Preparing A Family Emergency Evacuation Kit
A deadly and busy 2017 Atlantic hurricane season so far (Harvey, Irma, Maria) has kept us glued to the TV. At one point, my wife looks at me and asked “So, what’s our plan”? I answered that I’ll get back to her. Traditionally our organized camping gear was the usual answer IF we were stuck in the house during a blackout due to a blizzard for a few days or similar scenarios. But We didn’t have anything for the situation that we needed to get out of the house and evacuate immediately.
Luckily there are a number of resources from emergency measures offices and organizations like the Red Cross. They are all are consistent with their messaging so you simply need to find the one you prefer and they do encourage you do modify your kit based on your needs. For our plan and getting an emergency kit ready – I decided to use the resources at getprepared.gc.ca to come up with our personalized emergency kit. I consider what I came up with is a robust 24 hour kit.
Know The Risks
First thing we did was to list out the emergency risk events that we would need to be concerned with. We are located in Halifax- Nova Scotia, so our risks would be similar to any coastal city as opposed to a location in Manitoba or Kansas. Just look at all of the hurricane tracks that ended up landing Nova Scotia until 2009! Sure not all were Category 1 (black square) by the time they made it to us, but take a closer look at the wind speeds in the image below.
Our risk event list ended up looking like this:
- Hazardous spill
- Disease outbreak
- Terrorism, Dirty bomb (Halifax is home to a naval base and we are within a “red zone”)
- Storm Surge
Make A Plan
We focused our plan on an evacuation of the house. I am only 400m walk from my work, so our evacuation vehicle is at home and full of gas or 3/4 full. This will give us a range of 700-1000kms, enough to get well into the mainland or be mobile for a few days. Oddly enough we experienced a gas shortage in 2015 and really saw how the supply chain worked. If evacuation is necessary, our plan is to get to New Brunswick.
This is one part of the plan where things get complicated. With only one main highway, the prospect of being stuck on the highway either in an evacuation lineup or stuck during a blizzard where we could be in the vehicle for up to 24 hours would be probable.
On the flip side we are located literally on a highway ramp for work, school and home, so if we can get out fast enough we should be on the road within minutes.
Health Needs & Pets
Luckily we don’t have any medical issues where we need essential medication, so we got the usual over the counter medication to supplement our first aid kit. What about your pet? Part of plan is to account for the additional water, waste and food for our kit. It’s very, very easy to forget about them.
Leverage Your Smartphone
It can be argued that the smartphone is our generation personal computer. The amount of information that can be stored on the device or can be accessed via wifi or cellular is simply incredible when you think about it. So why not leverage the technology?
- Update your contacts
- Snap pictures of documents you need but don’t carry all the time.
- Use Twitter and make an EMO list to monitor things like traffic, police or local government.
- Setup reminders to swap out expired items in your emergency kit
Personalize Your Emergency Kit
There is no shortage of options when it comes to your emergency kit. You can purchase dozens of variations wither from the Red Cross or Amazon. But if you are on a budget, take a minute and rummage in your basement, you will probably find a number of items. In my case I still needed to spend almost 80$ which was mostly related to long term food and drugs for our first aid kit since we are 3 people and a dog.
Emergency Kit Contents
This is what I came up with after thinking about the risks, evacuation plan, previous events and evacuating quickly.
- Water & water filtering system
- Long term food & snack items
- Cook kit & stove
- Radio, solar recharging kit
- Knife & other survival tools
- First aid kit, waste bags & over the counter drugs
- Emergency blankets (ie – space blankets)
- Headlamps & candles
- Dog items (bowl & food)
Water for 3 people and a dog we estimated to be around 8 Litres per day. So for a standard 72 hour kit, we would need 24 Litres in total. I decided to have 4 Litre jug in the vehicle, a few more in the house and included in my kit a Nalgene bottle, 8 Litre water bag and Katadyn water filter system. I happen to have this in my surplus outdoor gear, but I will be swapping the water filter with a smaller Lifestraw or BeFree just to save space.
I opted for the Fjällräven Känken Maxi backpack (which was provided by Fjällräven Canada). This is an 18L capacity pack with a potential to expand another 9L. Clamshell opening, carry handles & rectangle shape. I thought this was a good option to pack my kit and store it in the entry closet or slide under the seat of my truck.
Camp Stove, Fuel & Pot
I opted for dehydrated food, so I wasn’t going to need a can opener, but I was going to need a way to boil water. For this I opted for a 750ml pot, Primus stove, small container of gas, UCO storm matches and of course a mini bic lighter. Rounding things out in this category are a 500ml collapsible bowl (for the dog) and 2 sporks.
Food and Snacks
I packed 2 Mountain House meals, trail mix, a couple of Probar meal bars and a Snickers bar. With that I just need to monitor the meal bars & snacks for expiry dates. For the dog, we will have 6 cups of kibble in zip lock bags. As I was packing this up, I realise that is about 24 hours of food for 2 adults and 1 child. Hopefully we would have a minute to grab more items from the pantry like mac & cheese or express rice packs.
Lights and Lanterns
I added some of the older headlamps, LED flashlight and candle lantern we had in my surplus outdoor gear. Obviously you got to think about batteries or at least checking them periodically.
First Aid Kit, Waste & Emergency Blankets
Basic Family First Aid Kit and a few emergency blankets. We complimented the first aid kit with common over the counter drugs we might needs, mostly for the little one. In case duty calls, I added a few packs of this single use toilet kit.
Gear & Tools
For this category I focused on a few criteria:
- radio / weather channels
- Multi-tool / knife
- solar kit for smartphones
The radio is an ETON FRX2, which is one of those all-in-one radio/light/charger devices. However a 20$ Sony pocket am/fm radio that takes two AA batteries will be as good, if not better.
To maintain our smartphones, I have a solar kit that I put together a few years ago. Basically it’s a Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel with a couple of power banks and all the cables we would need to power our smartphones either at a location, in a vehicle or off-grid.
Added a little bit of cash in case debit or ATM machines are offline. How much do you need? I’m not sure but we started with 20$ and could add smaller bills / coins going forward.
Let me know what you think of this kit and what items you would choose. This kit along with the water jug will be located at the closet next to our front door.