A die-hard Boy Scout friend of mine takes the motto "Be Prepared" to heart, and he believes he's prepared for everything. He also carries around a 12-pound bag of "Prepared" everywhere he goes, just in case the zombies attack when he's in the bathroom at the theatre, I suppose.
Personally, I prefer a more minimalist approach -- I believe in packing a few items that have a lot of uses, and keeping them in the car. After all, I'm rarely more than 5 minutes away from it, and it's a lot better at carrying stuff than I am. If there's a disaster that requires a response time of less than 5 minutes, I figure I'm probably screwed anyway.
Here are the items that I keep in my emergency kit:
- Because it's in my car, I always keep a Lifehammer in my kit. Not only is it good for cutting seat belts and bashing out car windows, but in a pinch it can disassemble clothes and it makes a decent self-defense weapon.
- A basic first aid kit is a critical element in any emergency preparedness kit.
- An emergency radio that doesn't require batteries or an electrical outlet -- mine is hand-crank -- is important in any urban or suburban area. Mine is equipped with a flashlight that also runs on the hand crank.
- Finally, you need enough nonperishable food and water for at least one day. Some experts recommend three, but I'm a minimalist and I know how to hunt, so I figure one day (long enough to get home and get the bow) is good enough for me.
Now, my wife's minivan has practically Mormon levels of food storage and a full mess kit -- but then she's also the type to have a spare phone book in her car (despite not having a cellphone.) To each of their own, I suppose.
I encourage everyone to be ready in case of a catastrophe, whether you go over-the-top or, like me, as simple as possible. Just the act of thinking about it now will make you ten times more ready to deal with the time comes.