Preparing for 72-hour Emergencies

When I talk about a 72 hour emergency, I don’t necessarily mean an emergency that will clear up on it’s own within 72 hours. Some emergencies might last longer than 72 hours, but in a lot of situations, 72 hours might be all you need to get out of the situation you are in and relocated to a safer spot, even if the emergency itself is still ongoing.
Emergencies can take all forms: Northeast blackout of 2003, Ice storm in Quebec,
Hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, and even as devastating as a Tsunami.
The causes of emergencies can also range from environmental to human error to unexpected mechanical failure, war, and economic crisis.
Emergencies range in varying degrees and do not always have drastic consequences. Some are nothing more than a brief (or slightly prolonged) inconvenience while others are life-impacting.
How these situations affect us greatly depends on how well we are prepared. In North America, most instances that we face last less than 3 days; for example: a power-outage for a few hours, or a main water pipe burst which might cause some of us to lose water for a few days. In these kind of situations, 3 days of preparedness can assist in getting through the emergency or assisting you to getting somewhere unaffected by the emergency.
Whatever the emergency is, you can prepare for it by covering all of the crucial areas of survival. They won’t all be needed for every single situation, but by covering them all, you can be assured that you will be prepared come what may.

Here is a list of all the important areas: We will examine each one and reveal why they are important and what types of items can help you survive in these areas.

  • Fire
  • Warmth
  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Communication
  • Energy
  • Health
  • Light
  • Safety
  • Tools
  • Recreational

Fire: This ranks highest on the list of emergency preparedness only because people can go a few days without water and up to 3 weeks without food. One cold night, however, can be very life-threatening. Fire can help increase your chances vastly and various ways. It can help purify water by boiling, it can help make food (such as meat) consumable, and it can also generate warmth, either directly from the fire or by setting stones in the fire which absorb the heat and bringing the hot stones into a sheltered area which will keep the sheltered area warm without risk of carbon monoxide or catching the shelter on fire. Creating fire from scratch can be difficult, time-consuming, and can require using a lot of energy. There are several primitive methods that can be used such as the bow-drill, hand-drill, and fire plough, but these methods require the knowledge, skill, and ability to perform. It would be in your best interest to have easier methods of creating fire. A lighter is, by far, the easiest. A disposable or refillable lighter is common and generally easy to use. Their only downside is that they require fuel which can get used up relatively quickly, but in a 72-hour situation, they can work out fine. I prefer to be an extra step safer and use a fire-starter which usually consists of a magnesium stick, a flint, and a striker. Use the striker to shave a bit of the magnesium over your tinder and use the striker against the flint, this should produce sparks which catch the magnesium that ignites and lights your tinder on fire. Because they don’t use liquids, you don’t need to worry about evaporation and you generally get more use out of them than a regular lighter. Though a real lighter is easier to use and doesn’t require practice, I recommend you have one of each style (lighter and fire-starter) just to be prepared.
Another thing to consider is tinder. Sometimes, you might be in an environment where available tinder is just too wet to catch fire. There are several products that can act as tinder such as the Coghlan’s Emergency Tinder Kits.350015

Luxury version: As important as fire is, since most situations are handled within a 72 hour time frame, you can make life a lot easier by having a camp stove with some fuel.

Warmth is another essential for survival and this will be circumstantial pending on season and your location, but still worth covering since the idea is to prepare for anything. Warmth is treated as a separate category from fire, although fire creates heat, because warmth is available in other forms than fire. A sleeping bag, for example, can trap body heat very well. If you live in an area that is pretty harsh with low temperatures, it may be worth investing in something built to withstand more extreme cold such as a winter sleeping bag

