A Thought Provoking Conversation:
I have a sister in law who I will call Jill who followed my 72 hr kit series the first time I posted it. She added / reorganized the items I suggested each week. Her husband who I will call Jake (my husband’s brother) got a little tired of hearing “Well, Misty says….”
They came to visit us in California a couple of months ago and we were all laughing about this and how even online, I’ve found a way to tell people what to do (I am a very typical oldest child with a strong type A or “red” personality. ) But then, we actually got into a really good conversation. Jake pointed out that it would actually be quite rare when you would need a full on grab and go kit. His point was that you shouldn’t stress so much about getting everything to fit in one bag, especially if it means sacrificing quality. And since I’m all about simplifying and making “prepping” do-able, I decided to listen to what he had to say and share it with you. Here is how a bit of our conversation went (or about how it went…it has been a few months, but I remember it being something like this):
- Jill: Thanks so much for your 72 hr kit series; it really helped me get ours in order!
- Jake: Whatever! It just caused a bunch more work for me! Every time Jill would say “But Misty says…” I knew I was in for more work!
- Jill: Jake!
- Me: You are welcome Jill. And Jake, you know I just can’t control myself! Give me an opportunity to control something and I jump right in! My OCD organizational needs don’t help much either!
- Jake: Okay, okay, but seriously, why do you need it ALL in one pack anyway?
- Me: Well, in case you need to evacuate. There is actually a pretty good chance you will be evacuated for some reason at sometime.
- Jake: So, for what? A house fire?
- Me: Sure. Or natural disaster, chemical spills etc.
- Jake: Would you really want your 72 hour kit if you had to evacuate your house because of house fire?
- Me: Of course.
- Jake: Really? You’d need a tent? A compass? An emergency blanket? A bunch of food with a long shelf life? Wouldn’t you just go stay with a neighbor or family member until insurance could replace what you’d lost? (Side note: See this comment by Brenda for a situation where you just might need some of those things!)
- Me: Uh……I guess you are right. It really wouldn’t be too useful in a house fire. I’d really just want to grab my family members, and if possible, important documents and a few irreplaceables such as pictures and a computer hard drive. But there are many other evacuation type situations where I’d need my kit.
- Jake: Like an earthquake?
- Me: Yep, like an earthquake.
- Jake: Really? What are you going to do, grab your kit as soon as you feel the quake start and start hiking?
- Me: No, I’d get myself and my kids to the safest spot possible. The only thing I will be concerned about finding / protecting during the quake is my kids. I will not be grabbing my 72 hr kit on our way under the nearest table. I’d use my kit after the earthquake.
- Jake: Okay, so you’d use your kit b/c you can’t live in your home, right? But would you actually need to evacuate? Not likely. You’d just set up your tent where your house was and use it there. So, you wouldn’t actually need it in a pack you can grab and go. Having the supplies is smart, but why stress about putting making them all fit in one pack that you can carry?
- Me: I see what you are saying, but what about a situation where there was a large scale gas leak we couldn’t shut off or the house was on fire and we had to leave quickly? That is very likely after an earthquake. I’d just want a grab and go kit in that situation!
- Jake: Are you sure? If there is a gas leak or your house is on fire, are you really going to spend time looking for your kit in all the rubble?
- Me: Uh…..No, I wouldn’t look for it, you are right.
- Jake: And what about tornados? People aren’t usually evacuated for tornadoes, they are just told to go underground. Wouldn’t it be better to just have a good stock of supplies ready for you underground?
- Me: Yes, probably.
- Jake: And a lot of disasters have early warning systems: hurricanes, tornados, many tsunamis, wild fires, floods, etc. If you had hours to evacuate and could do so in your car would you really want your kit? Especially if you were going to stay with a friend or neighbor?
- Me: No, I guess in that case I’d want what we would pack if we were going on a vacation, plus any irreplaceables. I’m seeing your point. I guess depending on what type of disaster you are at risk for, you may not actually need 72 hrs of supplies in a kit you can grab and go.
So, I can guess what is going on in your mind right now: “Really?!? Is she really telling me I don’t need a 72 hr kit?” The answer is no I’m not. But, my conversation with Jake did change how I’m looking at my kit and how I’m packing it.
There are still a few situations I can think of where I’d like to have a grab and go kit. There are evacuation situations with very little warning time. Things such as hazardous materials spills, nuclear power plant accidents, or terrorist threats. If early warning systems for disasters such as a hurricane or tsunami failed, you may end up with just minutes to grab and run. Even if you were able to evacuate by car in such situations, you likely wouldn’t have time to grab much more than a pre-packed bag or two. If enough people were evacuating by car , traffic may come to a standstill. You may have to get out and walk and in that situation, I’d want my kit to be something I could carry and something that would help me survive without the assistance of others.
