Be prepared for corona virus, fires, floods & emergencies
It seems in Australia that drought is followed by fire, that is put out by rains that bring floods, and now once the floodwaters subside we might be expecting plague. Emergency services recommend that everyone should prepare supplies for these types of emergencies. Here is a handy guide.
Assess the Risks
Emergencies and disasters are all different, so there is no one solution to every situation. You have to consider the risks of where you live and the current environment. For example, with fires, you might find yourself needing to quickly leave your house, or alternatively, you might be cut off by a fire or a flood, with no road access, electricity or even drinkable water. So you need to be ready for each situation.
I find the best way to think about this is that in most cases your various kits and bags go together so you can quickly put together what you need when something happens. Of course, when you are aware of a changing situation you need to change and adapt.
Your Survival Kit
A survival kit is a small box or bag that can fit in a pocket or attach to your belt. It can be something you put in the glove box of your car or keep handy. In most situations, it might just be a little pouch that goes in your other bags.
A first aid kit including survival blanket and first aid guide
A good home survival kit is likely to be a combination of first aid kit, rudimentary sewing kit, water filter or treatment tablets, and probably a survival (space) blanket. The first aid kit can be used to treat injuries, being able to turn dirty water into drinking water is really important and your survival blanket will help you keep warm.
Depending on your situation, you might through in other things like a knife, something to light a fire, vitamin tablets and so on. No two emergency kits are the same.
In the US, they like to call this a bug out bag, though a more informative name would be a 72 hour (3 day) bag. This is a convenient bag that you can grab and run with and contains what you need to survive for 3 days. It is usually best as a backpack, but not a huge hiking backpack, but a little one small enough to easily carry or put at your feet in a bus. You will be surprised how big a bag you can stick at your feet on public transportation.
It is easy to put together a go bag if you need to quickly evacuate
One key component would be the home survival kit that I have already mentioned. Whenever I have put one of these together I have included my sleeping bag and I have a small half-sized hiking mattress. I mostly include the mattress because it is small, light and portable.
Other things to include are clothes for the weather or situation (raincoat for storms, long sleeve cotton shirts for bush fires), a change of clothes and I feel fresh if I have clean socks and underwear, so I usually include a few extra changes of those. Of course, personal hygiene items should also go in your bag, such as a toothbrush and a travel towel. It is also useful to include a flashlight and batteries.
I also include about 2 litres of water, which will weigh 2 kgs, and some food. I go for food that is light, has lots of calories and doesn't require cooking. If you choose the right food, 3000 calories will weigh less than 1 kg. It might just be things like muesli bars, long life tortillas, and trail mix. Nothing too fancy, just something to eat in an emergency.
Don't forget other things to take, such as data backups (if you don't have every uploaded to the cloud), phone recharge batteries and so on. Many people print and keep things like photos of loved ones. This can often be a comfort during stressful situations.
If you have more survival skills or camping equipment, you might pack other light and useful things in your bag. Maybe a hiking cook pot, knife, and so on. I think that a light weight hiking tarp could also be added to your bag for survival situations. Don't go overboard, but remember, it is quicker and easier to dump things that you don't need that try and remember and find things that are not in the bag.
Basically don't feel you need to buy specialist survival items. But if you have them, include them. There is however one item worth investing in, and that is a wind-up radio, torch and USB charger. This one device that can cost as little as $10 can help you keep in contact with others through the radio and keeping your phone charged.
It is worthwhile putting together a larger bag or bags in case you are driving yourself out of a situation or when you are evacuated there is space to take a larger bag. I normally would go with a duffel bag, because you can carry it with a smaller backpack, but there is no reason why you can't use a wheeled suitcase.
There are lots of different things you could include in this bag. Most useful is food and water. If you remember hurricane Katrina in the US, where people were evacuated to locations that didn't have adequate water or food. On the other hand, if your home could possibly be destroyed, then having clothes and other personal effects can be useful.
Of course, there is nothing that is worth your life. But if you have it in your bag, you can easily abandon what you don't need in an emergency. Then again, you can easily put multiple bags in your car and drive out of a situation. The main thing is having the items you would take with you altogether.
