The 72-Hour Basic Survival Kit

Everyone needs to have a basic survival kit in case an emergency takes out power and other basic services. The rule of thumb is to prepare for 72 hours (3 days) in survival mode.

Many folks who live in the modern, push-button world never think about what they would do if a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire swept through their neighborhood, disrupting the normal, daily routine. They plan to fail because they fail to plan. Don’t be like them.

Instead, spend a bit of time and a few dollars to equip yourself with the means to make it through tough times – before they happen. Hopefully, you will never need to use your emergency kit. But, if you do, you’ll be ready.

Preparedness is a big deal for the U.S. federal government which built a website called Ready.gov for emergency response tips and resources. For example, you can download a printable FEMA Emergency Supply Listto take when shopping for supplies.

In addition to the basic disaster supplies listed below, add items for the special needs of your family, especially infants, seniors – and, of course, pets. Contact lenses aren’t much good without a case and fluids and a pair of eyeglasses might be the better choice in a real emergency.

Survival supplies break down into three broad categories: water, food, and other supplies. You need to stock up on enough of these to last 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit provides the basics to keep you alive:

Water. Figure one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation for three days (a total of three gallons per person). Store water in containers made of food grade plastics rather than used milk jugs.

Food. Store a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Don’t rely on a big freezer for bulk storage because the power may go out. Instead, get some MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), canned foods, high-quality packaged freeze-dried meats, and foods with long shelf lives.

Radio. Stay tuned into what’s going on in the outside world with a battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert. Weather updates and emergency information can help you decide whether to leave an emergency area or shelter-in-place. Gearhungry has rated eight radios as the best for survival scenarios. Become familiar with your radio equipment before an emergency occurs.

Flashlight and extra batteries. The price of batteries goes up in an emergency so look for sales and stock up at lower prices. Imagine your frustration if your flashlight takes ‘D’ batteries and the only ones you can find when the lights go out are ‘C’ size.

First aid kit. You can buy a complete first aid kit or assemble your own. The American Red Cross Store lists medical supplies for home or travel. Take a CPR class and a basic first aid course to keep cool and react effectively when someone needs physical help in a crisis.

Whistle. Signal for help with a loud, shrill whistle. The sound of a whistle carries much further than the human voice and puts much less strain on the vocal chords.

Dust mask. Filter contaminated air to avoid inhaling harmful particles. Be aware that there are special masks for specific jobs (e.g., painting or surgery). A dust mask will not protect from chemical contaminants. Serious preppers will keep an eye out for an affordable gas mask and industry-rated chemical masks to supplement a box of dust masks.

Plastic sheeting and duct tape. In some emergencies, it isn’t possible or wise to leave the area to find a safer place with family or friends. If you have to stay put and shelter-in-place, these basic construction items will keep things dry. You can seal a broken window or build a make-shift shelter.

Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties. These supplies are all useful for personal sanitation. Remember that the expectation is that everyone will be cooped up for 72 hours with no water to fill toilet tanks. A large household might consider getting a portable camping toilet (with extra paper and chemicals).

Wrench or pliers. Keep tools handy in case you need to turn off utilities. Be sure the tools fit the hardware. Consider conducting family drills so everyone knows where the utility shutoffs are located and which tool goes with each one.

Manual can opener. Although there are many clever hacks on how to open a sealed can when there is no electricity to run a power can opener, why not keep things simple by picking up a hand-cranked can opener or two?

Local maps. Paper maps become necessary when cell phones become inoperable. Being able to read a printed map is a very useful skill that everyone in the family can benefit from learning.
Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery. As long as the cell phone towers are working, your phone will, too – unless it can’t get power.

Once assembled, maintenance is key so it’s ready when the chips go down:

• Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
• Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
• Replace expired items as needed
• Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change

Finally, since no one knows where they will be in a SHTF situation, put basic emergency kits in all the places you are likely to be:

Home – Assign a place to store the household emergency supply kit and make sure everyone knows where it is.

Work – What if you had to shelter at work for one to three days? You would need water, food, comfortable clothes and shoes, medications, and other vital personal items so keep a “grab and go” bag handy.

Vehicle – Keeping an emergency response kit in each vehicle you own or use regularly is a great idea that can save lives. Consider what you would need if you were stranded or came upon others in need of emergency aid.

Remaining calm, cool, and collected in an emergency is much easier when adequate preparations have been made. Start building your basic survival kit today to avoid unpleasant consequences later.