Take Two #132: Are you Prepared?

By Kyra-lin Hom

Stockpiling food, water and bandages used to be for the paranoid. Burying homemade caches of money and weapons used to be alien concepts associated with survivalist crazies and backyard neighborhood militiamen. Hand-crank radios and portable solar panels used to be for techno enthusiasts more than your standard outdoorsman. But times are gradually changing.

Whether our recent social obsession with zombies and apocalypses, our sensational crime reporting, the rocky global economy, or the planet-wide meteorological meltdown are to blame, survival is on everyone's mind. Even FEMA's.

Did you know that FEMA now recommends all people/households/families have regularly maintained 72-hour survival kits? These kits include the basics like food, water and first aid. But FEMA also recommends your kits contain flashlights, batteries, radios, whistles, plastic sheeting, duct tape, moist towelettes, garbage bags, dust masks (check out Breath of Life escape masks), basic tools, can openers, blankets, extra clothing, and personal items such as feminine hygiene products and diapers if relevant. And this is just the bare bones according to true survivalists.

What do the more hardcore individuals recommend? Well, every expert has their top recommendations of course, but my personal favorite list breaks down survival gear into three categories: most essential, next most essential, and additional (list found on graywolfsurvival.com)

Most essential are water, food, shelter, fire and communication. FEMA tells you to stockpile approximately 1 gallon of water per person per day. Survivalists go one step further and suggest having special filters or purification tablets/bleach on hand as well. Also, don't forget to make sure you have somewhere to keep your water once it's been sterilized.

Food – standard lightweight non-perishables or canned goods if you're clear to bunker down in place (otherwise they are too heavy!). Shelter is pretty self-explanatory depending. In a pinch, mylar space blankets or good ponchos are trusty go to's. I'll put in my own two cents here and add 550 paracord to the list (thin rope that can take a massive beating and still hold strong).

Communication is where that hand-crank radio is going to come in handy. FEMA just suggests a battery powered one, but well... this all depends on how long you think you'll be holing up for. And on that note, as long as we're not dealing with the apocalypse, your smart phone should do just fine – though grab an external battery just in case!

The next most essential items are medical, orienteering (i.e. navigation), tools, light, energy/power and weapons/defensive items. Don't skimp on the first aid kit. The difference between a $30 first aid kit and a $60 first aid kit are huge. As for tools, a neat little thing I found after digging around survivalist books and websites is something called an 'e-tool' or 'entrenching tool.' It's a military grade small collapsible shovel that can double as a hatchet and saw.

The last category includes your important documents (or copies of, as the case may be), special electronics and gadgets, comfort items (especially important for children), hygiene, clothing, and money or other valuables that could be used for bartering.

I like this list because it is customizable. No one pre-made kit is going to be perfect for your situation so knowing what bases to cover is far more important. Always remember to consider two things when preparing your personal 72-hour kit: 1) for what type of crises are you preparing and 2) you get what you pay for.

That said, all the equipment in the world isn't as helpful as a well thought out plan. So talk to your family. Work through different scenarios. Your plan doesn't have to be elaborate or complicated – in fact, simpler is better because it's more likely to be remembered and has fewer elements that can go wrong.

It might have been crazy talk a few years ago, but now I guess we live in a crazy world. Be prepared. Be safe. And for those who are really interested in this topic, please don't take my word for it. Do your research.

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