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Emergency Survival Kits - Questions and Answers

The Making of an Emergency Survival Kit

Frequently Asked Questions - Food for Thought


  1. Why a 72 hour kit?  Why not a 48 or a 96 hour kit? 
  2. Where's a good place to keep these kits once we've got an emergency survival kit made? 
  3. As far as contents are concerned, I guess "the more the merrier." Right? 
  4. Is it better to just stick with the basics? 
  5. What about MREs?  Is it safe to include some of them?
  6. How about canned foods?  I see some experts recommend them. 
  7. How do you suggest we protect the contents of our 72 hour kits? 
  8. Is there any special way in which we need to organize our kits? 
  9. How often do we need to review what is in the 72 hour kit? 
  10. How do I know that I haven't forgotten something?
  1. Why a 72 hour kit?  Why not a 48 or a 96 hour kit?  Believe it or not, there is a good reason for this.  72 hours is not a number that someone has simply picked at random.  In the event of a major catastrophe, emergency workers will be focusing on people who have the most dire needs.  Those in better circumstances will often find it necessary to depend upon their own resources while the severely injured or those in more desperate straits have their needs addressed.  This period of forced self-sufficiency has been found to last as long as three days (72 hours). That is not always the case, but it is best to be prepared for the most likely worst case scenario.
  2. Where's a good place to keep these kits once we've got an emergency survival kit made?  It is good to have an emergency kit kept in the trunk of your car in case of roadside emergencies.  As for the personal 72 hour kits at home, they should be readily accessible.  A front hall closet is usually a good spot. Some keep them in a sealed container in the garage.  Select a location near a main entrance or exit.  Don't allow bundles and boxes of other things to accumulate in front of them.  Don't stick them up into the rafters of the garage where everyone knows where they are, but where a ladder is needed to extricate them.  Don't keep them "safely locked away".  You may have a few hours or at least a few minutes warning that they will be needed, but if only seconds are involved you don't want to be searching around for a key that no one quite remembers who had it last or where it was put.
  3. As far as contents are concerned, I guess "the more the merrier." Right?  Sorry, but that is not usually the best of ideas.  You want to put some planning into your kit, but you don't want to overload it.  Who knows, you may have to carry it long distances to reach shelter or safety, and an overloaded emergency survival kit may simply become "too heavy" in such circumstances.  Carrying your 72 hour kit several feet out to the car may be no big deal, but it may become a very big deal if those few feet are magnified several thousand fold.  To test out the weight of your kit, take it on a hike with you, even if that "hike" is only around the block once or twice.  That way you'll find out how portable it really is.
  4. Is it better to just stick with the basics?  You want at least the basics, but we at Store-It always recommend that you personalize your emergency survival kit.  Do you need to take special medication?  If so, then make sure a small supply is included.  A bit of extra cash is a good idea.  Copies of important papers are an excellent addition, simply so that they might be preserved.  Treasured family photos and other such memorabilia can similarly be preserved, although you do not want to lug around heavy albums.  Store them on a computer thumb drive, which is very lightweight and can hold massive amounts of information.  A change of clothing is worth considering.  Perhaps you'll want a book to read, although the problem with weight is best addressed with pocket books rather than hard covers.  As can be seen, there are a great many things that you could examine for possible inclusion.  For a family, you can distribute heavy or odd items between kits as appropriate.
  5. What about MREs?  Is it safe to include some of them? It certainly could be.  MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) are fully-cooked, shelf-stable, ready-to-eat meals that usually come in flexible retort pouches. They are often self-heating and are extremely convenient to use.  The emergency rations as sold by Store-It Foods are actually rather tasty, and will certainly provided needed sustenance, but the addition of MRE foods to your emergency survival kit will provide varied taste and added nutrition, although at an increased cost and with weight considerations once again involved.
  6. How about canned foods?  I see some experts recommend them.  Yes, there are many who will include canned fruits and such on their lists of suggested contents for 72 hour kits.  Weight, however, is certainly a factor here.  You will also need to make sure that some sort of a can opener is included with your emergency survival kit.  Pop top cans will eliminate the need for that latter item, but there have been some reports of pop-top cans popping a little prematurely when confronted with the manhandling to which these kits might be subject.
  7. How do you suggest we protect the contents of our 72 hour kits?  First of all, avoid fragile items if you can.  As for protection from smoke and moisture; a special concern for food that is not already sealed, valuable documents and clothing; vacuum packaging is an excellent idea. Zip top bags will also provide protection, and have the added advantage of being reusable.  In fact, a few empty bags might made a good addition to your emergency survival kit just in case they are needed later for whatever reason.  Some experts in the field suggest the use of waxed paper for wrapping such items.  Plastic wrap tends to seal better, and is also a possibility, but the waxed paper makes wonderful tinder when the need to start a fire arises.
  8. Is there any special way in which we need to organize our kits?  The only real recommendation that we would make is to make sure that a light source be kept at the top of your emergency survival kit.  You should have something there that is easy to locate in the dark.
  9. How often do we need to review what is in the 72 hour kit?  Emergency foods and water have a shelf life that is often of several years' duration.  It is wise, however, to review the contents of the kit much more frequently than that.  Food and water, for instance, are not the only items that have expiry dates.  Medications often do.  So too do batteries, if you are using them.  Make sure that any such items are rotated as necessary.  For children there is another very good reason for a regular inspection of emergency survival kits.  They grow.  The change of clothing you packed for your five year old son may not do him much good after he has turned seven or eight.  Diapers for a baby will not likely be as necessary once the child has turned three or four (although some like to pack infant supplies for other, less prepared families, who find themselves in emergency situations without formula, bottles or diapers for their babies).  If, as adults, we have gained or lost weight, we also need to re-examine what we have included for ourselves by way of clothing.  All of this means some families make an annual examination of their 72 hour kits a tradition.  If you want to take into account seasonal variations, you will want to do that even more often.  In northern climes, for instance, winter needs might not be well met by a summer pack and vice versa.  Our suggestion is that you inspect your kit at least twice a year.  Set a schedule and stick to it.
  10. How do I know that I haven't forgotten something?  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that one.  The best we can do is to reemphasize the need to plan and prepare.  Make sure that you are packing food that you know you can eat.  Know how to use the first aid materials that you have so carefully selected.  Review the guidelines provided by government and other agencies, of which there are many such sources. Keep abreast of developments in the field so that you can replace old, now outdated items with newer, improved versions.  You may, for instance, want to set aside your old battery powered flashlight in favor of a new, no-battery shake light – if you have not already done so.  There you have but a few examples.

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Useful Links

American Red Cross
Prepare for Disasters Before they Strike: Build A Disaster Supplies Kit
Ready America
Get a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
www.72hours.org
How would you survive for 72 hours? A pdf download kit

"If you are prepared, you cannot only survive, but be reasonably comfortable in the process.  It has been said, 'If you are prepared, you shall not fear.'"

- Reg Wannamaker, Emergency Preparedness Expert

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