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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The return of 72-hour kits

"By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail."- Ben Franklin I received a comment on my 72-hr kit posting two days ago. Thank you! It's great to know there are readers out there.
While I think there is more agreement than disagreement in the comment, it's also apparent that my main point was not clear enough.
I'm completely in favor of stocking up and preparing supplies for emergencies at home, in your car, and at home. My concern is that the concept of a "72-hr kit" is an oversimplification to preparedness that misleads the average person into thinking they are prepared when they are not. Even the name is bad as emergency home supplies need to last more than 72 hours.
My objections reflect the common person who buys or makes a simple kit, loses track of it in the basement for years, and THINKS they are prepared. It's treated like a lucky rabbit's foot for protection. "I own one, therefore I'm safe." But when push comes to shove the 72-hr kit is not used, unusable or inadequate. Real disaster kits must be customized to personal needs and available at all times and resupplied.
I can't even say a 72-hr kit is "better than nothing" because it may amount to nothing when needed (not found or expired). It can give a false sense of security. It's like having a smoke alarm, never changing the batteries, and then leaving candles lit everywhere because the alarm will keep you safe.
When I wrote my first post, my wife & I had just met with local church leaders whose primary idea of preparedness was to make sure everyone had a 72-hr kit. At the same time they admitted they had lost track of and never refreshed the kits made at church years previous for their families. Another admitted that the amount of food in his kit (as specified by the official kit list) would never last him 3 days. There was much less interest in skill training - the kit would suffice for the welfare and protection of members.
Bottom Line
72-hour kits are only a first step towards preparedness, not the end of the journey. For kits to be useful I again recommend:
1. "72-hour" kits are for the car and office (not the home). I can only think of one use at home - when you have to shelter in place inside one room for gas/bio attack or tornado. If that room is your supply depot - all's well. If not, grab a kit from your car.
2. Customize your kits for your appetites and needs like medicines and diapers.
3. Include copies of important documents in the kit. Include some money.
4. Stock your home with 3 months of food, water and first aid supplies. A "72-hr" kit is for when you are stranded away from home base. It should not be your primary supplies.
5. Supplies must be backed up with skills. I own a chainsaw but fear to use it. It's dangerous and I'm not skilled in its use.