives of thrift and provident living. It’s about surviving the “unthinkable.” And because sudden disasters are unthinkable to so many, most are unprepared for the survival issues that will immediately confront them.

Already, we are moving on from the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. The unused emergency trailers that were stockpiled by the hundreds just outside the hurricane zone stood unused for lack of timely distribution, and are now being auctioned or simply given away to states and Indian reservations.

Levees in New Orleans that were rebuilt and reinforced may not withstand future storms much better than the last, according to those who rebuilt them. And so it goes in our own communities. We are all vulnerable to something — hurricane, earthquake, flood, wildfire, ice storm, pandemic, or terrorist event.

During the first 72 hours of a large-scale emergency, first responders’ will be stretched far beyond their normal planning and resources. Demands on their response will be heavy, even with a full staff, but in reality, they are likely to be shorthanded.

A recent survey by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health they found that 40 percent of public health workers say they would be unlikely to report to work during a pandemic. There were two main reason —first the fear of infecting their family; and second, the need to care for their own family’s needs.

The Johns Hopkins survey points out that a 40% absentee rate is consistent with emergency response during past disasters. Public health workers, firefighters, police, relief agency volunteers, and even the National Guard have their own families in need of care. Responsibilities at home, isolation due to bad roadway conditions, loss of communication via phone lines and cell phones, all make response within the first 72 hours difficult.

With limited resources, public and private relief agencies must focus on the most life-threatening situations first. There will be people trapped, people with health emergencies who need to be transported, power and phone lines down, ruptured gas and water mains to repair, fires to extinguish, looting to curtail, and all this with a limited staff.

FEMA has warned us to prepare for at least 72 hours on our own.  The Department of Homeland Security has warned us to prepare.  Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has warned us to prepare.  And most importantly, church leaders have warned us for over 70 years to take personal responsibility for preparedness.

President Gordon B Hinckley said the following in General Conference of October 2005: 

I do not hesitate to say that this old world is no stranger to calamities and catastrophes. Those of us who read and believe the scriptures are aware of the warnings of prophets concerning catastrophes that have come to pass and are yet to come to pass… If anyone has any doubt concerning the terrible things that can and will afflict mankind, let him read the 24th chapter of Matthew… What we have experienced in the past was all foretold, and the end is not yet. Just as there have been calamities in the past, we expect more in the future. What do we do? …Someone has said, it was not raining when Noah built the ark. But he built it, and the rains came.”

To help you take action, here are my 14 favorite tips for getting started on the first step of your family emergency plan, a 72-hour kit:

1.  All great 72-hour kits begin with a great backpack. There are many places to purchase kits online, but not all packs are created equal.  Make sure your pack is large enough for both your survival and personal items. You do not want to be forced to carry a second pack as the goal is to keep your hands free to care for children or pets, and to clear debris.

Packs should have padded shoulder straps for comfort and be supported from the waist when carried, for optimum support. A pack with several compartments will allow you to separate items and organize your kit, enabling you to find things quickly. Purchase a bright colored backpack which can easily be found in a cluttered closet or cupboard at the last minute. If you decide you want a pack with wheels make sure it is also a backpack. 

If possible, load the pack and try it on before you purchase one.  Many times rolling backpacks are very uncomfortable to wear because the frame hits your back or hips.  You will not regret spending a little more to get a good backpack, but you will regret buying a cheap one and adding a backache to your stress.

Each member of the family should have his own backpack.  Nothing will help children feel more secure than having their own things.  Purchase a pack that is sized so your child can carry it easily.

2.  Food in your kits should be rated for a five-year shelf life.  MRE’s and high calorie energy bars are the best choices.  Be realistic here.  Unless you are very disciplined, you will not rotate these items every 6 months. Don’t be caught in the “penny wise and pound foolish” trap.  You will end up spending more money on food you throw away than if you had bought the “good stuff” to begin with.

It is not recommended that you store dried foods such as oriental noodles or instant oatmeal, because these will require your precious water supply to prepare. Canned foods are very heavy and will also need to be rotated. One last tip… remember your eating utensils.

3. Purchase pouched or boxed water that has a five-year shelf life. Bottled water purchased at the store is good for just 6-12 months.  In all likelihood, water supplies will be very limited. For this reason, never add jerky, salted nuts, or other salty foods to your kit because they will increase your thirst.

4. Matches… now this is a controversial issue.  I recommend a flashlight and glow sticks in your 72-hour kit instead of matches.  In the first 72 hours after a disaster it is likely there will be gas line ruptures or water heaters whose pilot lights have gone out. Many people have lost their homes after the initial threat was passed because they lit a match.  Matches should only be included in a grab and go kit for use after the original threat is passed.  Never store batteries in your flashlight or radio.  Store them together in an outside pocket of your backpack.

5. Keep an extra set of keys: home, office, vacation house, RV, car(s), safety deposit box, etc. at the top of your kit or in a front pocket for fast access.  Also keep your flashlight and a whistle easily accessible (a whistle, because it can be heard farther and for longer than your voice can carry).

6. Each member of the family should have an identification card in his kit. In addition to their own cards, parents should also have a copy of each child’s ID card in their kit. During an emergency you may not be able to remember important information. Each card should include: Parent’s names, address, and home and cell phone numbers plus numbers for close family and friends.  Also include the name, address and phone number for a local contact person, an out of state contact person, the name and phone numbers of your doctor, dentist, optometrist, and church leaders. List any medications, special medical conditions, and allergies on the card as well.

7. Each kit should have several family photos. Include individual photos of each family member as well as a family group photo. Individual photos may be used to post if you are separated from a family member. A family photo can be used to prove a relationship if there is a question when you are reunited by emergency personnel.

8. A multi-function tool or pocketknife is a must.  These can provide everything from can openers to screw drivers.  When you purchase a multi-function tool, look for one that has a sheath with a belt loop.  It will be a great help to have your tool readily available as you deal with the aftermath of a disaster.

9.  At least one AM/FM radio should be available per adult family member.  You might consider having one radio that can be operated with a hand crank or by solar power.  Also make sure your radio has both AM and FM bands.

10. Everyone, including children, should have basic first aid items in their own kit. However, a child’s kit should not include medications such as pain relievers. A larger, more complete first aid kit should be included in a grab-and-go kit or kept in your car. Consider including as well, a backup pair of prescription glasses.

11. Emergency blankets are amazingly versatile.  They are inexpensive, lightweight, and should be included in every 72-hour kit and kept in every vehicle you own.

12. You won’t find this on many lists, but I consider them a must have — biohazard bags.  These can be used for sanitation as a porta-potty liner or to dispose of medical or hazardous waste.  Their bright red color and large labels make them easy to identify so children can be easily warned to stay away.

13. The Boy Scout Handbook is an incredible resource for all types or emergency information and solutions.  Include one per family in your 72-hour kits.

14. This should probably be number 2 after your good backpack, and the first thing to add — a small set of scriptures appropriate to the age of the family member.  Nothing will be more comfort in an emergency than the voice of the Lord in scripture.

Take a small step every week and shortly you will be prepared to meet the future without fear.  If you have experience from using your 72-hour kit, please share what you learned with us.


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