Today we are going to tackle the topic of building an emergency kit in hurricane and flood-related areas. As a result of the major hurricanes that have struck the mainland U.S. and our territories I thought this would be a good focus for the first Weekly Survivor Article.
Let me start out by introducing the series. In the West Weekly series we will tackle various preparedness, survival, and disaster readiness topics. The idea will be to teach you a valuable skill that you can use to be ready for worst. We’ll be publishing this article weekly on Fridays, so please subscribe to see our newest articles. Once a month, we’ll also send out the series with our current specials to anyone that is interested in receiving it.
Alright, let’s get started! What we are talking about today is a Hurricane Readiness Kit. As you may already know if you are following us, we sell a pre-assembled Hurricane Emergency Kit, the WSG Hurricane Emergency Kit. This basic kit contains nearly everything you need to survive a short duration after a natural disaster like this, before additional help arrives.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s start talking about building your own kit! Understanding what needs to go into your own kit is a valuable survival skill. It also lets you customize your kit to the specific needs you have. For instance, I grew up in an area that suffered from earthquakes, floods, and wildfires. This means my emergency kit needs were quite different than from someone who lives in a hurricane or tornado zone.
We’ll begin with something that isn’t necessarily the most important, but it necessary. We need something to put these items into. I usually recommend a backpack or bucket, but the most important thing should be to try and find something waterproof, or that you can make waterproof. A backpack works because there are sprays that will allow you to make water resistant. A bucket with a tight sealing lid works even better. If you decide on a backpack make sure it is large enough to carry everything we have on our list. An important feature making an emergency kit is making sure it is portable. After a major disaster you may find that your home is no longer a safe place to stay due to flooding, storm surge waters, or even personal safety concerns like looters. Having a portable kit means you can leave and still have the confidence that you have what you need to make it through a few days.
So, we’ll look to put together a kit that can sustain one person for up to 3 days. As we have seen from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico the after effects of a disaster may have much longer consequences than 3 days, but this should provide you with enough supplies to sustain yourself until you can find help.
The first thing we want to tackle is water. To keep our pack light, we’ll pack three things. The first is two 12 oz. water bottles. These don’t take up a lot of space, they can be reused when you have a clean drinking water source, and they will give you enough access to water to stay at least at minimum hydration levels. Next, you’ll want to pack some water purification tablets. I recommend at least 10. You can typically find these at major suppliers like Wal-Mart in their outdoors and campaign areas. Next we want to pack a water purification bottle or a purification straw. LifeStraw make several great options including both straws and bottles. This will extend your access to water. I urge caution here because there are some microbes and chemicals that can still make it through, and getting sick is something you want to avoid. During a flood event water purity is a major issue, so be very cautious with the water source you select.
Next we’ll tackle food. In my opinion the only way to be prepared is high calorie food bars. These bars are light, give you a great calorie punch, don’t take up a lot of space. Look for something that has at least 400 calories, and pack three of them.
Next, lets talk about shelter and keeping warm. You’ll need an emergency sleeping bag. These special sleeping bags are light and water resistant. They will help keep you warm during the rain and flooding, and even help keep you cool during a hot day. Hurricane season can have that nasty bi-polar weather effect where it is cold and pouring one day, then sunny the next. You’ll also want to pack a poncho. Any style will work, as long as it is waterproof. This will help keep the rain off of you, and reduce the risk of other ailments that come from being water logged or too cold. As a bonus, if you don’t like the chances of having to sleep outside you can include a small one-person tent. These are typically compact, and can be strapped onto the outside of your pack or bucket keeping you fully portable.
Okay, now that we have basics out of the way lets talk about light and communications. The first thing you should include is a lantern/radio combo, preferably something run on a dynamo that can be wound up so you don’t have to worry about batteries. You’ll also want to include a waterproof flashlight. With this something solar powered and dynamo powered will be useful. It isn’t a great idea to leave your flashlight on all night for light, or even for long periods of time. For this, an emergency candle is a better solution. I would recommend something with at least a 30 hour life. Of course you’ll need some waterproof matches to make sure you can light the candle. I also suggest some glow sticks. These can be useful, and can help you be seen when necessary. One emergency candle and three to five glow sticks should suffice. Always stick to green because it is the easiest to spot and is often the brightest. You’ll also want to include a survival whistle.
Three days of yelling for help can make your voice go hoarse. A whistle is load, easy to hear from a distance, and can be the thing that helps you get in touch with help that might not be coming close enough to you to hear a yell. Finally, some sort of help flag. Orange works best, it attracts the eyes and is often associated with emergency. Red would be the next best color. Make sure you have a message emblazoned on it, like “HELP” or “SOS.” These flags can be hung out or waved when people are at a distance so they know you need help.
Now lets move onto some tools that will help you out. The first is the trusted “Swiss army knife.” Any type of strong and durable multi-function knife will be good for this. I suggest carrying at least one pair of leather work gloves. These can save your hands when you have to pick through things, or climb over things to get where you are going. Keeping yourself from injury is a major part of proper survival preparedness. Along with gloves I also suggest a N95 respirator. When air pollutants might be a risk, or smells become overwhelming, having this will make your day a whole lot better.
Another useful tool to have is a paracord. These can be purchased as wrapped bracelets to reduce the space requirements. Paracord can have hundreds of uses while you are on the go. I also suggest some safety goggles. High winds after a hurricane and cause debris to be thrown, as well as digging through the mess afterwards. Keeping your eyes safe is vital!
The next item is a good sturdy role of duct tape. As we all know duct tape can fix anything. Well, maybe not anything, but you’d be surprised what duct tape can do for you. You’ll also want a tri-function hatchet (usually hatchet, prybar, and a hammer), and some nails. In heavy winds, things fall apart. You’ll tools might be far away from you or difficult to find. The hatchet will save the day when you need to chop something, pry something open, or drive a nail into something to secure it.
Let’s move on to hygiene. If you are female make sure you have some feminine products on hand. You don’t know when disaster will strike and that’s one thing you’ll want to be ready for. Aside from that, everyone should include the basic daily hygiene, most likely in travel sizes. Those are:
- Wet wipes
- Shampoo/Condition (use a combo version to save space)
- Dental Floss Picks
- Washcloths (3) – tight packed work the best
- Hair Comb, no bigger than 5 inches
For men, they will also want to include a razor and shave gel or cream, in the portable size. You’ll also want to include a small first aid kit. Something with antibiotic ointment and bandages. Also something with some anti-itch creams for the inevitable bug bits. Something with burn creams and painkillers is also useful.
Lastly, you should include some plastic bags for handling waste. Its an embarrassing topic, but if plumbing isn’t working you’ll need somewhere to put your waste that is sanitary. Many large stores sell infectious waste bags, but in a pinch grocery store bags can work.
Once you have all of your items collected fit them into your bag or bucket, and you’ll be ready to go. If you have multiple family members you can build a custom bag for each person, and increase the ability for each family member to help the others. Don’t overstuff your bags, if needed find a bigger bag or bucket. A gym back with a good strap may work.
- Don’t assume you’ll have access to your car, roads could be flooded or filled with debris.
- Don’t assume you can stay at home. Your home may become damaged, fill with water, or be raided by looters.
- Don’t overpack. Take what you can carry, but only what you need.
- Don’t carry too much water. Water is important, but it is heavy. If you are worried about water, lean heavier toward carrying more purification tools.
- Put your emergency kit where it will be safe and easy to get to. If your house is flooded you don’t want to have to dive underwater to get your kits. You also don’t want to have to dig through the debris of your home.