FORT SILL, Okla. (April 24, 2014) -- One of the most important items that everyone should have is a 72-hour disaster survival kit. Whether the kit is kept at home, in your vehicle or used as a "bug out bag" (BOB), the items you gather and keep accessable may determine your ability to survive in a time of crisis.
There are many resources for putting together disaster survival kits. The "Are You Ready?" guide from www.ready.gov lists a Disaster Supplies Checklist, as well as suggestions for a Family Communication Plan, and many other ideas. Another good source of information specifically for the military is "Emergency Preparedness for the Army Community", under the "Ready Army Resources" on the Military Family Preparedness page at www.ready.gov.
Here are some items that need to be considered and have available before a disaster happens. Begin by asking yourself "What are the things my family will need to survive?" and then make a list. You don't have to spend a lot of money on many items. Be creative and look for places to get items cheaply. Trying to prepare when a storm or disaster is happening will be too late. Don't assume shelters will have the items you need to survive. Also, it may take a long time for disaster relief agencies to arrive and provide your family the things they need.
- Keep a supply of cash on hand. If a disaster happens and power is out for a period of time, ATMs, credit and debit cards will be unusable. Cash may be the only way you can get the things you don't have, if they are available.
- Regularly keep the fuel tank in your vehicles as close to full as possible. Again, if the power goes out, fuel will become hard to get and suddenly much more expensive.
- Have a flashlight, batteries and a first aid kit in every person's BOB. You don't know whether family members may be separated and they will need their own items.
- Have a weather radio in each BOB, so you can monitor weather conditions and other emergency messages. This will likely be the only source of community information for a period of time.
- Choose weather radios that use different power sources regular batteries, rechargeable batteries and a hand crank to keep the batteries charged if you can't charge them by other means. Some models can actually charge cell phones when necessary.
- Use cell phones sparingly. You will need to conserve the battery power, and depending on the type of disaster, phone towers may not be operational and may even go down after the incident.
- As part of your survival plan, know where your family members are supposed to be if an emergency happens. Establish a rendezvous point that family members should go to, if they are able, after the initial incident. If children are in a safe, secure place, it would be best for them to shelter in place until you can reach them.
- Plan for every family member to contact each other, preferably with text messages so as to not jamb up the phone lines. Text messages will likely get through even if phone calls won't.
- Use the disaster supply checklists to gather a three-day supply of food and water for everyone in your family. (Each person needs one gallon of water, per day, for drinking and personal hygiene. In hot or extreme conditions, that amount should be doubled.) These are essential items to include in your BOB. Talk to family members and decide what food items they will eat. Stick with bare essentials and carry items that will help family members stay alive. Remember, canned foods are usually heavy, and you will likely have to carry your BOB at some point.
- Have a three-day supply of prescription medicines that you or family members must have to survive. Store them in your BOB so you won't forget them. Easily getting prescription refills will be difficult or impossible in a crisis. Also, keep a supply of dust masks,surgical-type gloves, hand sanitizer and a small bottle of anti-bacterial soap available, in case you encounter an unhealthy environment.
- Pack at least two rolls of toilet paper in each BOB. Also, wet wipes are a good item to have and don't take up much space. Plastic trash bags also come in handy.
- Have a complete change of clothes for every family member, such as a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, extra socks and sturdy shoes, preferably waterproof boots. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate, or waterproof clothing if there is heavy rain.
- You may not be able to stay in your home or apartment if there was storm damage and your beds have gotten wet. If you have to go to a shelter, have a sleeping bag or a warm blanket for each person. Consider additional blankets if it is cold. Have a tool available to turn off utilities if they are damaged, or if you bug out.
- Again, never assume anything. You could find yourself in a situation with nothing but what you have in your BOB.
There are many books, websites and additional resources you can check out to help you prepare to survive a disaster. Take time now to do your homework, develop a plan with your family and put that plan into action. The lives you save could be your own.