Having the tools necessary for your safety in a disaster is extremely important, and is essentially down to your preparedness. You can vastly reduce panic in such events by preparing early and making everyone in your family aware of the resources available. Ideally, your tools will enable you to return to normalcy quickly after a disaster, while also making it possible to help others faster as well. Below is a list of the most essential disaster prepper gear you must have.
1. Lots of Water
Water is everything. Humans cannot survive for more than three days without it to drink, plus we use it for washing and other things. Ideally you’ll want to have at least 1 gallon (3.7 litres) of water per person per day for a minimum 3-day supply, more if possible. This means a family of 4 will need 12 gallons for three days (I suggest aiming for 15 gallons). Replace this storage every few months, and consider including some form of purification tablets in your kit to disinfect water that’s not safe to drink.
2. A Decent First-Aid Kit
For obvious reasons, you must have an adequate first-aid kit available at all times, not just during a disaster. With the dramatic increase in likelihood of injury during these events, you’ll want this close by. Most commonly you’ll be treating cuts and scrapes, so you’ll want ample supply of antibiotic ointments and bandages/plasters. You don’t want these getting infected, especially during a major disaster. Make sure the carry bag is waterproof, and research how to use everything in the kit properly so you aren’t making it up at the time. As an added measure, have two kits available, especially if you have a large family.
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3. Gloves, Hats and Extra Socks
Comfort and warmth is important for moral in a crisis, especially in colder or wetter environments. Ensure you have two extra pairs of socks, a pair of gloves and a hat available for every member of the family. This is over and above what you have available for everyday use, as you could ruin these easily in a disaster. If your area is prone to rain and storms, pack a poncho for everybody as well. Other clothing that could be useful is gumboots and extra underwear.
4. Contact Information for Emergencies
Sticking together is the most important thing your family can do during a disaster. Moral is boosted by being together, and knowing where everyone is lessens stress considerably. If you do get separated, make sure every family member has some sort of contact information and medical details on them at all times. Include family contact details for anyone who locates the person, as well as other members of the community that could help – friends and neighbours for instance. Everyone in the family should know how to contact emergency services and be aware these services may be stretched and unable to attend.
5. The Ability to Start a Fire
Until a disaster is over, access to gas or electricity may be severely limited. You’ll need to be able to produce a fire quickly when necessary. The basics you’ll need include newspaper, lighters and matches and preferably some dry wood. Have a plan regarding exactly where you would light a fire if required, and include in your disaster kit tools to cook with over an open flame. Make sure you keep every resource required dry. Furthermore, spend some time learning alternative ways of making fire, such as with batteries and steel wool - you cannot be learning to build a fire during the disaster.
6. Cell Phones or Similar Devices
I mentioned earlier that knowing where everyone is lessens overall stress. A large part of this is having access to cell phones or similar devices, like wifi-enabled tablets. Not only are these important to contact family members and friends, but also emergency services or to receive information about the disaster from news or the government. If you can’t warrant having a second device stored in your kit, make a rule to always have your phones or tablets at least 40% charged just in case. Ensure every family member has access to a device if possible, especially children, and that they know how to use it effectively.
7. Torches and Lights
Chances are pretty high that electricity will be unavailable in a disaster, and operating in the dark is just as essential as the light. Ensure you have at least two flashlights in your kit, and more if you have a two story house (one on each floor). Ideally, have one or two that are battery operated and one that is rechargeable or charged through kinetics. Replace the batteries after a disaster as a rule to avoid being caught out next time, and you should always keep spare batteries handy as well. Consider solar powered lights as well – you can keep them in the garden during the day and use them inside during the night.
8. Low-tech Radio
Often overlooked, an old fashion radio is as important as your cell phone. Warnings and information are always broadcast over radio waves during major incidents. You may only use the radio once or twice, but you’ll be glad you have it when you do. They are designed to work even when you’ve got no power or have become isolated, and most importantly, any instructions to evacuate will be broadcast repeatedly. For best results, keep a second hand-held radio as well.
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9. Just Food
Keeping emergency food supplies goes without saying. Without the energy provided by food, you can’t survive on your own. Ideally, keep enough on hand to feed each family member for 3 days, more if you have the space. The key component is to keep non-perishable food such as protein bars, canned food, peanut butter and freeze-dried meals. These will stay eatable for a long time, but you should monitor your food stores and test the food from time to time. Include a variety where possible, and make absolutely sure the food stays dry.
10. Some Form of Self Defence Weapon
Having a weapon nearby that you never need to use will provide an additional layer of safety. Depending on where in the world you live, you may be allowed to keep a firearm or hunting knife, otherwise something like a baseball bat is usually adequate. Ensure you know how to use your weapon and that it is kept out of reach of children at all times. Some may disagree with this piece of the kit, but when the chips are down and people get desperate, anything can happen. Be ready.