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Do you ever write what you think is a funny, tongue-in-cheek tweet about a missile attack and send it out to the world and think it’s obvious that you meant it to be a joke, but then people “like” it and ask more questions about emergency preparedness and retweet it and suddenly your funny tweet doesn’t seem so funny?
No? Just me?
I mean…I didn’t say anything that was wrong. These are all good things to do in the highly unlikely event of a missile attack.
But I was definitely doing it to have a little fun. I thought that was clear from the “nuclear time = nekkid time!” comment.
Or the reference to nuclear monsters.
So in case I upset anybody, I apologize. It actually is a good lead in to emergency preparedness, which I’ve been meaning to post about for months. I just didn’t expect that tweet to turn into people asking for more preparedness tips.
So…sorry I’m snarky. I’ve just been personally involved in “somebody pushed the wrong button” situations a lot of times and knowing how easy it is for that to happen (not that it should be easy…), I stupidly thought everybody would quickly realize the mistake. I didn’t know until later in the day that people had actually been panicked. Must remember that not everybody has experience with attack warnings…
Emergency Preparedness Is Important
Once I realized people actually wanted to know more about emergency preparedness, I knew I needed to finish this post which has been in my “Drafts” folder for months.
Remember Hurricane Harvey? Or Hurricane Maria? Or going even further back, Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina?
Remember the fires in California? Did you know the Tubbs Fire was the most destructive wildfire in California’s history? Or that 5 of the top 20 most destructive wildfires in California’s history occurred in 2017?
And while my tweets may have been tongue in cheek, do you know how to respond if there is a missile attack? (my tweet actually is helpful, just…poor timing)
Why am I talking about this here? Well, partly because of what I just showed you with my tweets and people asking me questions. And partly for what you’ll see at the very end. But to tie it into money…have you ever heard of price gouging?
Price Gouging: pejorative term referring to when a seller spikes the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair, and is considered exploitative, potentially to an unethical extent.”
Though it’s illegal in some parts of the US during emergencies, price gouging still happens. For instance, the $100 case of water seen in September. If you prepare for an emergency ahead of time, you won’t have to pay those prices. In fact, you may be able to pay far less than normal if you reuse items from around the home or buy things on sale.
My Accidental Path To Emergency Preparedness
I have lived in high and low deserts during fire season…the South during tornado season…California with its earthquakes…and the East Coast and its storms.
Oddly, and luckily, I’ve never personally been in much danger. I always seem to miss the worst weather seasons of the century for a particular area by a year or two. I have been through a few blizzards, but luckily nothing that caused outages of more than an hour or two. About the worst that has happened to me is a fender bender when the driver behind me slid on some ice.
However, I’m very much a preparer. Not a prepper! A preparer. I’m prepared in case an emergency happens but I’m not secretly hoping one does so I can flex my fire-making skills and shoot would-be intruders. I’m just a nerdy person who likes having contingencies in place.
Now, when I started gathering what has turned into my preparedness gear, I didn’t set out to be as prepared as I am. I actually got this way accidentally. How? Well, I love hiking, so I had some gear for that. And as a hiker, I’m also interested in becoming a backpacker. Not the “Europe for a summer” kind of backpacker (well, that too…). I’m talking about an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker kind of backpacker.
I haven’t successfully become a backpacker yet (that’s another story) but I do have the gear. I’ve accumulated it over the last 4 or 5 years, picking things up here and there. A lot of it came from REI Garage Sales, actually.
And as it turns out, a lot of the gear you need for emergency preparedness is similar to what you need for hiking/backpacking. That means that by building up my gear closet for one of my favorite activities, I’ve added an emergency kit mostly “for free.” The other stuff you want in an emergency kit is probably stuff you already have lying around the home, or can get cheaply and easily.
In other words, by turning into a wannabe backpacker, I became prepared for emergencies by happenstance.
Having dual-use items also means I regularly break out my gear and use it, so if an emergency comes I won’t be fumbling over what to do. If you buy dedicated emergency gear for any kits, make sure you know how to use what’s inside!
