Are You Prepared for an Emergency?

Video screen capture. Deep Impact

North of the border in Canada it is Emergency Preparedness Week, where citizens are encouraged to lay in emergency supplies that would last for 72 hours. Right now there are massive floods in Quebec; last year massive fires in Alberta, and people often have to fend for themselves for a couple of days. I was surprised to see that 58 percent of Canadians have a wind-up or battery radio; 48 percent have alternatives sources of heat; 43 percent have an alternative source of water and a surprising 23 percent have a backup generator. I do not have any of these. After seeing this tweet I wondered how many Americans do.

This is an issue that's Jaymi Heimbuch looked at a few years ago when she wrote for TreeHugger; she has an emergency bag that includes everything from a crowbar to a coloring book. Her bag is also TreeHugger correct:

The time you spend packing your bag can be the best way to make it have the lowest impact, now and during a disaster. Search out products and supplies that are organic, made of natural materials where appropriate and practical, and other steps to make it as low-footprint as possible. After all, in a disaster there are already enough eco-problems to deal with -- why let our emergency kits be part of the problem?

More: Deconstructing the Emergency Bag: Packing a Kit Is Tougher Than It Looks

The Canadian Government site has lots of good suggestions for an emergency kit, with a basic list:

  • Water – at least two litres of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order
  • Food that won't spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (replace food and water once a year)
  • Manual can-opener
  • Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries). Replace batteries once a year.
  • Crank, battery-powered radio (and extra batteries) or Weatheradio
  • First aid kit
  • Extra keys to your car and house
  • Some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones
  • A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
  • If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs)

They also suggest the following:

  • Two additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning
  • Candles and matches or lighter (place candles in deep, sturdy containers and do not burn unattended)
  • Change of clothing and footwear for each household member
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
  • Toiletries
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Utensils
  • Garbage bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Water purifying tablets
  • Basic tools (hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, dust mask, pocket knife)
  • A whistle (in case you need to attract attention)
  • Duct tape (to tape up windows, doors, air vents, etc.)

Being good Canadians, there is no word about guns and ammo. However they do have an extensive list of suggestions for paperwork and phone numbers, including your insurance company and out of town contacts.

There is also an American list from the Department of Homeland Security that seems a bit more up to date than the Canadian one.

emergency kit

Emergency kit from Amazon/Promo image

There are pre-packaged kits that you can buy, but one of our regular readers made a very good point in comments

I LOATHE pre-packaged emergency kits. Yes, generally, looking at one tells you the types of thing you need, but the quality is always sub-par. You want quality gloves that won't fail you inside of five minutes of hard work. You want dust masks that form a proper seal around your face and are actually rated to keep out nasty particles such as asbestos, instead of the "keep out about half the dust that doesn't just come in around the edges" paper filters in most of these kits.

©. LuminAID

© LuminAID

Most of these lists were prepared before we became so dependent on our smart phones; I would think about a good road map and a compass, would throw my old mechanical watch into the pack, and probably a solar phone charger would be a good idea. There are many different solar powered lights and water bottles with filters that would be useful. The Red Cross has some interesting apps that monitor emergency services, including an "all-inclusive app lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts, to help keep you and your loved ones safe."

Megan did a good roundup of the 10 best gadgets to have in an emergency.


© Grayl

There are also many water filters that you can carry instead of heavy bags or bottles of water; My favorite is the Grayl.

Here is more detail from the Canadian government; see the larger version here, and excuse me as I start putting my kit together.

emergency infographic

Statistics Canada/Public Domain