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How to make a 72 hour kit

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A 72 hour disaster kit
You never know when a disaster or emergency can happen, so having a disaster kit on hand can help ease your stress.
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Prepare your family to survive disaster.

One of the best ways for you and your family to get through a natural or other disaster is to have prepared the resources you will need to survive for several days until help can reach you. While you cannot anticipate everything that might happen in a sudden storm, flood or other damaging event, gathering together supplies you know you will need to take care of yourselves can make a great difference in how you ride out the event. 


Why a 72 hour list? National emergency-relief agencies, including the American Red Cross and the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, estimate that it can take two to three days to mobilize all the help necessary to deal with a widespread regional emergency.

Based on experience gained from recent hurricane and flooding disasters, these agencies and others have lists of up to 250 items that can help families or individuals meet immediate needs and increase their chances of survival. Commercial survival kits are also available, although you will need to decide whether the contents meet your needs.


Because good 72-hour lists are easily obtainable from federal and state emergency-management agencies and relief organizations, this article will not attempt to reproduce a list. Rather, it suggests some points you should consider before delving into the work of obtaining all the items needed for your 72-hour kit. 


Assessing the Dangers


What are the disasters most likely to happen in your area? Are they water-related, wind-related or something else, like wild-fires or blizzards? (While preparing for disaster brings to mind completely unpredictable issues like terrorism, you should prepare for what is most likely to happen.) If you have not lived in your community for long, neighbors and local/regional emergency management offices can help you learn more.


What Will You Lose in a Disaster?


While the general answer is everything, you can plan most intelligently if you are realistic. A record-setting blizzard will likely affect electric power, water and mobility, but it is less likely to destroy your entire house than wild-fires or a hurricane. While this may seem like a bizarre kind of disaster-roulette, it actually enables you to plan where you will most likely shelter your family.


If your area is blizzard-prone, you may decide to designate a first-floor room as your disaster shelter and store your supplies close to it. You might include using the fireplace in your planning. If you are likely to suffer severe damage to your whole house, your 72-hour kit should include tents; you may even want quick access to sheets of plywood and tools to build a lean-to after the storm.


Helping Your Family in a Disaster


One of the most important things at the head of your 72-hour list should be a family disaster plan. Just because you feel uncomfortable and even frightened talking about disaster with your family, you need to do this. Talk over plans with adult members of your family first, then give children directions and reassurance. Teens, for example, may be told to meet you at a chosen location, getting there by the safest means possible; young children, on the other hand, are best-equipped by knowing their and your full names, your address and telephone numbers.


If members of your family are at work or school when disaster hits, where will you try to meet when it is safe to move? Is there a designated shelter in your community? If you cannot communicate directly with each other, where can you leave a message for other family members?  


If it helps, you are not the first families needing a disaster plan. During World War II, English children were sent out of school to practice running home as fast as they could.  Postwar American civil defense drills included teaching even young schoolchildren how to protect their heads during a bombing attack and encouraged every family to have a gathering place if disaster struck. Many families living in areas with volatile climates may be on their second or third generation of family disaster planning.


Assemble Your Kit Now


Planning for disaster is something to tackle now. Assembling equipment and supplies you will need takes time and money (one list issued by a state emergency planning office provides an outline of what to buy week by week, to lessen the strain on both your emotions and your budget). Making a plan and obtaining a 72-hour list are unpleasant, but they focus you on what you have always believed most important—taking care of your family no matter what.

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