It’s always a good idea to maintain a survival kit, or make sure the one you already has is up to date and fully stocked. Even if you’re not in a particular disaster zone, fires and other natural disasters can happen anywhere. With luck, you’ll never need it, but if you ever do, you’ll be glad you had it.
Ready Made Survival Kit
You can buy ready-made survival kits like this one at Amazon at a lot of online and offline stores. This is a particularly good option if you (understandably) just can’t bring yourself to think about having to evacuate your home and run for your life.
Any of these kits are a great start. That’s right – “start”, because they aren’t necessarily going to contain everything that you and your household will need, and we’ll get to that in more detail later.
You’ll notice some of the ready-made survival kits specify they’re for a certain number of people, or a certain type of emergency (earthquake, hurricane, etc.), or for a certain number of people for a certain number of hours. Most kits are designed to give you about three days’ worth of food and water. By that point, rescue workers will most likely have reached you.
These kits, or some of their components, have to be replaced every few years, as the food and water have a shelf life. I like the ones that are in the form of a backpack. Grab it, strap it on, and go with your hands free. But if the kit you like doesn’t come in a backpack, you can just buy a camping backpack for it.
Aside from food and water, these survival kits usually contain first aid tools for patching up scrapes, warming someone in shock, etc. Most contain LED flashlights or lanterns, radios that can be powered by handcrank or solar and have mobile cell phone chargers with universal adapters for any phone.
But note: these adapters usually require a car charger kit rather than a charger that plugs into an outlet. Check out this model, which is powered by solar or hand cranking. It’s also a weather radio.
Make sure you have one for your phone, and keep it in your kit. These kits also contain sanitation supplies to help you keep clean.
Specialized survival kits
There are survival kits specially designed for the needs of pets. If your pet isn’t a dog or cat, you’ll have to make your own.
It’s a great idea to keep a kit in every car, in case you find yourself having to evacuate in a hurry. Then you have at least one kit with you, no matter where you are when disaster happens.
How many survival kits should you have?
One Near the Front Door
It’s essential to have at least enough kits to cover your family near the front door or most likely exit you would use in an emergency. Plus kits covering your pets.
One in the Car?
If you’re out driving around when a hurricane/earthquake/forest fire prevents you from getting home, you’ll have to take shelter wherever you are. That means you need some survival gear with you.
There are kits designed specifically for cars, which have tools that can help if something happens to your car. We recommend having the tools you need for car trouble in your car at all times, not as part of a survival kit.
The survival kit should be food, water, camping gear, medication, etc. Some of it will expire over time and need to be replaced, but the car tools will stay with your car until you get a different one.
One in Every Bedroom
It could be expensive, and even unnecessary, to maintain survival kits in every bedroom. On the other hand, if there’s a house fire and your best exit is your bedroom window, you might be glad you had a kit to grab on the way out.
Look at your particular situation. If your home is very spread out, you might want to keep survival kits in every bedroom and even teach your kids to grab them in case of fire or emergency. You might even stash clothes and shoes in them so everyone will have at least something to wear.
What you definitely should keep in your bedroom, whether or not you keep survival kits there: a crowbar under the bed. It could help you pry open a door or window if an earthquake or tornado has caused the room you’re in to collapse.
Once your kids are old enough, you can also train them to use a crowbar to get themselves out if they become trapped in a disaster.
What to add to your kit
I mentioned above that the ready-made kits are just a start. Why? Because you, your household and any pets you have may have additional needs.
If the people in your household take any medications, stash a 3-5 day supply of each medication – carefully labeled with expiration dates – in your kit (or each kit if you have more than one). Always replace these pills before they expire.
Talk to your doctor if you have questions about how often your medications should be replaced and/or need them to write you a refill a bit sooner than usual to collect the pills you need for your stash.
It can be difficult to get extra prescription medications from insurance companies. Sometimes you can get them by going around your insurance, if your doctor will write an “emergency” prescription.
Sometimes you may need to call the insurer. Laws vary from state to state and country to country.
Keep contact information for all family and friends on waterproof paper in your kit. This stuff will survive rain, though not being underwater for a long time, so you’ll also want to keep it in a waterproof pouch.
You may be thinking you have everything you need in your phone, but it’s easier to leave a phone behind in a panic than you might think.
Also write down your insurance contact info: your account numbers, the phone numbers, the name of your agent. The sooner you’re able to make a claim, the sooner your life can get back to normal.
You should store your original birth certificates, property deeds, wills, living wills and so on in safety deposit boxes or a similar off-site, secure space.
But if it looks like you may lose your home, copies of these documents in your kit may prove invaluable. If you need to apply for FEMA aid, for example, you may need to prove you’re who you say you are, and that you own your home and that it’s insured.
You could keep the papers on a flash drive in a waterproof case, but don’t rely on the assumption you’ll be able to find a computer to run it. Paper is always available.
Foods for anyone with food allergies
If anyone in your household has food allergies, make sure the MREs or food bars in your kit are safe for them to eat. If not, find food items suitable for your allergy-sufferer and stock the kit with them.
Remember to use these and replace them before their shelf life expires.
Extras for pets
There are some good kits online for dogs and cats, but you may want to make your own anyway – and if you have more “exotic” animals like birds or lizards or even bunnies, you’re pretty much on your own. You may need:
- A leash, travel cage, etc. – something to contain a frightened pet and keep it near you where you can protect it.
- Poop bags.
- Fresh bedding for caged pets. Bedding is going to be a heavy item to carry, so only pack enough for a few days.
- A 3-5 day supply of pet food. Remember to use and replace this every now and then, before it expires.
- Talk to your vet about first aid supplies specific to your pet. For example, you may only need bandages for dogs and cats, but birds bleed quickly and need styptic pencils to staunch the flow. There are also sedatives which a vet might recommend stashing if there’s any concern a highly strung pet will be especially hard to handle in a panic.
Bring some playing cards, travel games or puzzle books – something distracting to do while you’re waiting for help. Some of the ready-made kits come with these items. It may seem unnecessary, but it’s a great way to keep kids and nervous or bored adults distracted.
It’s a great idea to have some cash on hand – a few hundred, if you can manage it – in your survival kit. In case of a local disaster, ATMs and credit card machines may be down. Cash may be the only way to get goods from shops.