Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tightwad tuesday: 72-hour kits

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

It's an old saw that never gets outdated--and it's true: sometimes you have to spend a bit now in order to save later. Look no further than Virginia earlier today to see that there is no instance in which this is more true than preparing for an emergency. Spending now could save you money later on--and more importantly, maybe even save your life or that of a loved one.

Before Jimmy was born, I worked for the City of Bellevue. All City employees were expected to be available to help assess damage to local infrastructure in the event of an emergency or natural disaster, and because I lived within 2 miles of city hall, I was in the first tier expected to report. The big risks in that area were earthquake, volcanic eruption and terrorist attacks. That's when I got in the habit of having a portable 72-hour kit stashed under my desk at work that included a change of clothes, food, water and first aid, as well as one at home and a smaller kit in my car.

Now we live in a more rural area, but we're still at risk for earthquakes and volcanic eruption, and flooding is a problem in our county every year, although this past winter is the first time we ever found any water leaking into our basement.

Currently, I keep a kit in my home near the front door, as well as the mini-kit in my trunk. The big one's in a large wheeled plastic storage chest that includes a backpack for each person with clothes and food, along with first aid and sanitary supplies for the whole family. It's true, I go through various stages of vigilance in rotating and updating the contents of my kit, but my recent bout of nesting got me thinking I needed to check it.

Last week I gutted and reorganized Jimmy's and Audrey's closets, and it seemed like the perfect time to swap out the change of clothes in their kit backpacks with the sizes they're currently wearing. I also went through and replaced all the food that was outdated, and added a new feature to my kit: a "refresh list". I got the idea from a recent issue of Parents magazine, which suggested keeping a card with a list of the expiration dates of all perishables in your kit, so you could see at a glance what needed to be updated.

If you want to put together a 72-hour kit on your own (since pre-assembled kits tend to be pricey) and are looking for a good place to start, try 72hours.org. I also like this checklist put together by the Washington State Emergency Management division.

Just remember: you don't have to put it all together at once. Start with a container large enough to hold all the supplies for however many people are in your household. If you don't already have something suitable on hand, try an inexpensive container such as a large food-grade bucket or a suitcase or backpack you pick up for a couple bucks at a thrift store.

Buy a few items for your kit each week when you purchase your regular groceries, or go in with someone else if there are items you need to purchase in bulk. By working at it gradually, you can assemble your emergency kit without breaking the bank.


Dyann said...

p.s.--then rotate it fairly regularly so in an emergency the clothes that you have for your 5yo don't include size 4 diapers.

not like i know that or anything.

and his clothes weren't size 12 months, either.

dangit. (thank heaven it wasn't an emergency, just the action finally taken on the desire to update the 72hr kits.)

chicklegirl said...

Dyann, that's one of the beauties of the refresh list--in addition to the pull-dates for all the perishables, at the top of the list I wrote what sizes of kid clothes were packed. So next time I look at the list, I'll be able to know as soon as I look if I need to swap out the clothes. I thought it was a brilliant idea!

And I don't know if you do this type of thing, but here's my tip for keeping the kids' clothes in the 72-hour kit current but on the cheap: usually when I'm stocking the clothes for the kids, I'll buy them at a thrift store, whatever color tags are on special that day, so I'm not pulling any of their favorite outfits out of rotation or spending too much on clothes they (hopefully) will never have to wear.