Food is a very important consideration. Yes, most people could go through the 72 hours without food, but why would anyone want to suffer with the hunger pangs? Emergency preparedness shouldn’t be about the bare-minimum. It should be about being inconvenienced as little as possible, especially since most emergencies we encounter are temporary power and water disruptions. Being prepared for any location is the best strategy. For example, your house probably has more storage room than your car so the food you choose to buy should keep available space in mind. Making a kit with freeze dried food that can be stored in a safe place. Having this kit in a larger container already assembled for you means that it can give you peace of mind as well as you can rely on it when you need it. Because you have put it in a storage container this will help it be protected against bugs and vermin. It can also be easily transported in case you need to leave the area. When preparing this remember that in a home or cottage based setting, you might have more storage room which might make the bulk food cans a better value. Even one of these tins can get you easily through a 72-hour period and with a 25 year (unless opened) shelf life, meaning you won’t have to restock often. The one slight disadvantage to these options is that they require water to make. One solution to this would be to opt for an MRE (meal-ready-to-eat) which can be consumed without water (though water would be needed to activate a flameless heater which makes the meal hot.

Water: One of the essentials of life, and like food, you can go without water for a few days and survive, but the suffering would be needless with a little preparation. Water accessibility at home is easy. Water jugs and bottled water are common methods, but these can be difficult or space-consuming outside the house. Water containers for travel situations can give you the ability to store water when you’ve already left the house. For large volumes of water, a water carrier is perfect. For a more personal-sized water container, a smaller hydra sac is perfect.
If you are in a situation where the water might be questionable or you are uncertain of its purity, there are a few solutions: water boiling is recommended, but if it’s not possible, water purification tablets will get the job done. And while they are effective, my best recommendation is the LifeStraw (such a low price for something so easy to use, so light, so durable, and so beneficial).249001web

Shelter: Arguably, this is considered one of the top priorities and that’s usually because if you are not prepared in this area then building a shelter can take more time, energy, and effort than any other aspect of survival. Having shelter equipment can save you a lot of time and offer some protection against the elements. Tents will range in price, style, and amount of space, but a nice emergency tube tent would cover most situations.

Communication: This is an often overlooked category. This is usually because when people think of survival, they think “If I’m lost in the woods. I’ll need food, water, shelter, and fire.” and that’s where most people stop preparing. Communication can make all the difference between receiving help and making emergency situations more bearable. It can also assist in strengthening the abilities of a group in a group survival scenario. There are many forms of communication and a good preparation kit should cover as many forms as possible to give you the best range of options to choose from in your situation. A GMRS radio can help keep communication over a long range (varies per device and environmental conditions). Other forms of communication can also assist. Survival whistles and Signal Mirrors are great tools to fall back on when needing to get attention from people or planes that are at a distance. Depending on your location, a CB radio can often be an excellent means of communication. It has more of an advantage over GMRS radios in being easier to connect with emergency help. Channel 9, in the US, is still monitored and channel 19 is still often used as the main channel of information.

Energy: Energy and power can greatly enhance your survival rate and, more particularly, your comfort level. A strong generator could assist in providing energy to lighting and electrical appliances. When you have power, you have the ability to expand the tools you can use to make the emergency situation more bearable and increase your chances of receiving help. Another way of accumulating power is through solar panels. Solar generally takes longer to charge and is most effective when in direct sunlight, but something small and portable could make the difference in providing enough power to help you.

Health: In a 72 hour emergency, health isn’t a high priority because (pending on the emergency) health emergencies in that time span are not common, but that’s precisely why they should not be overlooked. Some injuries and health hazards can be dangerous if left untreated and while we might not be able to prepare for every possible situation, a variety of health tools can cover most situations and narrow down the possibility of health concerns. A first-aid kit is a definite essential. There is a great first aid kit that comes part of the Coghlan’s Emergency Preparedness Kit which works well because the kit, itself, covers a lot of the categories of emergency survival such as: health, light, heat, and communication. Over-the-counter medicines can help alleviate health issues such as headaches, minor digestion issues, disinfecting wounds, and such. They will need to be regularly monitored for expiry dates.350211web

