Build an Emergency Kit in Your Cupboard and Closet

CC BY 2.0. 72 hours of water, food, light and power

Back in May, when somebody tweeted something scary, I asked Are you prepared for an emergency? At the time, we listed the basic stuff you needed to survive 72 hours. The contents of the lists were selected for situations where you might have to evacuate and included everything from blankets to dust masks. Current scary tweets about fire and fury got me thinking about the subject again, and of the different kinds of emergencies we face.

In fact, the most common emergency situation is a simple blackout; where we are living for the summer in Lake of Bays, Ontario, we have had five since June. When we had a big four-day outage that closed the roads due to fallen trees (I wrote about it on MNN here), I looked at whether we had a basic 72 hour supply of essentials and was pretty embarrassed to find that we didn’t, even though we are in the middle of a forest with the nearest store a boat ride and a three mile hike away if we can’t drive.

So during the time since, we have changed our attitudes about the way we shop, the stuff we have on hand, and really turned our cupboard into a 72 hour emergency kit.

The first, and most obvious, was just changing the way we deal with essentials like water and fuel. We get our drinking water in big jugs because they say we shouldn’t drink the lake water; I suspect in an emergency it would be fine, particularly if I had a bit of bleach or purifying tablets. Nonetheless, we now make sure that two of our three jugs are full. I have two propane cylinders for the barbecue; I now make sure that there is always a backup full one. I have a little $28 butane stove for when the power goes out, and it works fabulously, but I didn’t have enough butane; I have now laid in 8 cans.

We shop often for fresh food, and found in the last outage that we had almost nothing in the cupboard other than pasta and rice; We’ve now laid in a supply of a few cans of hearty soups, ramen and my favourite Kraft Dinner. It's not zero waste like Katherine tries to do, but under the circumstances, and I know, ramen isn't good for you, but under the circumstances, those are secondary concerns.

All the emergency prep sites talk about having a radio, preferably with a crank to charge it, but realistically, these days you want a phone. My wife’s new iPhone SE went the 72 hours without losing its charge, and we were able to check the outages webpage from the utility, which was really the most important news we needed. But battery packs are so cheap now, I bought one that has capacity for two phone charges in it for 25 bucks and it will be useful when I travel too.

We checked the Polysporin and the Benadryl for dates and bought new stuff, cleaned up the medicine cabinet and even bought extra toilet paper. Putting it all together for the photo, I find we are short of candles; I will get more tomorrow.

After the last post, a commenter noted that it most of us have a lot of the stuff we need around our homes already; it’s really just a matter of organizing it. I like his attitude.

I really don't understand why this is so complicated for so many people. Do you go camping? Yes? Keep that kit together and you're probably going to be fine....Think about it, what do you need in an emergency? Shelter, water, food, and a few basic tools. Everything you need in an emergency is exactly what you'd need in a week long backpacking trip.

I used to camp more than I do now, but have a tent, sleeping bags, plates and forks, the essentials for a canoe trip. It’s scattered all over; without buying a thing I could have a pretty good kit if I just kept it together in an accessible place. I suspect that many people are in the same situation; we can build a 72 hour emergency kit in our closet and kitchen cupboard if we just keep it in mind.

People in cities need this as much as anyone, including the water; in many apartment buildings, the water supply is driven by pumps rather than gravity. This video from Toronto Hydro may sound like a 60s PSA, but has some good sense in it; they note that only 25 percent of people in the city have this absolute minimum level of stuff. We don’t have to turn into preppers, but we should remember that Scout motto: be prepared.

See our full list in Are you prepared for an emergency? But if you want to go all prepper, here is a really comprehensive list from Mom with a prep that will have you ready for anything anywhere.