The past week has been absolutely crazy. We have been under a severe thunderstorm watch since Wednesday morning. We were under a tornado watch for most of the evening and it was upgraded to a warning on several occasions. One touched down about 30 miles from our homestead. We are of course safe and sound, as well as fully prepared for tornadoes, ice storms, winds in excess of 70 mph, earthquakes, extreme temperatures <both hot and cold>, and blizzards. I grew up being prepared for hurricanes so being prepared is second nature.
I am a huge supporter of being prepared. I give basic preparedness kits as housewarming gifts. I keep a grab and go folder filled with all emergency paperwork. In this post, I am going to do something different and explain step by step how to make a basic emergency kit. This kit is for any emergency involving sheltering in place, in a storm shelter or basement, a reinforced safe room, or an interior room with no windows on the lowest floor in your home. Everyone should be prepared for emergency situations and preparedness does NOT need to be expensive.
For the basic kit, the very first thing you will need is a container to house all of your supplies. I use a plastic storage tote. (Sterlite and Rubbermaid make these and they are very inexpensive) However, a sturdy box, a laundry basket, or even a rolling suitcase will suffice. I keep my tote in the basement, which is where we take shelter for tornadoes.
The following is a list of supplies kept inside the tote:
A hand-crank, solar-powered, and battery-powered weather radio (This radio also charges our cell phones with the hand-crank)
A second weather radio, which runs on batteries (because I get tired of winding the other one)
A basic first aid kit (This is a hard plastic pencil-case with things like bandaids in all sizes, butterfly bandages, super glue in single use tubes for closing wounds that cannot be closed with a butterfly bandage because of location such as finger webbing) antibiotic ointment, burn cream, tweezers, small scissors, gauze pads, medical tape, over the counter pain relievers, over the counter allergy medicine, over the counter sleeping medicine (It’s difficult to sleep during storms whether they involve ice or tornadoes) an ace bandage, latex-free gloves, a spray bottle of sterile water for cleaning wounds, and some benzocaine spray.) Remember this is a basic first aid kit and every home should have a larger kit that has far more supplies than this one.
A change of clothing for everyone in the house as well as a pair of closed toe shoes and socks. I check the fit of this clothing for children once a month as they grow so quickly. The clothing includes a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, a change of underwear, and socks. The reasoning behind the change of clothing is simple, storms often happen in the middle of the night when everyone is in pajamas and barefoot. This is not how you want to be dressed during a tornado or during the aftermath of a tornado.
Snacks, hard candy, and some ready to eat foods such as Vienna sausages, tuna salad kits, and cans of soup. (This is NOT our 72 hour kit, this is a storm kit)
Work gloves for everyone in the house and one extra pair
Dust masks for everyone in the house and extras (I have a pack of 20 in the tote)
Flashlights (I keep about 5 small ones in the tote and another at the top of the basement stairs) a phone charger usb cable for everyone’s phone and one for an iPhone just in case (sometimes the kids have a friend over when the sirens go off) . I keep a few power bricks charged and these are grabbed as we head to the basement as well.
I have a key chain that is supposed to be for defense as it makes a high-pitched screech and is meant to ward off attackers, this is kept in case we are hit by a tornado. The sound will alert emergency workers and is much louder than us screaming. I have also registered our basement with the town as an emergency shelter so they will know where to look after a tornado.
I keep two waterproof picnic/beach blankets in the tote. This provides something so cover up with if anyone gets cold or a place to sit.
I keep a small towel in the tote for multiple reasons. I have been in the shower when the sirens started going off. I was able to grab a towel, but I was soaking wet and had nothing to dry my hair (I normally wrap my hair in a towel) Another reason is for injuries, another reason is in case of a visiting baby, a cloth diaper can be made from the towel if necessary.
A deck of cards, travel board games, and other amusements to pass the time. (I have a stash of chocolate in the basic kit as well)
Finally, I keep food for the dog and cats as well as leashes, harnesses, treats, and a favorite toy. (Their paperwork is in the grab and go folder I mentioned earlier and we keep travel crates in the basement and in the mud room)
On top of the tote, because it won’t fit inside, I keep a case or two of bottled water.
This is a basic kit and the United States government has a wonderful website, which has further instructions on building a preparedness kit. Their kits are more along the lines of 72 hour kits and I strongly recommend building a 72 hour kit as well and keeping it with your small storm kit. A 72 hour kit is meant to get you and your family through 72 hours in case of an emergency. I have a basic kit and a 72 hour kit because I would rather the kids take snacks and whatever else they need from the basic kit instead of opening an MRE because they want something to munch on. Tornado shelters are often only used for an hour or so until the threat passes, which is when a basic kit is needed. If a tornado hits, you want to be ready to be stuck in your shelter for 72 hours or even longer. This is where a 72 hour kit is needed. Information for emergency preparedness kits can be found here https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit
Please remember, you can add any additional items you think your family may need as every family is different. If you have prescription medications, keep them in a container near your shelter and keep your grab and go folder next to your medications so they can be grabbed together.
Another tip I have is for much smaller children than my own who are teenagers. If your child has a toy, stuffed animal, or blanket, that they are attached to and panic without, this is for you. Go find a duplicate of this toy. When you wash the original, wash the duplicate at the same time, hand the duplicate to your child, when it’s time to wash the toy again, hand the duplicate and wash the one that needs washing. Both toys will wear out together. Keep one of these toys inside of your kit. This way, when you Have to grab your child at 3am and run to your shelter, their security object is NOT missing. It’s right there in your shelter. If the security object is ever truly lost, you have a backup so, this is a win-win situation for any parent. I have also found it easier to keep a backpack by the basement door, on a wall hook for any child under the age of 5. They grow when you blink so, this bag can double as a diaper bag or day bag for little ones. You know everything in the bag fits and you have diapers/pull-ups, wipes, formula, children’s Tylenol, etc already packed and nothing will be too small or outgrown.
Hint: Have a 3rd duplicate for when the toy is destroyed and hide that one somewhere. When they have a child of their own, give them the 3rd duplicate for their own child.
Being prepared brings peace of mind so, please, take a few moments to pack up a basic kit and then, work on a 72 hour kit because sheltering for storms is always unnerving and it’s much nicer to be prepared for an emergency situation than rushing around wasting precious time trying to quickly grab what you think you may need. Tornadoes move quickly and the more time it takes to get yourself and your family sheltered, the higher the risk to your safety becomes. I will delve further into this subject in future posts as it is currently tornado season and hurricane season is creeping up on those of you in hurricane prone areas.
Always prepare for emergency situations before the emergency occurs.