Light: If you are limited to natural light only, you could find tasks to be more difficult when that light disappears. Having light available can make tasks easier and can also be used with signaling. How you are able to use the light will depend on the instrument. Candles have a short flame that cast light omnidirectional and have the distinct advantage, over a flashlight, of making fire accessible. A flashlight can generally be seen further as it is built to funnel light directionally. Glow sticks do not cast light like candles do, but they are bright enough to be visible from a short distance. They can also be exposed to water without interrupting the light, unlike a lit candle.060533

Safety: Safety can cover a wide range of options, including protection. I am opting not to make a recommendation on weapons because weapons require training and skill to use effectively and this will be up to each individual to decide what weapons would be suitable for them. Instead, I will focus on safety in terms of defense and preventative measures. Safety glasses and ear plugs are affordable enough to be considered an essential. They may not be needed often, but for how little they cost, they are worth having in your inventory for the times that they are needed.

Tools: This is one of the largest categories to invest in. Tools will assist you in all of the other categories. Knives, Multi-tools, paracords, shovels, and screwdrivers; you will want to be sure you are prepared for most situations since a 72 hour emergency can range from a simple power out to a natural disaster.

Recreational: This might seem to some to be a non-essential category, but it really helps to have something to distract you during downtimes in an emergency. Even a simple deck of cards can make the difference between time passing enjoyably or slow and boring. As I’ve mentioned before, survival shouldn’t necessarily be about getting back to the basics. If our power goes out, we don’t suddenly go for rubbing two sticks together to make fire. Most emergencies we encounter are more of a massive inconvenience than anything else: A heavy snowfall knocking the power out or limiting access to stores, or perhaps lightening hitting a power transformer. We can cope with these easily, but why not cope with them comfortably as well. Puzzle books, handheld games, and board games can help pass the time.

That covers all the basic categories to consider in a 72-hour emergency situation. Please remember this is more of a blanket-all approach rather than surviving a specific emergency. There are a lot of items left out from this outline because they were considered emergency-specific (like sandbags for a flooding) or location-specific (forest, car, home). One of the strategies I like to take is to create survival kits for varying instances.

Examples of my survival kits include:

Shut-in survival kit which is expected to be for situations specifically at home.
This has some very distinct advantages such as:

  • more space available for storage
  • less concern about weight-load since it won’t be carried far
  • less concern on the shelter category as the house already acts as a shelter

Winter Car survival kit:
This kit needs to be more condensed so that your space allocated for this kit doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day operations. Careful selection of items will need to be made and you will need some tools that are car-specific in the kit. You should make sure all categories are covered and since I live where snow and deep-freezing temperatures play a role, warmth and fire become extra considerations when building this kit.

Bug-out bag:
This is a bag designed to grab-and-go. It is meant to accommodate everything you will need to survive when you have to flee in a moment’s notice.
This is one of the hardest kits to build. You need a delicate balance in deciding what is important to bring versus the weight-load you will have to carry. A common strategy is to have your bag carry most of the items and have a smaller, detachable, secondary storage compartment where items that are expected to be used commonly are stored. The benefit of this is that you won’t have to keep digging through your main bag regularly. You can pack it as efficiently as possible and not worry about something like a pocketknife or compass causing you to dig through the main bag.

Every-Day Carry bag
An EDC (Every-day-carry) bag is not really a survival bag as much as it is a kit for small emergencies. This is usually just for small tasks we come across in every-day life. It would have items such as spare pens, pencil sharpener, compact umbrella, tool set, small hammer, measuring tape, toothpicks, paper clips, compact cup (for drinking), and items of this nature. I have saved myself so much time on little tasks like opening a plastic blister package or resetting a router (a toothpick fits into the small reset hole) or needing a lighter to light a candle or spare batteries for a variety of devices.

How elaborate you choose to make your kit is up to you, as long as you make sure each of these categories is covered then you should be prepared for emergencies as they come.