Stories & Features

When building an emergency kit, don't forget the water

Contents of the Canadian Red Cross emergency preparedness bundle, along with food and personal items that should be included in a 72-hour kit. Show caption
Water is on often overlooked component of emergency preparedness. Store enough water to allow for four litres for each member of your household, and have refillable small containers available to fill and carry. Show caption
In an extended power outage, lighting and communication are key. Ensure your kit has several flashlights, a headlamp if you have one, matches, candles and a battery-operated or hand-crank radio. Show caption
Personal items, including insurance papers, your family emergency plan, copy of your passport and eyeglass prescription, should be included in your kit. Show caption
Include spare glasses, contact lenses, medications and some cash in your emergency kit. Show caption
The Canadian Red Cross emergency preparedness bundle includes a separate vehicle emergency kit. It's a good idea to augment that kit with water, food and a collapsible shovel, especially prior to winter road trips. Show caption

A well-stocked kit is key to survival at home, on the road, at sea

If you want to ensure you and your family can survive a natural disaster, an extended power outage or other major emergency, don't just put an emergency kit together. Take the time to ensure you have at least 72 hours of supplies, most notably drinking water, in the mix.

More often than not, it's water that becomes most scarce – and most vital – for those trying to survive serious emergencies. With water, you can beat the odds.

After Hurricane Katrina hammered the Louisiana coast on August 29, 2005, a 76-year-old man lasted 16 days in his flooded house by escaping to the attic and surviving mainly on drinking water.

And after Nathan Carman's boat sank off the East Coast of the U.S. this past September, he lasted eight days on a life raft before he was rescued, in large part because he had water provisions for four, plus some graham crackers.

Emergency preparedness organizations strongly recommend putting together enough supplies for three days, including a minimum of four litres of water per person. And it's a good idea to include smaller containers of water, or containers that can be filled from larger jugs, that can be easily carried.

Here's a look at what you should include in a 72-hour emergency bundle.  And don't miss out on a chance to win an emergency bundle in this month's Team Power Smart contest.

Did you pack medications, prescriptions, a pocket knife?

There are a lot of smaller emergency kits available at retailers in B.C. that come equipped with the basics such as a first aid kit, flashlight and a whistle. It's up to you to fully stock the kit with food, water and personal items.

A 72-hour emergency kit should include:

  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Multi-function tool & knife
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Cellphone with charger
  • Cash in small bills
  • A local map with your family meeting place identified
  • Three-day supply of food and water (for each person in the household)
  • Garbage bags
  • Dust mask
  • Seasonal clothing and footwear
  • Medications and/or eyewear prescriptions
  • Manual can opener
  • Extra keys, for your house and car
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Important family documents (i.e. copies of birth and marriage certificates, passports, licences including drivers licence, medical care card, wills, land deeds and insurance)
  • A copy of your emergency plan

Customize a kit for your vehicle, too

The car is great for adventure and can take you well off the beaten track, which is why – especially in winter – it's a good idea to always have an emergency kit including food and water in your vehicle.

In December of 2013, a couple and their four children survived two nights in the Nevada high desert – with temperatures dipping as low as -29°C – after their Jeep rolled into a remote mountain ditch. They survived via a combination of preparation – they packed food and water and had told relatives which area they'd be travelling in – and creativity. They not only stayed in and around their truck, they kept a fire going and heated rocks they then used to help keep the kids warm inside the vehicle.

Before you head out on a winter road trip, consider putting together this vehicle emergency kit. Many of the items below are included in the auto kit that's part of the Canadian Red Cross'  emergency preparedness bundle you can purchase online.

  • Pair of scissors
  • CPR mask
  • Triangular bandage, 25 adhesive bandages, 5 fingertip bandages, 3 gauze pads 2" x 2", 3 gauze pads 3” x 3”, 3 gauze pads 4" x 4", 3 insect sting relief swabs, hot compress, 5 knuckle bandages, 2 pair of Nitrile gloves, 10 alcohol prep pads
  • Roll of duct tape, roll of adhesive tape
  • 10 hand cleansing wipes
  • Bio hazardous waste bag
  • Pencil
  • Tweezers
  • Multi-function knife
  • Emergency light stick
  • Pack of matches
  • First aid manual
  • Seat belt cutter
  • Plastic whistle
  • Nylon bag
  • Instant heat hand/foot warmers
  • Collapsible shovel
  • Pain relief tablets

In addition, bring along food, water, medications, personal hygiene items and – if you have room – blankets or sleeping bags.

Carefully build a family emergency plan that includes your pets

During a disaster, all the necessities you take for granted can disappear, including phone access, electrical and water services. Roads could be blocked, stores closed and gas stations out-of-service.

So it's vital to put together a family emergency plan so that all members of your family are aware of what to do and how to get back together in the wake of an emergency. Follow PreparedBC's 11 steps to a prepared household that includes links to a printable emergency plan template, plus a separate plan to ensure you have plans for your pets, too.

Enter to win a Canadian Red Cross emergency preparedness bundle

Team Power Smart members can easily enter to win a preparedness bundle in December's member contest. If you're not already a member, you can quickly join today and then enter this month's contest by visiting your Member Tool Box and answering a contest question.

See also: