Let me start out by saying that this Disaster Kit is insane. It’s over the top and I love it. And I tried to make it affordable. If you want to be prepared for the next disaster, I’ve got the ultimate guide for you. The list was born out of a desire to build a disaster kit for myself and my family.
When the COVID19 pandemic began I was already behind the eight ball. I had a fairly simple medical kit I had put together and some basic supplies at home but I didn’t feel as prepared as I would have liked. Granted, I couldn’t get anything that I needed (even toilet paper) so everything turned out fine, but I like to be over-prepared. Then I saw people running to the store and stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And others stocking up on ammo. It just gave me a general impression that we as a society have no idea what we need on hand to be prepared for a disaster.
And so began my quest to build the most epic disaster kit list I could. In order to do this I sat down with my Dad and my brother and we hashed out and argued through the list you see below. Why my Dad and brother you ask? I myself am an Emergency Physician with a background in disaster preparedness and mass casualty response. My brother is a firefighter paramedic, hazmat technician, rescue diver, and all-around EMS badass. And my Dad is a retired fire chief, emergency manager, has a Ph.D. in Emergency Management, and was the Dean of Emergency Services at a college. Needless to say, I knew that if we could hash out a list that we all agreed on and shared it with you, you would be able to be confident that we covered our bases. And so I present to you the Epic Disaster Kit.
- Life straw/water filter
- Dehydrated food
- Glucose tablets
- Powdered electrolytes
- Manual can opener
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper
- Firestarter kit, matches, lighter,
- Utensils, pans, cups
- Infant formula
- Pet supplies
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape
- Tent? Needs to be small
- change of clothes
- sleeping bags
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, plastic ties
- Feminine care
- First Aid kit
- Quick clot
- Motrin/tylenol/ benadryl
- Dust mask (N95)
Protection Against the Elements
- Rain gear
- Thermal blanket
- Bug repellent
Tools and Gear
- Paracord (bracelet)
- Fire extinguisher
- Local maps
- Paper and Pencil
- Backpack (with rollers)
- Nuke Alert
- Extra batteries
- Battery or Hand crank radio with NOAA weather alert and tone alert
- Cellphone with charger chords and extra battery
Water and Food
Having 72 hours’ worth of water and food available in a disaster is probably the most important aspect of preparation. The rule of 3s states that we can live 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Water is critically important if you are required to shelter in place in your home. FEMA advises that you have 3 gallons of water for each individual in the home. For sheltering in place this is a great idea, however, if you are forced to move or need to seek a safer environment, carrying 3 gallons of water for each person is going to be almost impossible. This is why we suggest you also have a life straw or other water filtering device. A small amount of household chlorine and a medicine dropper will also allow you to purify water as needed with just a couple of drops. For sheltering in place, 3 or more days of canned goods and nonperishable food items can be stored. Make sure you have a can opener as well as the basic things you need to be able to eat like travel-sized utensils. Once again though, if you are forced to move or flee, having food that you can take with you is key. Dehydrated food used by backpackers and found at stores like REI are a great, lightweight option to provide meals. Keep in mind however that you will need a way to heat up the water and food as well as at least one pop to cook in. Make sure you have a fire starter kit, waterproof matches, and a lighter so that you will be able to cook and boil water if needed. Finally, keep in mind who is present in your family. If infants or pets reside with you, don’t forget to make sure you have infant formula as well as pet food. Extra items we recommend that are lightweight and can be life-saving in a crunch are electrolyte packets to add to water as well as glucose tablets.
Most guidelines call for sheltering in place in your own home if there is a disaster. However, some people may be required to flee or move to safer areas and so having the materials you need to provide a makeshift shelter is important to protect you from the elements. Plastic sheeting and duct tape is enough to allow you to put together some type of shelter in an emergency but some people prefer to have a tent on hand. I recommend both but make sure that your tent is lightweight and compact enough to throw into a backpack if you need to leave in a hurry. A change of clothes and a sleeping bag are also advised to provide both warmth and to limit exposure. Again, make sure the sleeping bag is lightweight and compact.
Not always your first concern in an emergency, having supplies to allow for basic hygiene is very important to prevent infection and disease. Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and zip ties will allow you to take care of bodily functions in case toilets and other sanitation infrastructure is disrupted. Soap for cleaning both the body and clothes will help prevent exposure to infections and toxins, and feminine care products should be kept on hand as well.
