I've wanted to write this for months and just didn't find a good time, because when is a good time to talk about disaster? Before it hits, that's when. I bet a lot of us think about and even get anxiety about worst-case scenarios more often than we care to admit. I say let's talk about it and maybe even do something, so we can put our minds back on courageous living, where they belong.
A couple years ago, I admitted to my husband my fear of him dying and realized it revolved around not knowing how I'd go on. I mean, practically, what in the world would I do next? He proceeded to list the steps of what I'd do to grieve and get our affairs in order for myself and the kids--including how long to mourn, when to find a job, and how long to wait should I choose to remarry.
It sounds a little morbid, but the freedom that gave me was worth the awkward hard tear-filled (on my part) conversation. Now, those simple steps are in my "in case of death" folder, along with a Real Simple excerpt about places to send copies of a death certificate to prevent identity theft of a lost loved one, Jewish mourning rituals from Mudhouse Sabbath that I thought was beautiful, and other tidbits I hope to never need. But if the unthinkable happens, I'll be glad I did something to prepare.
It's the same way I'm choosing to think about disaster preparedness, whether it's a tornado (because we get those here in Nebraska), an earthquake (we're close to a fault line and felt our first tremble last month), a fire (can happen anywhere), or even an end-of-the-world type run-for-the-hills scenario (I've dreamed about it a few times and believe it will happen eventually).
I can live with my head in the sand and watch my life fall apart should an emergency hit. Or I can do something to prepare, then put my focus back on courageous living. I'd rather courageous living.
A friend introduced me to the idea of a "bugout bag" (supplies ready in an easy-to-carry backpack to grab and go if needed). She also shared a few example lists. I compiled what makes sense for us into the following 30 supplies on my checklist to have ready for a disaster or emergency. Lots of these are things I want to make sure we're keeping at least mildly stocked up in our home. Each one is also a version I want to put in backpacks for each of our family members that we can easily throw on our backs and head to safety if needed.
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1. FoodI've always had the mentality of stocking up on beans and rice, but that actually takes too much resources (time, water, heat) to be a good survival option. Instead, I'll be sure we always have some basic pantry items stocked in the house instead of having bare cupboards every time I go grocery shopping. And each backpack will have some hefty (high-nutrient, high-calorie), long-shelf-life survival bars.
2. WaterWe can only survive a few days without water. A minimum amount is one gallon per person per day, and an additional gallon daily per person for cooking and hygiene. We're going to start keeping backup gallons at home--enough for one gallon per person in the family (and pets) for three days. Our survival backpacks will also have smaller water bottles (since they're heavy and bulky), as well as a good filter (like the Sawyer filter or LifeStraw) and/or water tablets to be able to turn a sketchy source of water into something we could drink if needed.
3. LightsourcesHeadlamps, flashlights, the necessary batteries to run them, and glow sticks. The battery-powered options offer good direct light for walking or finding our way in the dark. The glow sticks are a light, compact, no-power option that will do in a pinch.
4. Handcrank Emergency RadioHow would we know about any emergency alerts if we didn't have access to internet or tv or our phones? A handcrank radio might sound like a pain, but it could end up being a key form of communication in an emergency situation.
5. Multi-Tool / Knife / AxeA multi-tool is more than a pocket knife. Depending on the one you buy, it could have all sorts of handy tools and gadgets. We don't have one, but will be shopping around for something to include in our bug-out bag. A good, sturdy knife is necessary, especially if one isn't in the multi-tool. It could be a Leatherman (again, something we don't have and need to buy). Or a larger blade option like a small axe that could be used to cut smaller logs or sticks. Some multitool options have an axe head and/or pocket-knife in the end.
6. Rope/CordGood strong rope, or shock or parachute cord, is kind of a stereotypical survival staple. My favorite option is the paracord band that a friend made as his watch band. It can be homemade or bought already made. Some paracord bracelets also have tools like a compass, flint fire starter, whistle, and small blade.
7. ClothesWhat type of clothing we include will depend on the space in our packs. Likely nice wool socks, maybe even a versatile, quick-dry pair of pants and a quick-dry long sleeve shirt.
8. MedicationIf you take prescription meds, it's a good idea to stay on top of refilling them. I also learned about keeping anti-diarrheal medicine in a survival backpack since diarrhea is pretty common and can quickly lead to life-threatening dehydration if water sources are limited. Also, a good multivitamin could come in handy when on a limited survival diet.
9. Stainless Steel CanteenA canteen is a good BPA-free way to carry water, and some options can double as a way to cook or heat over a fire.
10. Emergency BlanketA mylar emergency blanket is compact, lightweight, and a good survival option for cold or wet conditions.
11. Bug RepellentSurvival situations related to storms or flooding can bring bugs that carry diseases. If we're going to be stuck outside, a good bug repellent can help reduce risk of unnecessary sickness.
12. Compass and MapA compass for direction (something outside of your phone), and a paper map of our local area for any scenario when we need to get out. I like the compass options that come on/with other tools because they're more compact. Especially the one on a paracord bracelet (#6 above) would be handy.
