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If there were an emergency in the middle of the night and you had to leave your home quickly, what would you take with you? What do you have ready to grab in a hurry?

Along with your kids, pets, and perhaps something else extra-special to your family, there are some things that you can easily put into a backpack that you can grab and go. It would be terrific if this pack is enough to carry you through 72 hours, so look to that as a goal.

You can buy “Grab and Go” bags, or you can make your own, or have a mix of each in your family. EFoods Direct sells a “Grab & Go Pack” that is enough food for two weeks for an individual, or 3 days for a family of 4 (There are also other sizes available.). It has food and several other important accessory items, like a stove, cooking pot and utensils, a water filtration device, and emergency face masks. Take a look at it and see if it has what you need, but consider adding a few other things:

  1. First aid kit: You can buy a simple, small first aid kit for less than $10, or you can put together your own with first aid supplies you already have around the house. Though you hope you never need it, this is one thing you want to be sure to have in a backpack to take quickly. For your kit, you should also include any prescription medicines you can, and include things like extra prescription eye glasses or hearing aids. A pair of glasses that are an older prescription will always be better than no glasses at all.
  2. Flashlight/Glowsticks: Light is something you will be grateful for. When you don’t have a way to light the darkness around you, the dark seems longer and darker. It’s a good idea to keep the batteries separate from the flashlight so that they last longer, and you might want to also put aside an extra set of batteries, just in case. Or, get a self-powered flashlight, like one that is shaken to provide battery power. Another solution for light is to take along glow sticks. These are especially helpful for those who have children, as they are much safer than candles but provide some comfort of light.
  3. Water: This is one of the most important things to have after an emergency, so be prepared to take some in your backpack. Many people store water at their home in gallon jugs, but this wouldn’t be nearly as convenient to take in a backpack, so plan to get some smaller water bottles to divvy up between the packs your family will be taking.
  4. Snacks: Though you will hopefully not be away from home long, it is good to have at least a few items of food or snacks in a bag to take with you in a hurry. Of course, these will need to be rotated periodically, but most will last quite a while. Some items to consider are fruit snacks, crackers, canned tuna or other meat (with a pull top), protein bars, dry cereals, dried fruit, canned juice, peanut butter, etc.
  5. Protective clothing: Depending on the season, you might want to store warm clothes, rain gear, or a light jacket. For all seasons, you will want heavy work gloves and protective footwear. It can also be a good idea to be prepared with a sleeping bag for each family member.
  6. Sanitation items: These include toilet paper, feminine supplies, hand sanitizer, and soap. Those with babies or elderly people might also need to include diapers, wipes, protective ointments, etc.
  7. Documents and Phone numbers: These include photos of family members and pets (for photo identification), other photo ids (driver licenses, state ID card), health insurance information, and other health information like current prescriptions and allergies. This information can be very important in an emergency, and really take up very little space or weight in a backpack. Hedge your bets and just make a copy to carry, update as needed.
  8. Camera: Many of us have a camera on our phone. Maybe that will be sufficient, but it wouldn’t hurt to include in your backpack a disposable camera to document what you see.
  9. Radio and Whistle: In an emergency, all radio stations are trained to send out emergency information as they get it. If you want to receive it, better plan ahead and have a radio that can operate without electricity. Battery-operated (with extra batteries, of course) or crank-operated…consider them both.  As for a whistle, blowing a whistle is less tiring and much more effective than yelling, and a whistles takes up very little space.
  10. Tools: a multi-tool, duct tape, wrench (to turn off utilities – some people keep this tied to the gas meter), and utility knife can all be useful. You might also want a more extensive tool kit available, but the three listed here are the basics for a backpack.
  11. Cash: You will want to have some cash on hand in small denominations, for whatever you might need. Remember, in a larger emergency, ATMs will probably not be working.
  12. Items to help pass the time: Depending on the age of the person, take along a few items to help while away the hours, comfort, and keep you more relaxed and less stressed. Consider scriptures, cards games, puzzle books, storybooks, a craft project, a favorite stuffed toy or blanket, or whatever it is that you think might help. Some parents even buy an extra of a favorite toy or blanket and just keep one in the backpack so they don’t need to grab it as they leave the house.
  13. Other items: Toothbrush and toothpaste, extra keys to your car and vehicles, and anything your family will need in your unique circumstances: extra items for the elder members or babies, and don’t forget about pets’ needs! 

This list may seem long — and it is. However, not everything needs to be in everyone’s backpacks. Some items should, like food, water, and extra clothing. Other items only need to be in one pack for the whole family, like tools, radio and whistle, and cash. Just begin setting up the packs. Buy what you’d like pre-made (bags with food, first aid kits, etc.) or make your own, tailored to your family. Remember to reevaluate it about every 6 months (like when you change your smoke alarm battery each spring and fall). And when you need to evacuate in a hurry, you’ll be much more ready for a quick exit.

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