Preventing infection and exposure is important but sometimes injuries do occur and many people do have medical problems that will need tending to. Being able to access healthcare resources may not be an option so having a basic first aid kit and some other key supplies is critical to surviving for 72 hours. It is estimated that during some disaster scenarios it will take at least 3 days for emergency services to be up and running so this is why the Epic 72 hour Disaster Kit is so important and recommended. Most first aid kits come with gloves, but having extra is important. I also recommend a few products that do not come in basic first aid kits. The first one is a tourniquet. Tourniquets save lives by stopping life-threatening bleeding, and in a crisis can be the difference between life and death in just minutes. I also recommend a product called QuickClot. QuickClot can also be used to stop bleeding by becoming a matrix for the blood to coagulate on. These two bleeding control options, I believe, should be in every disaster kit. Any medications that are taken on a regular basis or need to be taken on a regular basis need to be included as well. It’s important to always make sure that any prescription medications are filled before you run out of them so that if you were unable to get them you would have enough to get you through. Common over-the-counter medications are important as well such as Motrin/Tylenol and Benadryl. I think everyone should have an N95 mask on hand as well. As seen with the COVID19 pandemic, some viruses and bacteria are only filtered through these types of masks. If you were forced to leave your shelter and be amongst others who could possibly be infectious, having a N95 mask can protect you from contracting quite a few pathogens.
Protecting against the elements
I mentioned the importance of having the ability to make a shelter if needed, but keep in mind that you should always shelter in place in your home if you can. Overall it is safer. However, if you are forced to leave you need to be able to make yourself shelter but also protect yourself from the elements. Sunscreen and bug spray are so important even though they might not seem to be. You can get very sick and dehydrated from sunburn and bug bites always have the potential to become infected. Hypothermia is a risk as well when exposed to cool temperatures and wet environments. Rain gear to protect your clothing and a thermal blanket to keep warm can help protect against dropping body temperatures both during the day and at night when temperatures might drop drastically in some regions.
Tools and Gear
The last part of the list is other tools and gear I think you should have on hand. You cant be prepared for absolutely everything, but with this list, there’s not much you won’t be prepared for. First, a multi-tool carries a lot of bang for its buck. Multi-tools will have knives, screwdrivers, scissors, wrenches, etc all built into one compact tool for you to carry in your pocket. This is priceless in a disaster scenario where you don’t know what you might need at a moment’s notice. Having a shovel and hatchet will allow you to build your shelter more efficiently and dispose of waste. I have a paracord bracelet that fits around my wrist and can give me tons of strong rope if I need it in a pinch. Anything like a multitool and a paracord bracelet that is small and compact and lightweight is always going to be a good idea. Some things are self-explanatory. I think you know why you should have a flashlight, extra batteries, phone chargers, cash, paper and pencil, a whistle, and a fire extinguisher. A lot of people don’t think about the compass and local maps though. If you are forced to move and don’t have access to the internet you’ll need to figure out where you are headed. I know many of you have forgotten how to read a map but you might need to relearn if you want to survive. (I am the worst with directions so if my wife doesn’t survive in a disaster scenario it won’t really matter if I have a map to be honest). The next couple of items are unique but will set your Epic 72 Hour Disaster Kit above the rest.
Battery or hand crank radio with NOAA weather alert and tone alert
This battery-powered or hand-crank radio will allow you to listen to radio broadcasts, announcements, and weather alerts. In a disaster where power outages may leave you without TV or internet, this may be the only way to receive information about what is occurring outside your home
iOSAT tablets protect against radiation. Heaven forbid there was a nuclear incident or attack, radiation exposure could pose a serious and deadly health risk. iOSAT tablets are iodine tablets that bind to the receptors in the thyroid and take up all the space there so that radiation ions can’t bind to cause damage. The effects are self-limited so these would be used to allow you to get out of a radiation zone or to quickly move through one in order to get to safety.
Nuke alert is a handheld radiation detection device. As with the iOSAT, if there were ever a nuclear or radiation incident, being able to know if your area is affected or dangerous could mean the difference between life and death.
The only thing left to discuss is how you are going to pack and transport these materials if they are needed. I don’t currently recommend any specific backpack or luggage so I would love to hear your recommendations, but make sure you have a way to carry this equipment if you need to move in a hurry. Selecting items that are lightweight and portable is key. I suggest you pick luggage or a backpack that has rollers as this will potentially make it easier to carry more items for longer distances.
So there you have it! The Epic 72 Hour Disaster Kit in all its glory. If you want a free pdf checklist of this list click here and we can send you the free pdf right away. And of course, I want to hear from you! What other suggestions do you have to make this list even more epic? Comment or shoot me an email. Stay safe out there!
Chris Seitz, MD