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Building and Maintaining an Effective Emergency Kit

In a world filled with uncertainties, we have to be prepared for unexpected emergencies. Natural disasters, power outages, and other unforeseen events can disrupt our daily lives and leave us vulnerable. 

One of the most important steps towards being prepared is to have an effective emergency kit readily available. This article will offer guidance on the essential items needed for your emergency kit, as well as how to keep your kit up-to-date.

Essential Items for Your Emergency Kit

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When it comes to building an emergency kit checklist, there are a few essential items that should be included. 

1. Water: 

First and foremost, water is crucial for survival. It is recommended to have at least one gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of three days. 

2. Non-perishable foods: 

  • Granola bars
  • Dried fruits
  • Beef jerky
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned beans
  • Canned soups
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruit

This will ensure an adequate supply for each member of your household.

3. A well-stocked first aid kit:

  • Bandages
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacids or laxatives
  • Prescription medications
  • And any other vital first aid drugs

4. Important documents:

  • Identification papers
  • Insurance policies
  • Copies of personal records
  • Bank account records, etc.

These documents should be kept in a waterproof container or a secure digital format.

5. Communication devices:

  • Mobile phone
  • Phone chargers
  • Backup battery
  • Satellite phone
  • Two-way radio
  • AM/FM radio and other disaster supplies

In critical situations, the ability to reach out and stay informed can make all the difference between life and death. Being equipped with these communication devices not only allows you to connect with fellow individuals but also keeps you updated with vital alerts and emergency notifications.

6. If you have infants, young children, or pets:

  • Baby formula
  • Nappies
  • Pet food
  • Pet medications
  • And other necessary supplies

Ultimately, ensure that you consider the specific needs of your household members when assembling your emergency kit. For example, if anyone in your family has special medical needs, make sure that you have an ample supply of their required medication. 

How to Keep Your Emergency Kit Up-to-Date

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Regular Maintenance Schedule

Creating a survival kit is not a one-time task. Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure that the items in your kit remain useful and up-to-date. Establishing a maintenance schedule with professional organisers can help you stay organised and prepared. Set a reminder to check your emergency kit every six months to inspect and replenish any items that may have expired or become damaged.

Expiration Dates for Food, Water, and Medicine

Pay close attention to the expiration dates of food, water, and medications in your survival kit. Rotate these items out as needed and replace them with fresh supplies. This practice ensures that your kit remains stocked with usable resources when an emergency arises. And it also helps with decluttering your home.

Seasonal Updates (Clothing, Heating/Cooling Items)

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Seasonal updates are also crucial for maintaining an effective survival kit. Consider the changing weather patterns throughout the year and adjust your kit accordingly. For example, in colder months, include extra warm clothing, blankets, and a portable heating source. In warmer months, make sure you have sunscreen, insect repellent, and lightweight clothing to protect against the elements.

Tune in to Bonnie and Catherine rocking the airwaves on ABC Radio as they unleash a wealth of pro tips on crafting and updating an effective emergency kit:

2017.04.04 ABC Radio – Family Emergency Binder

Transcript

Catherine:

Now, one thing I learned from the flooding that followed Tropical Cyclone Debbie was just how important it was to be organised. We know that our house in Brisbane floods, and we thought we were prepared with a pump. When the rain started, we rushed downstairs to flick on the pump, and lo and behold, the thing had ceased. So, even though we were prepared, it just goes to show you’ve really got to stay on top of that organisation. So, how can we prepare for the next major natural event that is going to come? This is the state we live in. Brisbane’s Bonnie Black is also known as Little Miss Organized. She’s an expert member of the Australian Association of Professional Organizers. Bonnie, good day. Hey, how are you? 

Bonnie:

Good. How are you, Catherine? 

Catherine:

I’m good. How can we get prepared? We always know these things are coming, and we always seem to be caught out last minute. So how do we get prepared? How do we get organised?