My Emergency Preparedness “Plan”
Plan is in quotes there because it’s not really a plan. Don’t get me wrong – it would be better if I had a good plan. I should do that. My friends and I had a kickass zombie apocalypse plan once upon a time.
But I’ve been winging it until now and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Like I said…I’m prepared but I’m definitely not a prepper.
Instead, I’ve gradually built up three (kind of four) kits that cover various contingencies. Everything from needing to sew a button back on at work (especially helpful if you work for a General who loses a button!) to what I’d need if there were a real, get the hell outta town emergency.
Ideally, you eventually get some version of all of the kits I have listed below. But it’s probably not something you are going to do all at once, especially if you are trying to do this on a budget. My advice? Start with what you have around the house, then add the most important items ASAP. Everything else can be added over time, as you can afford it and find deals.
The most important items are going to be some version of the ten essentials. This is typically a term you hear associated with outdoor activities, but it easily converts to emergency preparedness. If you compare the list of ten essentials and the items Ready.gov recommends for a basic disaster supplies kit, you’ll see a lot of overlap.
Emergency Kit For Home
Also known as a bug in bag or shelter in place kit, this is the one you will keep at home at all times.
Most emergencies can be dealt with simply by hunkering down. In that case, you just need enough supplies to stay warm, dry, fed and watered for a few days. Staying entertained is a nice bonus though not truly necessary. A home Emergency Kit is what you need in that situation. It doesn’t have to take up a ton of space – mine takes up about 6 cubic feet.
The basics of a home Emergency Kit are:
- 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day)
- 3-day supply of food (non-perishable and able to prepare indoors, without power. And a can opener!)
- A battery-powered or hand crank radio
- Extra batteries for everything that uses batteries
- A First Aid kit
- Sanitation items (moist towelettes, plastic bags and ties for removing waste)
- Tools (a wrench and flathead screwdriver at a minimum)
- Local maps in case you need to leave your home
- Pet food and medication, as applicable
A more advanced home Emergency Kit may contain:
- More water and food (a 2-week supply is great if you can manage it)
- Extra lighting sources (one per person plus one main, longlasting one is a good goal)
- Entertainment items that don’t require batteries (especially important if you have children!)
- Extra items for children, especially diapers and formula for infants
- A spare set of glasses
- Paper and plastic goods (plates, cups, napkins, utensils, etc)
- A whistle
- A dust mask
- Duct tape and plastic sheeting
My Home-Based Emergency Kit
I keep my emergency kit on a shelf with all of my outdoor gear so I can easily access the dual-use items. Not all items are shown in the picture.
- Water: a Water BOB and bottles of water/a Brita pitcher/other beverages in the fridge. The Water BOB is such a good product to have in case of emergency because there is no need to store huge amounts of water at home and be worried about rotating it. As long as you have 30 minutes advance warning of an emergency, you can break the BOB out, put it in your bathtub, and start filling it while you do other emergency prep. Just don’t let the bathtub overflow!
- Food: a few years ago I found an emergency food kit on clearance at Costco. I’ve split it up between a few kits. My home kit contains enough freeze-dried food to last me 3-4 days. The full kit cost $28 on clearance and contained 6 days of meals (probably more like 8 for me). My home kit uses 3 of them. These feeze-dried food packs usually last 20+ years, plus they’d be great to take on a backpacking trip if I want to rotate them out. Of course since this is my home kit, I’d also have everything in the kitchen. In a longlasting emergency I could also use the freeze-dried food in my backpacking supplies. This is not the brand I bought, but it would do nicely. Note the servings – it’s a 4-day kit for two people, not one.
- Shelter: in addition to the place I’m living (obviously, since it’s a home kit), I also have a large tarp that could be used to protect the roof of a home, access to tents, and plastic drop cloths which could be used to make a shelter in a dire emergency or used to seal windows and doors. I also have duct tape in multiple locations in the house because duct tape is a cure-all. The drop cloths were leftover from a housepainting project and the tarp was purchased to cover my car.
