Ah, the illusive 72 hour kit. If you’re reading this there’s a good chance that you’ve seen recommendations to keep 72 hours worth of provisions on hand in case of emergency. But why 72 hours? It is suggested that the time frame for extended family, police, and emergency responders to reach people in a disaster is approximately 3 days, or 72 hours.
Picture for a moment that you’re sitting at home on a Friday evening watching some TV or reading a book. You’re planning on going to the grocery store the next day as part of your regular shopping routine. It’s raining heavily and it suddenly goes quiet. The lights flicker and then are gone. Seconds later you hear a rash of loud crashes, and within minutes it’s over.
You’re town has just been hit with an unexpected tornado, and the devastation spans miles. In the aftermath you realize you were lucky and your home was spared. This has come at a cost. There is no power, no phone, and no running water. Then it hits you, help is probably not just around the corner. Aren’t you glad that you have your 72 hour kit at the ready? Without it, you’d be out of necessities like food and water. You’re shopping trip was canceled after all, the grocery store won’t be opened for some time.
As you can see, when disaster strikes it just might pay off to have some minor preparations. This is where the 72 hour kit comes in. We look at this as the ideal starting place when it comes to preparedness supplies. It’s not overwhelming, overly cost prohibitive, and it doesn’t take up that much room. Most of the items can simply be picked up at the grocery store, or ordered online. There are even completed kits (a service we offer) that you can buy.
So what’s in it? The options are endless, but we have some pretty standard items we think should be in every 72 hour kit. What we’ll describe is for 1 person, so you’ll need to keep this in mind when you’re thinking for a family, and don’t forget your pets. Let’s take a look.
-Food, glorious food. Without it we don’t get the nutrients and sustenance we need to survive. The average adult male should consume 2,000 calories a day in an emergency situation. With that in mind, we’re going to want to look at food to make up meals and snacks for the 3 days we’re preparing for. While it might be nice to pack away some fruit and fresh veggies, it’s just not feasible. Things that are ideal are shelf stable products that are relatively low in salt, and don’t require cooking.
Some people recommend using meals ready to eat, or MRE. Those are fine. They have a high calorie count, are light, and have a long shelf life. The problem we see is that sometimes the taste of a MRE leaves something to be desired. We prefer using things like canned fruit, soups, canned vegetables, peanut butter, jam, low-salt crackers, cookies, cereals, nuts, dried fruit, and canned meats. This allows you to use some things you are likely to use on a daily basis giving you the ability to rotate them out periodically. Another benefit is that you can create some pretty tasty meals that you can’t get in a MRE. With that said, a MRE will certainly be lighter, and will typically be more compact. This is something that needs to be taken into consideration in the event that you need to leave wherever you are.
-Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Just like food, a person can’t survive very long without water. A widely accepted idea is that you can go about 3 days without water, and the unpleasant effects can be noticed much sooner. Of course there are exceptions, but we aren’t looking to just survive. So we need to ensure we have the water we need, and the ability to clean addition water should it become available. We can’t assume that there will be running water, or if there is that it will be potable.
At a minimum we believe that you should have 1 gallon of water, and if possible upwards of three, with the ability to purify more. Two good options for purification are water filters and water purification tablets. If you’re going with a filter, don’t skimp, it could mean the different between life and death. One thing to consider when thinking about water is that it’s not just for drinking. It can be used for cooking, cleaning, and hygiene, so the ability to increase what you have is ideal.
Some other things to consider when talking food and water are luxuries and special needs. Some luxury items you can add are juice, canned milk, coffee, candy, beef jerky, etc. These should be in addition to the staples, not to replace them. Also pay special attention to dietary needs. For example, food allergies or special diet needs for infants or seniors.
Now that we have food and water out of the way, we can talk about the other things that you should have on hand that can help you through the duration of the event.
-PEDPAK – This was covered in this article, and is another essential thing to have on hand.
-First Aid Kit – This is a no brainer. If it’s possible that you may be waiting for help to arrive, it’s also possible that you may be injured. Having a quality first aid kit is essential. We’ll elaborate on the contents in a later article, so stay tuned. One thing to point out is that you don’t need a major medical kit. If you don’t know how to use the equipment, but you try anyway, you may do more harm than good. Simple repairs until help arrives are often the best.
-Light – No power typically means no light. Having a good flashlight and batteries can bring comfort in the dark, and may be the difference between finding something you need and going without. Keep in mind, these should be used sparingly, batteries won’t last indefinitely. With this in mind, having a candle and matches is also a great idea.
-Radio – Having a good portable radio, hand crank or battery powered, can provide you with essential information and yet another level of comfort. Many models will come with weather bands as well, giving you even more insight into what you need to be prepared to face as you get through the days.
-Hygiene kit – Being able to brush your teeth, or clean your ears is a comfort that can be taken for granted. We recommend keeping a standard hygiene kit with simple toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, ear swabs, toilet paper, soap, and any specialized items you may require like contact solution.
-Extra Clothes – Depending on when the emergency happens, and whether or not you have to leave home in a hurry, you may not be in the ideal clothing to endure the event. Having a change of clothes, some sturdy shoes, a jacket, and a warm hat can mean the difference between a warm and comfortable hike and a frigged and uncomfortable walk. Don’t forget the underware and socks. These things need to be changed more often than the outerwear.
-Personal necessities – Whether it be a diaper for an infant, or an inhaler for an asthmatic, there are personal considerations that need to be taken into account. Consider whether or not you wear glasses. Would an extra pair be of benefit? As the name suggest, this is personal so you will need to determine what, if anything you need to add.
-Odds and ends – Some other things that should be included are:
- good knife
- extra house and car keys
- sewing kit
- dust mask
- Pen and Paper
-Comfort items – These are things like books and cards. Things that aren’t necessary, but would make getting through the day a bit easier. Again, this is something personal, so you will need to determine what to add.
This all has to go into something, and for that something we suggest some type of quality backpack or hiking pack. You can certainly use a bucket, box, or some other case, but a backpack makes it much easier to grab and go if you need to leave the house. There should be one for each member of the family, and they should be kept in a place where they can be gotten to easily if in a hurry.
We must all try to keep in mind who we are packing for, and we must not forget our beloved pets. Family members and pets who can’t do the job themselves must be considered as well, and thoughtfully taken care of.
One last thing before we close. Take some time to go through your kits routinely, and keep them updated. Rotate out old food and water, update clothes to the appropriate sizes, check batteries, and the devices they run. Preparing isn’t a one time thing.