In the event of a natural disaster or another, comparable emergency situation, it is often desirable to be prepared ahead of time. A 72-hour kit will allow for you and your family to have vital supplies for 3 days. Statistically, within the United States, relief is almost always available within that frame of time, but those initial few days following a widespread disaster may have you scrambling for food, basic hygiene supplies, clothes, and first aid, which you won’t otherwise be able to spend time looking or shopping for.
Here are a few suggestions as to how to put together a basic 72-hour disaster survival kit.
- Food and water. For drinking and sanitation purposes, you will want to have a minimum of one gallon of water, per person, per day. For a large family, this can add up to quite a lot, so be prepared! Food is also a concern; people can survive for weeks without food, but we don’t tend to operate very efficiently after a couple of days. Make sure to bring food that will last, is energy-efficient, and is accessible. Keeping your family’s taste preferences in mind is great, but other factors come first—like allergy-related or other medically-based dietary requirements, and selecting food that won’t make you thirsty (you’re already rationing water). Granola, high-quality energy bars, dried fruit, and low-salt jerky are a few good options; if necessary, and if you have a convenient can opener handy, low-sodium canned food is acceptable, although this comes with a few drawbacks (“low sodium” is quite relative, and having a convenient way to cook food means more items needed for your kit).
- Be able to signal for help. Many people take for granted that help, when it arrives, will be able to find them. A bright LED-flashlight with extra batteries will come in handy for letting someone know where you are—and in the event of a power outage it will prove useful in the meantime. You should also have a whistle to alert people audibly. Given the availability of compact and long-lasting modern flashlights, some lists no longer mention flares, but we feel like having at least a couple of emergency flares can’t hurt. They’re a good last resort when a last resort is needed, and they don’t take up a lot of space.
- Maintain awareness of the situation. In the event of a natural disaster, a NOAA weather radio with a tone alert is a good idea to have, along with a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio for other news. If a disaster is ongoing, you need to be able to keep yourself and your family safely out of harm’s way, and it would also pay to know when and where a recovery or relief effort is coming from. On a related note, make sure—no matter how well you know your local area—that you have local maps. The concerns of potentially having to navigate an otherwise familiar area on foot, without utilities, can be disorienting, even for those who are accustomed to driving it. Some sources will tell you to disregard cellphones; these sources are outdated. Have an inverter or solar charger available.
- Maintain health and hygiene. Use a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities for safety. Use dust masks to protect your family from contaminated air. Use moist wipes or towelettes, along with heavy-duty trash bags and plastic ties, to safely contain garbage and waste. Have a basic first aid kit or two; understand the directions on how to use a first aid kit, and take the size of your family into account. If you have children, you may want at least one backup kit handy.