- Light: a camping lantern with batteries (stored in the box but not in the lamp), miscellaneous flashlights, and 2 of these nightlight/flashlights. The nightlights are a great dual-use item: they provide light in dark corners of my house all the time, and turn on automatically if the power goes out.
- First Aid kit (including necessary prescriptions)
- Comfort: toilet paper, an external battery for my phone, books/paper/pens, dog toys for my dog
- Wash cloths, Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, toothpaste, extra water for sanitation (thanks to my Water BOB!)
- My normal tool box, plus a multitool actually in the kit (similar to this)
- Hand warmers
- What my home kit doesn’t have: spare blankets and clothes (my house has plenty!)
Bug Out / Get Out Of Dodge Bag
Bug out bags (BOB) and get out of dodge (GOOD) kits are intended to be your grab-and-go kits if you need to abandon your house. I also keep one in my car (when I have a car) although that one’s not in a backpack…it really should be. Right now it’s kind of scattered in 10 places around my new apartment which is why there’s no picture…oops. Your BOB should be ready to walk out the door at any time.
In this kit, you definitely want the ten essentials at a minimum. A prepper would say you need enough stuff to last 72 hours (they are also called 72 hour bags). Mine aren’t good for quite that long, but they are collocated with the rest of my gear so I could grab more stuff on the way out if I needed it.
Each of my BOBs (the home and car versions) contain some or all of the following:
- Navigation: a US road atlas (car) and my phone (both, for Google maps)
- Sun protection: extra pair of sunglasses (both) and a travel size sunscreen (car)
- Insulation: an extra set of clothes including wool socks, a blanket, and hand warmers (all in both)
- Illumination: headlamp (home), flashlight with spare batteries (both), matches (both)
- First Aid: a full size first aid kit and a clean towel (car). After helping two people involved in vehicle accidents in one week, I realized a storebought FAK was not good enough so I made my own. I started with the storebought kit, then added gauze, medical tape, scissors, antiseptic wipes, gloves, and tweezers. The home BOB has a smaller FAK.
- Fire: matches, a lighter, and a camp stove (all in both). I like the Jetboils (with fuel!!) but if you want something cheaper you could get something like this (also with fuel!) and a small lightweight pot
- Repair kit and tools: a vehicle roadside assistance kit (car), mini sewing kit (home), and a multitool (both)
- Nutrition: 1.5 days worth of meals from that Costco pack (both) plus I usually have granola bars in the car
- Hydration: I always carry a bottle of water or two in the car. For the home-based BOB, I have a Sawyer Mini and an extra bottle.
- Emergency shelter: A simple blue tarp and paracord (car) or a lightweight tent (home)
- An old-but-still-decent pair of sneakers (car)
- Whistle. I love the slim Howler type – small but obnoxiously loud
- Garbage bag
- An external battery for my phone
- Car safety hammer
A BOB is ideal for situations where staying in your home isn’t an option/isn’t smart, such as a fire or flood. Those sneakers are important – the presumption here is you are going to be doing a lot of walking if this happens, so choose wisely. Even if you start in a car, you may find that traffic is so backed up that getting out and walking is a better idea.
Get Home Bag
The get home bag is just enough to get you from wherever you are back to your house or another safe place. Because of that, mine doesn’t hold too much – and it includes a lot of items that are just generally useful in everyday life.
My get home bag includes some variation of the ten essentials, plus more:
- Navigation: compass (that round thing) and my phone (Google maps)
- Sun protection: sunglasses and a long sleeve shirt (in the locker where this is kept during the day)
- Insulation: wool socks and an extra set of clothes (in the locker), hand warmers
- Illumination: flashlight with spare batteries, matches
- First Aid: various bandages, gloves, sewing kit, duct tape, clean towel (I seriously use that sewing kit at least once a month. So handy.)
- Fire: matches, the cord on the whistle is flammable
- Repair kit and tools: sewing kit, multitool (a smaller version of the one in my home kit), rubber bands
- Nutrition: food kept at my desk
- Hydration: the small whitish rectangle in the bottom left is a folded gallon Ziploc that could hold water in an emergency. I also have water at my desk.