 

The Importance of an Emergency Binder

Bonnie:

Look, it’s mostly about having a plan, first of all. So, what I’d like to talk to people about today is the family emergency binder or the important documents binder. So, what to grab when we know that the floods are coming, when we know that we have to evacuate, what are the things that we’re going to need documents wise so that we can prove our identity and make insurance claims and all those things.

Catherine:

Because I like to think that I’ve got stuff up in the clouds stored up somewhere safe and sound. But I know a lot of my information might be actually in the hard drive of my computer. So if that goes, it goes and then scattered somewhere throughout the house. So, what are the docs that we actually need to locate and store safely?

Bonnie:

Look, there’s quite a few documents that we need in case of an emergency, but you can basically break these down into five different areas. It’s a good idea to have a set of vital documents stored safely. This should include copies of your wallet cards, driver’s license, Medicare credit cards, immigration notices, insurance policies, home contents, car insurance, life insurance, rates notices, and utility bills. You should also include any important personal information, such as phone numbers, email addresses, and addresses of friends, family, and professionals you may need to contact in case of an emergency. This could include your children’s doctors and daycare centres. Having all of this information in one safe place will give you peace of mind and make it easier to access in case of an emergency. That all needs to come under that vital documents section.

The Importance of Keeping Hard Copies of Phone Numbers

Catherine:

The phone numbers one is key because I realised one day I left my phone at home, how I didn’t really even know the phone number of, well, I knew my husband’s, that was about it. So I was unable to contact my mum. Sorry, mum. But those little things that we can so easily overlook.

Bonnie:

Yeah. And look, these days with smartphones, we rely so heavily on the phone numbers that are stored in our phone. We don’t actually commit them to memory anymore. And I found out on Friday when our internet went down, I can’t just Google that anymore. I can’t just search for that number.

Catherine:

It’s scary how reliant we are on the phone. 

Bonnie:

Yeah.

Catherine:

But in the case of a flood or a fight, you won’t have power often, so you can’t switch on the computer and figure it out. So what else do we need to prepare? What else do we need to organise ahead of a natural disaster?

Key Documents to Include in an Emergency Binder

Bonnie:

So, also in your important documents binder or your family emergency binder, you want to have your medical papers, your legal papers, so your wills, your power of attorneys, any deeds and titles, any financial documents, so bank account statements, stocks, investment, superannuation, because these are the documents that you’ll need to help make those insurance claims and to help prove who you are when the floodwaters are receding and to just help you replace things that need to be replaced that have been damaged by flood or by fire.

Catherine:

So, you’re saying it’s good to have it stored in a folder, but then also, I guess, digitally elsewhere?

Bonnie:

Yeah, absolutely. So, having a small, maybe like an inch thick binder that you can grab when you’ve been told, Okay, it’s time to evacuate, you’re going to grab obviously a toiletries, spare pair of clothes, that thing. But that important document folder is also really important to grab with you as well. Having that digital backup and not just storing it on your computer, but having it stored in the cloud is essential as well.

But, there are things in our important documents folder, like our passports and our marriage certificates and those things that even though we might have a digital copy of them, a lot of places require that you have the original and you can go through so much trauma if you don’t have those original documents. So, that’s why having digital and the hard copy in an easy and accessible place is important as well.

Preparing a Storm Kit

Catherine:

That’s right. And my heart really goes out to anyone who has been affected by TC Debbie and the aftermath who may be in this particular circumstance, reeling from the loss of not only their property, but their personal information. The cleanup is continuing in Bowen, Earley. If anyone’s out there wanting to help, just head to emergencyvolunteering.com.au and see if you can get involved. But Bonnie, let’s talk about storms because that’s another natural disaster that we’re prone to in Queensland. What should we get organized with in advance of a storm?

