What are the critical elements of an emergency preparedness kit? On the surface this appears to be a straight forward question, yet as it is when dealing with emergencies there is no such thing as a straight forward answer or one size fits all solution.

Emergency preparedness kits can be as diverse as one can imagine or afford. Instead of attempting to provide guidance to develop an emergency preparedness kit tailored to a specific emergency, it would be wiser to consider items which are valuable in any emergency kit and would be useful if you remain in the home of if you must move beyond the home.

Most survival and emergency preparedness professionals agree that if you have water, food, fire and shelter, you can survive in most circumstances.  That does not mean 1 match, a snickers bar, 8 ounces of water, and a blanket is enough to survive any significant emergency.  An effective emergency preparedness kit requires effort and consideration.

Water for Your Emergency Preparedness Kit

Experts estimate that the average human can survive three days without water. Because of this, water is an absolute must have in any emergency preparedness kit. Read this article to learn how much water you should store for an emergency.

In addition to water, the ability to purify water is also critical. In the event you must change location and can only carry limited amounts of water, the ability to purify water from streams, creeks, or rain could be life saving. There are various types of water purifiers that can come in all shapes and sizes, including ones that are small enough to store in a pocket.

Fire for Your Emergency Preparedness Kit

Fire is equally as important as water in any emergency preparedness kit. In winter weather, fire it can provide the heat required to survive; in the summer it can serve as the heating source to prepare your food or keep wild animals at bay. A wide variety of options for igniting a fire are available, including lighters, matches, flint and steel kits, lightening rods, or any number of natural techniques which can start a fire. Unless you are a natural fire starter expert, I would strongly suggest you do not rely on natural techniques as your source for generating fires.

Personally, I currently have lighters stored separately, lightening rods, and stormproof matches (which claim to stay lit no matter what). Despite that claim, I store them in a resealable plastic bag. I recently learned a neat trick for storing matches and water proofing matches: Place a few matches in a plastic straw and burn each end of the straw, essentially locking the matches in a small waterproof container. Another option is to burn a candle and allow the wax to melt, turning your match head in the wax. That wax keeps the match head from getting wet. When you need a match, simply remove a small bit of the wax and light as normal.

Food for Your Emergency Preparedness Kit

A food source—be it canned food, dried food or the survival food offered by many preparedness companies—is also a must. You should contain food for both long-term storage and for quick “grab and go” evacuations.

In some scenarios, you will not have time to 1) sort through your food supply, 2) determine what food is best to carry, and 3) pack the food neatly and securely for your trip. In either case, please consider carefully all the tools and equipment required to store and prepare food.

Shelter for Your Emergency Preparedness Kit

It is ideal if you have ability to carry a tent in your emergency preparedness kit. If that is not an option, my choice is two or more 8-foot by 10-foot tarps which have multiple uses. In addition to tarp, include at least 100 feet or more of paracord which can serve a variety of purposes. When combined with paracord or rope, you can use it to make a shelter which can protect you from the elements. You can use tarp to keep dry and provide insulation from wet ground. I consider it a great addition to any emergency preparedness kit.

A good lighting source is a necessity, especially if you’re trying to set up shelter in the dark. While traditional flashlights can be enough, they require batteries which can drain quickly with frequent use. A hand cracked LED or solar lamp which does not require a lengthy cranking period is a better option.

A reliable cutting tool such as a saw or machete is also a must have and can assist you in clearing paths, cutting firewood or self-defense. A small digging tool could also prove to be very useful in making below ground fires for better concealment, burying the remains of animals hunted to avoid drawing wild animal to your area.

Additional Items for Your Emergency Preparedness Kit

You should include a good first aid kit, duct tape, and a Swiss knife type of tool that includes a can opener if you have can food. If you live in a colder climate, I recommend including hand warmers, gloves, thick socks, and others items that could keep you warm if the temperature drops suddenly.

Be sure to add a small cooking pan, a map of your local area, an extended battery or solar-powered charger for cellphones, a portable battery-operated radio, and a list of emergency contacts (you should not assume the contact list contained in your cellphone will always be available). If you are on medication, take that into consideration and, if possible, keep a 30-day supply readily available. Finally, select a great backpack which allows you to store all items in one location making it easily to grab and go.

This is not an exhaustive list, but will provide you with a comfortable emergency preparedness kit that will be valuable in any situation.

Photo: U.S. Air Force