When planning for emergencies and the great unknown, there are many websites, supply lists and online stores that offer help and emergency info, but how can you know if you and your family are really prepared? Is your 72-hour-kit battle ready? Here is a practical list of the top ten mistakes people most commonly make when getting their 72-hour-kit ready for use.
1. Faulty Equipment
Most emergency supplies come with a shelf life, an expiration date, or sometimes they just don’t work properly due to age or faulty manufacturing. Is your rope in good condition? Knives sharpened? Medications up to date? Are all of your bags airtight and equipment working properly? If your kit was assembled a decade ago, chances are it will need some updating before it’s ready to go. The best way to know how your 72-hour-kit holds up against the elements is to test it! You will find out pretty quickly if everything is working well, if you packed enough food, and which items you need to add to the pack, because if a time comes that you really need it, it’s too late to go shopping.
2. Can you Use your Equipment?
This one might seem simple, but all the emergency equipment in the world won’t be helpful if you can’t use it at need. Can you use your fire starting kit? If it includes a magnifying glass, will you be able to use it if it is cloudy or at night? Can you set up your tent or tarp? Are sure water is easily purified? Do you know how to use your water purifier or pump to get clean water for your family? Take a little time before the emergency to get to know your equipment so you can be ready for whatever comes.
In any emergency situation, clean drinkable water is your most vital need in order to survive. It is recommended that you have at least one gallon per person per day for drinking, cooking, washing, and medical needs. But while you need to store at least that amount of water at home, you may need to be on the move, and at 8.34 pounds per gallon, that adds up to 75 pounds of water for a family of three—more than you want to be carrying on your back, so be sure water containers are light enough to take with you. I highly recommend keeping a water filter or purifier in your 72 hour kit. They are lightweight and very portable for the amount of clean water that they provide.
Make sure that you have an adequate supply of any medications anyone in your family is taking. Don’t take any medications? Then be sure to keep at least Tylenol, Ibuprofin, or other forms of pain relief in the event that someone in your family is hurt. Also, check the shelf life of these medications. Some prescription may last two years at room temperature, but only two months in extreme heat or other conditions (like in the car). Be aware how long your medications last, and switch them out when needed.
5. Footwear/ Clothes
Do you work in a suit, dress shoes, high heels, or otherwise less than ideal emergency clothing? Make sure that you have at least one change of clothing, including underwear and footwear for each member of your family. Also, plan for each season when packing clothing to make sure that you will be prepared, whenever in the year the need arises.
6. Planning for Children
This is a difficult one, because children’s needs are constantly changing, but if an emergency should occur, would your family have enough diapers, wipes, and formula to go around? Does your formula take water? Do you have a baby carrier or do you plan to use a stroller? Does your stroller have inflatable wheels, and if so, do you have extra and know how to change them? Plan for the little ones in your family as well, because truth be told, they are the least capable at “roughing it.”
7. Use Wide Mouth Bottles
If you do choose to carry water with you, it is best to choose wide mouth bottles or thermoses. Wide mouth bottles are easiest to fill up and clean, and are best for mixing up energy or protein survival shakes. Also, if you have a UV water purifier, or drops, you can cleanse your water right in the bottle, which is a definite plus when roughing it in minimalist circumstances.
8. Bringing Only Credit Cards with NO CASH
Of course keeping credit cards in your emergency kit is a good idea. What isn’t a good idea is expecting that when everything hits the fan you’ll be able to swing by the ATM and line up behind thousands of other panicked residents to get some spending money. Keep several hundred dollars in usable smaller bills on hand just in case. (and change as well.)
9. Cell Phone
These days, we are rarely separated from our cell phones and use them as mindless entertainment, music and video player, web browser, alarm clock, and GPS. That being said, make sure that you have everything that you need to pack, in “non-phone” format when it comes to emergency preparedness because your battery won’t last 72 hours. Make sure that you have important phone numbers hard copy, a watch, flashlight, emergency radio, maps and anything else that you might use your phone for, that will become unavailable without a battery charger.
10. Plan for the Most Likely
When it comes to emergency preparedness, make sure that you have a plan in place for the most likely scenarios. If you work during the day, do you have emergency supplies in your car, or a way to get back home to your 72-hour-kit? (Keep in mind that car kits need more frequent checking due to extreme heat and weather conditions.) Are they packed in bags that are easily accessible and portable if needed? Would your children know what to do if an emergency occurred during the day? As well as packing supplies, create a family emergency plan, and make sure that everyone knows what to do just in case.