13. Fire-Starting ToolsLighters, mini box matches, flint, cotton balls, and Vaseline. A couple options for starting fire will make sure at least one of them will work.
14. Safety Whistle and Signal MirrorThese can come in handy in getting someone's attention whether trapped or lost. Some of the multi-tools and paracord bracelets come with those.
15. Ziplock BagsA good handy solution for rationing foods or waterproofing things.
16. Hand SanitizerKeeping the unnecessary sickness-causing germs at bay.
17. Flexible First Aid KitA first aid kit with the basics of bandages and medical tape and rubbing alcohol, etc. in a flexible carrying case that's compact and lightweight.
18. Survival HandbookI'm going to find a handy survival guide to read (or at least browse) now to familiarize myself to survival basics, then keep it in our bug-out bag for reference when needed. A guide of local wild edibles could be handy, as well as basic knot-tying, fire-starting and other survival basics.
19. Duct TapeA handyman essential for home and survival. My brother even wrapped a bunch around a lighter so it's more compact, but still able to be pulled apart to use.
20. CashNot being able to get to the money in your bank account is a very real scenario in today's electronic world. Having cash available at home is essential. Also, we'll have some specifically in our bug-out bag. It will be kept in the fire/water proof document holder (# 24 below).
21. PonchoA basic rain poncho is an easy way to keep ourselves and our packs dry. Plus, you know, compact and lightweight.
22. TarpA tarp can be laid on a wet ground to keep us and our stuff dry. Or it can be strung between trees for a makeshift tent/shelter. In a pinch, the mylar emergency blankets or ponchos could also be used for this.
23. Deck of CardsI wouldn't have thought of this, but love this idea. In a survival scenario, our minds can play games on us. Being able to pass time when we're stuck and bored can be really important. I'll likely include a small Bible and a small notebook and pencil in my survival back pack, because peace of mind could be everything.
24. Important Documents + InformationWe'll be keeping our official documents and information (birth certificates, social security cards, will docs, etc.) in a fire/water proof container. I will also make copies of important documents in a fire/water proof document holder in our bug-out bag in a case where we would need to flee our home and might need identification. I will also put together a sheet of emergency contacts--all family and close friends, their contact information including cell numbers and a landline for their home or work.
25. Wet Wipes / Toilet PaperWet wipes have become a daily staple around here. They could come in handy to not waste precious water for basic cleaning. Also, toilet paper. But definitely wipes.
26. Masks (n95)I don't know exactly what survival situations we're preparing for. A mask could be handy in avoiding sickness or toxins in the air.
27. BandanaThis is a camping staple, and will definitely be in our survival packs. Wear it on your head, get it wet for a cooling cloth, wrap up a wound, wrangle crazy survival hair, dry or clean one of your tools.
28. Menstrual CupI know, no one wants to read about a menstrual cup when they're looking at info for a survival bag. The Diva and Lena cups have been my go-to in lieu of pads or tampons for years (read more >> here). Even if you're not excited about using a cup every month, if you still get your monthly cycle, a cup is a simple, compact, no-waste option to have on hand. I'll be keeping a spare in my survival bag.
29. Baby GearTwo of our kids are old enough that I'll start working on creating survival packs for each of them to grab and carry if needed. Our youngest is still baby enough that we'd need a small supply of diapers for him, as well as our Ergo carrier because he wouldn't be able to walk for long. Any changes of clothes or anything for him would also need to go in my husband's or my bag.
30. BackpackOf course, we need a decent backpack to put all of our supplies in. Daniel and I both have backpacks from our college days that we're not using and are in good condition that I plan on using as our "bugout bags." I want them small/light enough to be easy to grab in any scenario, and still full enough to have as many of the above essential supplies as we can possibly fit.
There are plenty of other things that could go in a survival kit if there's room: Sleeping pad and sleeping bag; hat, gloves, wool shirt, socks, jacket; bug net; cooking and eating utensils. Just to name a few. We'll start with gathering the 30+ items above and go from there.
What will we do with these bags? They'll be filled and stored in a handy place, and rotated as needed (i.e., bottled water, food, medication, etc.). If there's a tornado, we'll have our tennis shoes on and our bags on or near us when we find shelter in the basement. If there's a fire and there's time to grab anything, this bag is what we'd grab. If there's flash flooding, we'd grab our bags when we get out of our home. You get the idea. These bags would become our go-to for any scenario we need to flee our home in an emergency.
I'll also keep these tools in mind when I think about stashing a few supplies in our car, giving my husband a few items to keep at his desk at work, and even some items the kids can have in their backpacks daily at school or I'll keep in my bag. When disaster strikes, there's no telling where we'll be, and I'd rather do something to prepare now and then let my mind get back to, yes, living.
For more information:
Read these 10 Disaster Preparedness Tips. Checkout out the "Are You Ready?" section of Nebraska's Emergency Management Agency (or Google info from your own state). Explore Ready.gov. Browse the American Red Cross Emergency Resource Library or their 3 Steps to Prepare for Emergencies. The National Center for Disaster Preparedness also has 5 Action Steps to Preparedness.
Find supplies at:
Amazon, The Red Cross Store, local Walmart or Target, thrift store, etc.
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