If you are in an area at risk for one of these disasters then I highly suggest you still do all you can to fit 72 hrs worth of supplies into a bag or a few bags that you can carry with you.
However, my conversation with Jake really made me think. As a result, I am adjusting some of what I have planned for an evacuation situation. Consider the following
1. Prepare for evacuations with all warning lengths.
A grab & go survival kit prepares you for an evacuation with just minutes notice (rare). What if you have 10-30 minutes and will be able to stay with neighbors / family? What if you have hours? Do you have a plan of what you will bring or will you be running around like crazy and later realize you forgot something incredibly important?
There was a wildfire near us recently and we were under a possible evacuation notice. In other words, we needed to be ready to evacuate if asked. I needed to go grocery shopping and I asked my husband if he could handle that on his own if needed. He said: “Sure. The 72 hr kits are in the car, right? What else do we need?” Well, actually, we really wouldn’t need our 72 hour kits. We would be staying with family (Jake), and wouldn’t need our tents. They would have food that would be much more nutritious (and better tasting) than what we had in our kits. We’d even be able to go to the grocery store if needed. We have no need for flashlights or a compass or meds or, emergency blankets that we’ve got packed in those kits.
So, what would we need / want? We had hours of notice. I’d want a bunch of changes of clothes. I’d want our toothbrushes and my makeup and my husband’s razor. I’d want all our old pictures and journals. I’d want my kids “blankies” and pillows (they LOVE their pillows) I’d want my husband’s guitar and a picture my color-blind Dad cross stitched for me (he had to count each stitch b/c he couldn’t tell the difference between the colors). Maybe an air mattress or two. I’d want our computers and backup hard drives. I’d want our important documents folder. I’d want a pack and play for the baby. I’d want her binkies. I’d want our wallets and cell phones. In short, I’d want what we’d need to comfortably survive at our relative’s house until our insurance could replace the rest of our belongings.
I need to pre-plan for such a situation. It needs to be part of our family’s evacuation plan. I have a plan for 10-30 minutes, but not one for hours. I also have a plan for “moments” notice, but it wouldn’t be the plan I’d want if we were evacuating because of a house fire or gas leak. I’d rather grab irreplaceables if I could than our 72 hr kits in that case. I need to add those types of evacuations to our plan. I will post it when I do.
2. Have supplementary supplies.
Oftentimes in order to make everything fit in one bag, you have to sacrifice quality. For example, the tents in our kits are very small and not very durable. They probably wouldn’t do well in a large rainstorm, but they are better than nothing, so we have them in our grab and go kits. But chances are that if we have to survive on our own for a while b/c our home was destroyed we may not be evacuating. I’d much rather use a high quality tent if I could. So, in addition to those tents, I have a nice, large, high quality tent. This is true of many items. I have light compact flashlights in our kits and a big ‘ol mag light separate from them.
Or what if your home isn’t destroyed (no need for a tent), but your running water is contaminated and you have no electricity? That is when your 55 gallon water jugs and filter and big warm blankets will come in handy. You don’t have those things in your kit, but you’d want them if you were stuck at home without the luxuries of modern life.
Go through the list of supplies you have in your kit and as you can afford it, add supplementary supplies you could use if you did not need to evacuate, but still had to survive on your own.
3. Know what you are preparing for.
Are you most at risk for an earthquake? Then prepare for that! Store your kit and supplementary supplies together in a spot they will be likely to be as protected as possible so you can find them after.
Do you live near a nuclear power plant (we did in California). Be SURE you have a grab and go kit!
Do you live in a large city or somewhere that could be the target of a terrorist attack? Have a grab and go kit!
Do you live in tornado country? Make sure you have lots of supplementary supplies stored underground somewhere.
Hurricane territory? You will likely have quite a bit of warning. Where will you go? Who will you stay with? Do you know alternate routes to get there in case the main highways are full of traffic? Do you keep your gas tank full?
Do not just blindly build a grab and go kit if it is not the best thing for what you are at risk for. Plan for your highest risk first. Once you’ve done that, you can start planning for other things that you may be less at risk for, but still want to be prepared for just in case. “Prepping” is expensive, make sure you are smart about it!
This has the potential to be a hot topic. I’d love to hear your opinions, and personal experiences with evacuation. What did you have prepared that you were glad you’d done? What did you wish you’d done differently?