- Emergency shelter: A single plastic drop cloth and paracord (could be used for an emergency tarp if needed, or a clean place to lay down for a medical emergency)
- Garbage bag
Like I said, this kit only needs to get me to a safe place – I don’t need to survive for days on this. All of the small stuff except for the whistle goes in the small blue plastic case holding the Bandaids. If you took out the drop cloth and towel, you could fit everything in your pockets or a small purse.
I also have two mini multitools that could be used in an emergency but are really just daily helpers. The first is this Nite Ize DoohicKey, which is a combo carabiner/bottle opener/serrated edge/scorer/screwdriver. I use this literally every day, especially when opening boxes. It’s also my keychain, so it’s always close by.
The second is my Gerber Dime which is only a bit bigger and has a lot more functionality. I don’t carry it all the time, but it’s easy to slip in a pocket. So easy, in fact, that you need to be careful you don’t accidentally take it to the airport. Apparently TSA confiscates small multitools like this a lot.
When I travel I only take the DoohicKey which doesn’t have a blade so it’s not a problem. If you want something with more functionality, the Leatherman Style PS is TSA-friendly and very small.
In all, I know it seems like a ton of stuff and that I’ve probably spent hundreds of dollars on this. Again, most of it was purchased with camping/backpacking in mind, and the emergency preparedness benefit is incidental. Or, like the nightlight/flashlights, they were something I needed for my house anyway. Pretty much the only things that were bought specifically for the kits was the Water BOB, the lantern, and the freeze-dried food. Everything else was purchased for another reason and made their way to the kits.
And it’s taken me several years to get to this point, so the purchases have been spread out over time. But if you are concerned about putting together a kit quickly while on a budget, here are some good ideas: FEMA Disaster Kit Scavenger Hunt.
The original prompt for writing this post, wayyyyyyy back when I first drafted it, was a real life emergency in the life of another blogger, DadsDollarsDebts. His house was destroyed in the Tubbs Fire and that kicked off a chain of bloggers writing posts about emergency preparedness. It took me months, but I’m finally joining them. You can find all of the posts in the chain here:
- Anchor: DadsDollarsDebt – Tubb’s Fire – A Sudden Evacuation
- Anchor Two: Chief Mom Officer – Going Beyond The Emergency Fund-A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community
- 1: OthalaFehu – Cool As A Cucumber
- 2: The Retirement Manifesto – Am I A Prepper?
- 3: Mrs. Retire to Roots – In Case Of Emergency Follow The Plan
- 4: The Lady In Black – Emergency Preparedness
- 5: The Green Swan – Preparing For The Worst
- 6: Minafi – Minimal Hurricane Preparation
- 7: A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness
- 8: The Financial Journeyman – Emergency Preparation: Be Proactive
- 9: John And Jane Doe – Thinking the Worst: Emergency Planning or Fighting the Last War?
- 10: Adventure Rich – Emergency Preparation Up North
- 11: Money Beagle – How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?
- 12: Crispy Doc – Fighting Fire With FI/RE
- 13: She Picks Up Pennies – How Can A Planner Be Unprepared?
- 14: Chronicles Of A Father-Getting Ready for a Natural Disaster
- 15: Rogue Dad MD- Disrupting the Equilibrium
- 16: Unique Gifter-10 Ways To Help Disaster Victims
- 17: SomeRandomGuyOnline-Friday Blog Roundup – Emergency Preparedness Edition
- 18: 99 to 1 Percent: 15 Frugal Ways To Prepare For An Emergency
- 19: I Dream Of FIRE – Your house is burning and you can only save 10 things – what do you choose?
- 20: Full Time Finance – Emergency Preparedness in Place
- 21: Thinking of some day – Are you prepared for when an emergency occurs?
- 22: My Money Wizard – Are you mentally (and Financially) prepared to loose everything?
- 23: Wealth Rehab – Start building your emergency fund today, you will thank me later.