With the food, every time there are advisories about food for emergencies they like to mention canned food as if we are living in the 1950s. Instead focus on lighter more transportable food. Instant couscous, noodles or dehydrated mashed potato can be prepared by just adding water. Even cold water will do the trick. Then small cans or pouches of tuna, salmon, chicken or beans can be carried as well. Then you can pack other portable food as well which we have already mentioned.
Home Survival Suppliers
There are lots of situations where you might be stuck in your home. If you are lucky there will still be electricity and water, but there are lots of situations where both could be jeopardised. For most emergencies they recommend 3 days of supplies. At the time of writing this, the world's focus is on pandemic and experts are suggesting you might need 2 weeks of supplies.
The two main things you need to wait out an emergency or disaster situation at home is food and water. With water, you need 3 litres of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and washing. It is worthwhile having more water on hand for things like washing properly and flushing toilets.
When it comes to food, ideally you want food that doesn't need to be refrigerated or frozen and doesn't require cooking. Most people will have some sort of barbecue or portable gas cooker, and if the electricity is still working then it will be even better. But while we can hope for the best, always plan for the worst.
Keeping an emergency pantry is not that hard. A common recommendation is to include foods that you might normally eat and which you can swap out over time. Hardcore preppers will have boxes of survival rations that they can store for 20 years in preparation for the end of the world, but the well-prepared person is just ready for whatever comes.
It is worthwhile preparing because typically supermarkets stock only two days worth of groceries, and when an emergency is on the way, not only do more people head to the shops, they also buy up more emergency-related supplies. You don't want to be the person who turns up at the supermarket to find empty shelves where there used to be cans of food.
Some great survival foods that we might eat regularly include instant couscous and instant noodles. But you can also look at long life flatbreads that come in sealed bags that you can store for months. Peanut butter is a classic survival food. Then, of course, anything that comes in a can that you would regularly eat.
For me, it would be rice, pasta, couscous and lots of cans of tuna. I would probably include peanut butter which I would normally buy once every 3 months anyway. I have to admit baked beans would be there too, but only because it is the only canned food that I regularly by that can be eaten as is. While friends who do a lot of hiking have boxes of freeze-dried food that they can turn to at any time.
This has not been a definitive guide to planning your emergency supplies and bags, instead, I hope that I can help people start to think about preparing. Everyone's situation is going to be different. You don't need to buy anything special to prepare. If you are a camper or hiker, you might have more survival-related gear, but everyone should at least have a first aid kit at home.
A lot of this is just about organising your things or shopping so that you are ready for various situations. Some disasters come with warning and others hit hard and fast. Being ready can be easy.
If you have any further ideas and suggestions for preparation or want to share your own emergency preparation solutions or experiences, add them to the comments.
Thanks Roy. Good general article to get people thinking. Like most others who have commented, I do not see this as scare-mongering.
I live very close to the City of Sydney and rarely think of preparing for disasters. In the past, I have spent many weeks at sea on a yacht and needed medications, serious first aid items, & food and water, to see us through for long periods.
Every situation is different, but I would suggest that being self-reliant is important as it's not always possible to call for help when you need it.
I think keeping some cash on hand in small bills is helpful, also cheap beer and cigarettes to trade and get work done- in Russia’s turbulent times people often used vodka to pay mechanics, doctors, green grocers etc. haha
Something like a kelly kettle is also a great backup for cooking
Nice article Roy. I was thinking about this after reading horror stories of panic buying that seems to happen and the inevitable profiteering that follows. The only other thing I would add is to keep a reserve of flour and sugar and salt as well as an emergency stock of medication people may need eg insulin, blood pressure medication, Ventolin etc
Thank you for these suggestions. I do not see this as scaremongering, it is simply a suggestion that we be worldly wise and prepared for any possible eventuality... there is nothing alarmingly frightening here, simply a wake-up to what the possibilities may be. I consider this one decent human's advice to possibly help many others and appreciate your efforts.