Bonnie:

Look, everyone should have a Storm Kit. And in a Storm Kit, you need to have a radio that obviously can be battery operated with some spare batteries, of course, because if you’ve got no power, you still need to know what’s going on in the outside world. Because for me, for example, after the cyclone Debbie event, we woke up on Friday morning. It was clear, beautiful blue skies. The water had all drained away. It was like, why is school closed? And then as the reports were coming in about other areas that were affected, it was just crazy what was going on in other areas.

Essential Items for a Storm Kit

So, having that radio can really help you connect with what’s going on in other places, especially if you have family or loved ones that you need to keep up to date with what they’re doing and you’ve got no power to contact them. That radio is really essential. And also in your Storm Kit, you need to have candles, matches, and tortures. If you’ve got enough time to prepare for a storm or for a cyclone, having your nonperishable items, your water, your tinned foods, all those things.

A funny story. A few years ago, we were living in towns, where we’d only been there for about a week and there was a cyclone that was due to come. And so my husband and I, being the cyclone newbies that we were, went to the supermarket and all the bread and all the water was gone. But what did we stock up on? Chocolate milk, ice cream, all the stuff that if the freezer broke down, we would actually not be able to… It wouldn’t last.

Important Emergency Contact Numbers to Have on Hand

Catherine:

Yes. And it’s so easy to fall out of the habit of thinking about the reality. Even things like listening to some of the poor people out in Bean Lee who don’t have flushable toilet. This can be the reality of living after a major storm event, and it can go on for days. Preparation is key. What are some of the important phone numbers that you think we really need to have to hand in case of an emergency?

Bonnie:

Obviously, all the phone numbers for our family because you need to be able to notify your family that you’re okay, that you’re in an evacuation centre or wherever you are. Close friends as well might need to be notified too. If you’ve got no internet access and you can’t post on Facebook, Hey, I’m here. I’m okay. I’m alive.

You need to be able to contact people individually and have a bit of a phone tree set up so that they can then pass it on to other people that you’re okay and that you’re safe. Any doctors or specialists, those people, daycare, school, kingies, those are the places that you need to stay in touch with to say, My kids aren’t coming in today, or just find out what’s going on with them. And then, of course, your SES and your local police station just to call out for help if you do need it, if you are stuck. 

Maintaining Your Emergency Preparations

Catherine:

And I suppose once you’ve made those original steps in getting all of your things together, getting everything organised, it pays to keep checking on your suppliers. I mentioned my situation where we thought we were prepared and organised for the flood that we knew was going to happen, our garage and our pump had seized, and then we were left in the position of having to rush up the road to the hardware and grab another pump. Fortunately, a mate dropped by with one of theirs. If only we’d checked that our supplies that we prepared were in order, we wouldn’t be in the dillydally of a pickle that we were. I suppose that’s the other message, isn’t it? As part of being effectively organised.

Bonnie:

Absolutely. And so many people after this event will be thinking, oh, yes, I must do my Storm kit. Yes, I must put all those important documents together, but yet they’ll delay it and they won’t do it. And then the next event will come and they’ll think, Oh, I really wish I’d done it. So instead of regretting it tomorrow, just go ahead and take action today and get organised.

Catherine:

Absolutely. Wise words there and timely too. Thank you so much, Bonnie Black, also known as Little Miss Organized. Just quickly, how did you become to be so organised, Bonnie?

Bonnie:

Look, I think it’s a combination of genetics and I just can’t stand mess, to be perfectly honest.

Catherine:

Good on you. Well, preparation is key. Thank you so much for joining us here on ABC Radio Brisbane, Queensland.

Conclusion

Building and maintaining an effective emergency kit is an important step towards ensuring the safety and well-being of yourself and your loved ones during unforeseen emergencies. By including essential items such as water, food, first aid supplies, communication devices, and important documents, you are better prepared to face challenging situations. 

Regularly updating your kit, monitoring expiration dates, and adjusting it according to seasonal changes will ensure that your survival kit remains reliable and ready when needed. Emergencies can happen at any time and being prepared is the key to minimising the impact.

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