Emergency Preparedness: The Grab 'n Go Kit

Having lived through the 2003 Kelowna Firestorm, and now, with the recent forest fire devastating the Alberta community of Fort McMurray, I thought it might be prudent to remind myself and others about an important emergency preparedness item, the Grab 'n Go kit.

In emergency situations, you will more than likely need some basic supplies. You may have to get by without electricity, running water or the things you need on a daily basis. You should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours if an emergency occurs.

You probably already have some of these items on hand, such as food, water and a flashlight. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. For instance, would you be able to find your flashlight if the lights went out?

Your kit should be portable and easy to carry. Everyone in your household should know where it is kept, and this spot would ideally be near the main entrance of your home, perhaps in a closet by the door. Use a duffle bag, wheeled suitcase, a backpack or even a strong plastic tote.  Depending on the number of people in your home, your emergency kit might become unwieldy. Ideally, each person would have their own personalized emergency kit in their own separate backpack, with a shared kit for those resources that everyone uses.

The following list of items is based on recommendation from the Red Cross, with some additional suggestions from my experience, but the contents may vary with your particular needs and comfort level.

Basic emergency kit

  • Water – at least 2 litres (1/2 gallon) of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order
  • Water filtering system and/or purification technology
  • Food that won't spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods
  • A means to heat food, boil water, ie. fire starter, alcohol stove, white gas stove etc.
  • A utility knife / multi-tool w. knife, screw driver bits, can opener, scissors etc.
  • Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • Crank, battery-powered radio (and extra batteries) or Weatheradio
  • First aid kit (your requirements will vary with your skillset/experience)
  • Extra keys to your car and house
  • Some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones
  • A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
  • Important papers and ID, birth certificates, passports etc.
  • If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs)

Recommended additional items

  • Smartphone chargers, 120V (wall plug) and 12V (cigarette lighter)
  • 2 additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning
  • Candles and matches or lighter (place candles in deep, sturdy containers and do not burn unattended)
  • Change of clothing and footwear for each household member
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
  • Toiletries
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Utensils
  • Garbage bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Basic tools (hammer, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, dust mask)
  • A whistle (in case you need to attract attention)
  • Duct tape (to tape up windows, doors, air vents, etc.)
  • Wire and electrical tape for repairs
You should review your kit every year, replacing all food, water and batteries, and checking on the working condition of all items.  Replace/repair as necessary.

In a disaster or regional emergency, always check with your municipal authorities before drinking tap water. If there is any doubt, do not drink it, without filtration or purification.  (This can be a complex topic and I will go into further detail in another blog post later.)

Do not rely on debit or credit cards.  Keep some cash on hand in small bills, as bank machines may not work during an emergency.

Pre-packaged kits

Pre-packaged kits are available from the Red Cross in Canada and the US.  I have not seen these kits in person, but they do appear to be of decent quality and reasonably priced.  All proceeds go to help those in need at the times when they need help the most.

Other kits are available online or in store, but many of the reviews speak of poor quality contents and the contents not necessarily matching the product marketing material. I have purchased a few kits in the past and echo these concerns.  I know this is not true of all vendors.  I will be researching this topic more thoroughly in the near future.  Stay tuned!

I have heard good things about the quality of products in UST survival gear. I hope to be able to review some of their products soon.

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