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Friday, April 17, 2009

72 Hour Kit (Grab and Go) Container Ideas

Why 72 Hour Kits?

72-hour kits or Grab and Go bags are meant to assist you after a disaster. Seventy-two hours is approximately how long it takes to get help after a disaster and for evacuation shelters to get up and running. I worked answering phones at a Red Cross center after Hurricane Katrina. And then later at an evacuation center. Even though it was in Southern California, many people who were without places to live came to California for help. I saw the time it took to get volunteers trained, and then assist displaced disaster victims. There is so much involved that it's mind boggling. However, understand that immediately after a major disaster you will be on your own. You may not see an ambulance or police car for some time as the craziness begins. It takes time for community leaders to get organized. So plan to take care of yourself and your neighbors.

All Emergency Supplies will NOT fit in a backpack.

You will need several containers:
1. A personal kit for food, personal supplies, small flashlight, some water, etc. If you had very little time, this would be the one item you would grab, so very important items would be in it. I prefer a backpack for these items.
2. Another for the rest of your water, bedding, etc. I use totes for these as I would only take them if I could evacuate by car.
3. A bucket or tote to carry items the whole family needs to make their next few hours more pleasant. I use a bucket for these items as I would only take them if I could evacuate by car.
4. A family tent in it's own bag. I would take it if I could evacuate by car or if you have a small family you could attach a small tent to a backpack.

When choosing a container for your own personal 72-Hour kit, keep these factors in mind:
1. It should be easy yo grab and go in an evacuation (could be put in a car, or taken with you on foot. I cannot personally carry everything, but I can carry my backpack.)
2. Is able to handle various weather conditions
3. Is as waterproof as possible
4. Size fits various family members based on health, strength, age, and size

Do not wait until you have funds to purchase the perfect container before you start gathering kit items. If all you have is a cardboard box, use it for now. You can get a better container later. These container options are ideas I adapted from the book “Preparedness Principles” by Barbara Salsbury. Recommended are the best, Good are okay, and So-So are the least recommended.

Backpacks: Recommended to Good
Easier to use if you have to evacuate on foot. This is what our family uses.
1. They do not stack well, but can be hung, or leaned against each other on a shelf.
2. Water-repellent, but not waterproof.
3. More expensive (however, watch school clearance sales in September)

A sturdy sewn, not glued, roomy school-type backpack (meant to carry books) is easier for kids to manage. Remember to keep your supplies lightweight. A backpack shouldn’t weigh more than about 25% of the weight of the person carrying it. So if a person weighs 125 pounds, the total weight of the backpack should be no more than 31.25 pounds. Of course it should be lighter if a person does not have strength to carry it. You can see why you may have to put some of your water in another container. Backpacks on a frame can withstand bad weather and rough handling and could carry a sleeping bag. However, those on a frame are not suitable for small children or seniors.

6-gallon Polyethylene Buckets: She recommends (However, I would not put my personal 72-hour kit in a bucket as it is difficult for me to carry. That's just me though.)
1. They stack well
2. Reasonably priced (if you find a used one, don’t get one with strong odors)
3. Waterproof
4. Versatile (could carry water, or use as a seat, washbasin, or even a toilet

Each family could have at least one bucket if you can evacuate by car. Every situation is different. Our family uses two to store our combined Family Emergency Kit items, and we each have a backpack also. Our buckets keep the nice things we might want, but each backpack has its only self-sustaining items. You may need to tape a resin-type wrench on the outside of the bucket to make it easier to open. So think carefully how you would use a bucket. If I could evacuate in a car, I would grab our buckets too. On foot, just my 72-hour kit backpack. I hope I am making sense.

Plastic Storage Tubs: Recommended
Ten or 20-gallon plastic, rectangular storage tubs with carrying handles work well if you can evacuate by car.
1. Stack well
2. Reasonably priced
3. Waterproof
4. Versatile (could carry water at an evacuation center)

Luggage: Good to Recommended
Choose one that is made of sturdy luggage material, not cloth material. Be careful not to overload or it will be too heavy. Keep it lightweight and portable. Wheels are helpful. Since most are not waterproof, keep your items inside in trash bags. Carry-on size is good for a 72-hour kit. This may be a good choice for seniors who might not be able to carry a backpack.

Duffel Bags: So-So to Good
Must be heavy-duty. Some are water-repellent and quite sturdy. Do not use college laundry bags as they are difficult to carry.

Containers that are not recommended:
Tote bags as they are usually too small.
A pproduce box is okay to start with, but replace with a better choice as soon as possible.
Trunks, footlockers, and ammunition boxes are too heavy.
Garbage cans are too heavy, and it’s difficult to get to supplies at the bottom.

Keep your kits accessible and together:
1. Keep your kits in a strong structural area of your home that can withstand earthquakes better like a closet, or under beds or stairways.
2. Keep items close to a door that exits your home. A garage is difficult to get into after an earthquake. However, if this is your area, keep items close to a door. Food items must be able to withstand varying temperatures in a garage.
3. Label your kits with your name or first initial and last name and phone number. We used duct tape and a permanent marker. Can you imagine the number of bags at an evacuation center?
4. If you have small children and have to walk, put items in a stroller or wagon.

Click here for a picture of emergency items stored in a garage.
And click here to watch the video Evacuation: The 10 Minute Challenge

This post is part of a series of posts I'm doing to help you with your 72-hour kits and emergency supplies. Check the side of my blog for more information on 72-Hour Kits
Just added a post about how to create an evacuation Grab & Go List.


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